Joined: 01 May 2006
Padma Shri A R Rahman on his musical inspiration and influences
Padma Shri A R Rahman on his musical inspiration and influences. Music composer A R Rahman received the Padma Shri in the civil honours awarded this week. He's the musician and keyboard whiz who's just announced plans for a stage musical in London with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Rahman's father was Malayalam film music composer R K Shekhar. Rahman won a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music in London. He then worked with musicians like Ilayaraja and Shiva Mani before composing the hit music for Mani Ratnam's Roja, which put his very original brand of music on the film map. His biggest non-film hit is the memorable Vande Mataram....
Were you surprised when the Padma Shri was awarded to you some months ago? How did it feel receiving it from the President this week?
It felt very good because so far, this is the best award that I have got in this country.
For the first time, a music director is getting it. Usually, classical musicians get it. It feels special.
Your most interesting piece of recent news is Bombay Dreams, a stage musical in London with Andrew Lloyd Webber. In fact, Webber said that the purpose of his trip to India was chiefly to meet you. What's the project about?
It's a musical play in English based on big songs, like Bollywood numbers. It is very complex and at the same time simple.
How did you and Bharatbala productions conceive the idea of getting the country's top musicians and singers, like Amjad Ali Khan, Shobha Gurtu, Kavita Krishamurthy and Parveen Sultana, to perform Jana Gana Mana, the national anthem? What was it like working with such a complex range of musicians?
First, it was a great honour to do a project like this one. We never got a "no" from anybody. We didn't even get an "okay, we will do it later." They gave the dates immediately, and it was great to meet all these musicians.
Did the idea come from Vande Mataram?
The main idea sprang from the fact that we wanted to do something for Kargil. Kanika and Bala of Bharatbala Productions wanted to do the national anthem in a soulful and slow way. Later, we developed ideas for the whole album.
What was it like working with this vast range of musicians, combining all kinds of music and instruments?
It was amazing because each instrument has its particular pitch, and they can't be played comfortably on another pitch. But in this case, we managed to get a common pitch in D-major. We almost got it in that pitch, which is great cooperation on the part of all the musicians.
Where, or how exactly, does a melody start for you? Is it musical notes, or the sounds of certain instruments or even the tone of a particular singing voice that gets you going?
It's very unpredictable. The concept comes suddenly, either as a song, a rhythm, a raag or a lyric. You never know when it originates.
When you did your first hit, Roja, where did that music come from? Where did the songs come from?
The songs were created from scratch, and we reshuffled most of them. Initially, I had done Dil hai chota sa as a sad sequence, but Mani said that we should make it a happy song. Then we put happy poetic lyrics into it. For the other songs, we had a chant. For the first time, we did a song without a antara and a mukhra. This was a nice change since every song has this formula,. So we tried to do away with it in that song. And each song was fun to do.
Looking back now, who would you say were the early or key musical influences in your life? Was it your father?
My father and most of the composers that I have worked with. I think I'd listen to Mr. R D Burman and Naushad. Later, I started listening to the other great legends.
What was that experience like, to get involved with a whole lot of Western music and sound?
Actually, that's the way I started. I was playing Bach and Mozart on the piano. I gave practical exams, where the playing was counted, the feel of the playing. It was only when I started working on commercials that I started to compose tunes.
It's the keyboard in which you have developed great expertise. How did that happen?
My father had left a lot of equipment, and I had to use it. In fact, I was more interested in the guitar. But since we had such costly equipment at home, my mother asked me to learn and make use of it.
Your early experiments were on the piano and mostly came from the Western tradition. But where did the Indian sense of sound come from?
I simultaneously learned Carnatic music with a tutor. I learnt from most of the music composers I worked with. Each song was a learning experience.
What is this ability to switch from jamming to jingles to musicals?
It is a learning process. Once you are a section musician, you have to do everything. They don't believe in specialization. They say that you have to be a John William, a this thing and a that thing. So I had to learn several things rather than stick to just one.
So for you, it really all comes together. All kinds of sounds.
Yes, a lot of influences, a lot of demands.
What kind of demands?
When you are doing ad films and commercials, a whole range of things come into play. They will expect you to do a John William kind of song or an ordinary Ba Ba Black Sheep kind of thing, or a Carnatic school number. So it depends upon each job.
Joined: 01 May 2006
Ravi Naimpally reflects on five records that have inspired Tasa:
Zakir Hussain, Making Music (ECM, 1986): "Just really beautiful writing and playing and by far one of the best albums of this kind of exploration. This was where I started in terms of influences but we've since gone in a different direction."
Radio Tarifa, Rumba Argelina (World Circuit, 1996): "This is a band from Spain that are doing a similar thing to what we're doing except with different influences. They're drawing from Spanish-Moroccan influences but also from India. Like us, there's a saxophone player who plays bansuri as well."
Mondo India Featuring A.R. Rahman (Ark 21, 2001): "Rahman is a very popular Bollywood composer and he introduced more complex harmony into Indian music. He makes incredible use of traditional Indian percussion instruments that are right up in the foreground. It's just really good writing."
Dhruba Ghosh, Dakshini (Dom, 2005): "This is an album of my cousin's and my tabla teacher Anindo Chatterjee plays on it, too. I remember listening to this on our way to a gig in Ottawa and we ended up driving to Montreal. That's how good it is! Dhruba is really the first person I ever accompanied and he taught me so much about playing with people."
John Coltrane, Impressions (Impulse!, 1961): "I just find the playing on this record pretty inspiring. I know he was really getting into Indian music and I think it would've been really interesting to see what would've happened had he lived and gone that way." VK
Joined: 01 May 2006
Few people realise that his Phantom of the Opera has outgrossed the Titanic with revenues of $ 3 billion worldwide. With Cats having also grossed over $ 2.5 billion and eight productions about to be on at the same time on the West End and Broadway, Andrew Lloyd Webber is the hottest name in showbiz. That is why everyone expects his Bombay Dreams to bring India centrestage.
Here he is, in conversation with Pritish Nandy.
At what stage is Bombay Dreams?
Well, we have got the basic idea in place, but a lot of work still needs to be done. That is why I am here in Bombay. I want to look around, get a feel of the city and spend some time with Rahman. You know, Mr Nandy, he is simply brilliant. What you might possibly call the best. His work is very different, very unusual and he himself is such a simple and humble guy that it would be a pleasure for us to work with him. He will bring a different kind of flavour to a musical production in the West.
How did you happen to discover his work?
Shekhar. Shekhar Kapur showed me a video. I liked it immensely. So he showed me more work. I find him very different, very creative. I think he will make a strong impression out there in the West.
What video was that? Do you remember its title?
Dil Se. It was remarkable. He is an extraordinary melodic composer whose work deserves to be heard all over the world.
It is not that I was unfamiliar with Indian composers. Talvin Singh, who lives in London, is a friend of mine and I like his music very much. But that is largely percussions. This is great melody. The time has come in the West (I believe) for Asian music to make a strong presence and Indian music is going to be at the centre of this new movement. For it is strong on both melody and percussions. Someone like Rahman could provide the leadership. Yes, I feel very strongly about his music.
How will you share the creative responsibilities between yourselves?
I wouldn't. Rahman will do all the compositions himself.
What will you do? Write the songs?
No, I can never write songs. I will work on the story. But I will leave Rahman to compose the melodies. That will make it different. Different from all the work I have done before.
What is your most recent work?
I am premiering this play on September 19 called The Beautiful Game. It is based in Northern Ireland and is about a bunch of Irish kids who love to play football, but get caught in all the violence and bloodshed that is taking place out there. It is about civil war and the kind of impact it leaves on the mind and spirit of young people who have actually nothing to do with it.
It is set in the mid-'60s and attempts to show the futility of all religious conflict. Whether it is Catholics versus Protestants, Christians versus Muslims, Jews versus Muslims, or (for that matter) Muslims versus Hindus as out here. All religious conflict is meaningless, pernicious.
No, it is not a political play. It is about young people trapped by an environment not of their own making and how that environment changes their life entirely. It is not a happy play in that sense and I do not even know if it will run. It could simply shut down after a day or two. It is so different from the kind of work I have done before that I am not even sure how it will do. I am frankly prepared for the worst, if you ask me.
Which is your favourite? Phantom of the Opera?
It is difficult for me to say that. I would rather say my latest work -- The Beautiful Game. It takes a lot of risks. Actually, I am still in two minds over where to premiere it. London or Dublin. Initially I was sure about Dublin, but now I am not quite sure that London should not be the place. Anyway, as I said before, I am very uncertain about the play and whether it will work or not. It could close down within a week for all I know.
Why don't you take a chance and premiere it in Bombay?
Aah, that would be fun. I was thinking about Bombay Dreams as well. I would be happy to premiere it here but the problem is that it might become too expensive. We would have to bring down not just the cast but all the properties of the show and that will not be an easy thing to do.
Why? Are the sets too big, too complex?
That is never the problem. The problem is that there are many other things that need to be moved and that is not always easy. Which is why we are also concerned about premiering in Dublin and may not eventually do so. It could prove to be a logistics nightmare. Frankly, the sets are the least of the problems. A play has many more complex elements that become doubly complex when you move out of London or wherever it is that you conceived it. But, no, I am not writing off the possibility of premiering Bombay Dreams here. I may still do it.
How long does it take you to write your musicals?
Normally, two years, start to finish. I have written 18 plays in about 35 years. But some take longer. Sometimes three years. The Beautiful Game play took a much shorter time. Even less than a year. Bombay Dreams too, could finish faster since Rahman will be composing all the music and he is used to working fast for the movies.
How do you react to Hollywood versions of your musicals? Evita, for instance?
I am disappointed. That is why I am happy that Shekhar is making Phantom of the Opera. It will be different, I am sure. I am keen to develop DVD versions of these musicals. They will be more interesting, more faithful to the originals. Hollywood tends to get carried away and what it produces eventually is very disappointing from my point of view.
New opportunities are now emerging to avoid Hollywood and DVD is just one of them. I am sure many more such opportunities will come that will not need to cater to public taste in the way Hollywood does and compromise on the originals. Why don't I send you a DVD and you will see what I mean? They are so much better than these big screen versions.
But Hollywood gives your work size, spectacle, and glamour. Why cry off that when you are in showbiz? Madonna brought Evita a certain magic. Would you deny that?
Absolutely. I am not interested in all that. My works must survive the test of time and that is impossible in their larger-than-life Hollywood versions. I would prefer to stick to DVDs. To versions that are true to the originals.
source: rediff news, photographs: Jewella C Miranda
Joined: 01 May 2006
A man of few words, A R Rahman has always preferred his music to do the talking. And how! From being touted as the most exciting composer in India, he is now on the verge of receiving international acclaim, with no less than sir Andrew Lloyd Webber rooting for him.
We caught up with Rahman when he was in Bombay recently. Excerpts from the conversation, in Real Audio as well:
You have always come up with exceptional scores for Mani Rathnam. Do you personally think that you've given your best for him?
See, the main thing is the concept that the director has. He (Mani Rathnam) has always given me things which I have not done before. He has been quite an important person in my career, and he always wants me to excel, whether they are for his films or others' films. When challenging things are given to you, then you devote all your energy to it. He never tells you that 'I want a song like this or that,' but he always has a fresh idea. That's the reason why different scores come up for his films.
Andrew Lloyd Webber thinks that Chaiyya chaiyya is a great number, one of the greatest songs he has ever heard. What do you think about it?
He said it's one of the greatest numbers, yes. I think it's a very commercial song. He (Webber) finds the whole genre of music -- the production, picturisation of the song in Dil Se -- very interesting. Hopefully, we'll do more exciting stuff now.
When we talk about film music, we talk chiefly about how the masses appreciate it. Now, do you think your music will be more critically examined, simply because it will be heard by a different strata of society?
See, I always live with a song, sometimes for a week, sometimes for six months, to try and fix whatever is wrong with it. Because, if I don't like something, people will not like it either. I've gone by that rule and so far, it's been working. God was kind. That's how I'm going to do this (Bombay Dreams) also. I'm not going to try something I don't know about. I assume they will like it.
Is there going to be something elitist about a musical?
The only difference is that it's going to be in English. I'm yet to know (laughs) -- about any other differences, because this is a completely new direction for me. But on the whole, I think -- hopefully, God-willing -- it will be successful.
Are you looking at Hollywood as well?
Not now. I don't have the energy to do too many things at the same time. I'll probably finish this first...
But you are taking a sabbatical from Hindi and regional films, aren't you?
I've done my homework on the films which are yet to be released. So there's not going to be a vacuum. It's not like you are not going to hear A R Rahman's music for one year. I've almost completed Lagaan, Zubeida, Kandu Konden..., alai ptyuthey Rhythm. All these films will be coming now, filling up the gap.
And you are not accepting any other offers right now?
Not yet. I'm just holding them, so that I get some space.
Taal was a very big hit. How come you aren't working with Subhash Ghai again for his new film, Yaadein?
I was supposed to, but then this project came up. So I told him about it and we agreed that we'll find time in future and work together.
There's this allegation that you are a composer who has mastered the gadgets -- how do you react to this?
I think it's just an extra attribute or whatever (laughs). But it's not the only thing. Because without tunes, without happening tunes, it will not work. Only if you have a happening tune, then everything else can support it. Knowing the computer actually helps to perfect things. If somebody has gone off-key but delivered a good line with the right feel, you don't have to sacrifice the take. You can just cut it at the pitch and use it. These are what I have learnt to make things easier, to get the best out of an artiste.
Some people have accused you of being repetitive...
I don't think they will say that now, because I have been into too many wild things. Hopefully, they won't say it again in future.
But was there a phase when you felt you were being repetitive?
Well, yes. Following the success of Kadalan (or Hum Se Muqabla in Hindi), a kind of dance culture developed. Suddenly, there were proposals with Prabhu Deva and me together, because that helped sell the films. I was forced to do only dance music. But then I got out of it and accepted films which demanded melody. You know sometimes, you kind of get into it... without realising.
Do you have some idea about the kind of music you will be doing for Bombay Dreams?
Yes, we do have some scratches ready. If I tell you more about it, then there won't be any surprise left. But it is going to be Indian. It should be exciting, that's all I can say now.
Will there be Indian singers involved in the production?
There will be Asian singers, since part of the cast will be Asian.
A lot has been said about Chaiyya chaiyya. People attribute the song to you, but it has been inspired by something else... what made you choose this song?
Yeah, it's a Sufi song. Any great love song, when attributed to a divine source, gets an extra dimension. People say any love which is immortal is divine love. Chaiyya chaiyya is something like that. The inspiration, therefore, is a divine one.
source: rediff news - Photographs: Jewella C Miranda
Joined: 01 May 2006
interviewed by shreen, ndtv
Is it true that, when singers come to your studios to record and later when they hear the final of product, there is a huge amount of difference?
The difference is there but not for all the songs. In some of the songs I try to break the conventional way of having a track and ask the singers to sing freely without any inhibitions, and there comes a point when the song elevates and at times by nearly 300 percent. I think we have a couple of songs like that in "Taal" which are slightly wild, singing wise.
There are rumours that you terrorise your singers?
No. I think they are very comfortable with me. Yes, initially when they come in, they think who's this guy but once they start singing, it is very easy for them.
How long do you normally take on a song, for instance how long did it take for the songs in "Taal"?
We started working on the songs for "Taal" in 1995 and the first song took 45 days, the second one took one week, then it became faster. I think it was because I had to compose Hindi lyrics.
So now are you well versed in Urdu?
I wouldn't say well versed but I am nearly at it.
Does that make a great difference to your music?
Definitely, there are much better nuances of Urdu poetry and stuff like that that I understand now.
So would you say this particular album, "Taal" is particularly influenced by that?
In fact, this album has influenced my other films, because working on this I have gained more Hindi knowledge and more North Indian music knowledge because the film required it.
When you talk about North Indian music what is that particular stream that you are hinting at?
It is a Kashmiri and Punjabi mixed kind of a thing with an international kind of background. Moreover, it is folk, classical and western all mixed together, just to suit the film.
After a director comes to you and explains the film to you, do you work independently beyond that?
Usually a director first talks about the script and then he tells me as to what kind of music he wants and I get a fair idea of what he is looking for. The director then tells me about what he liked in my previous work and what he didn't. So I know the Do's and don'ts and once you start working on the first song you realise that it's taking shape.
Do you keep in mind the actress and actors on whom the song is going to be picturised?
It's more important to keep in mind the character, if I think about the actor then it will sound the same for the actor for whichever film I am doing. For instance, in "Taal" Anil Kapoor plays a very different kind of a character and the music is to suit his role.
Since you are working on simultaneous projects, does it sometimes bother you that some of your sounds might overlap?
The director takes care of that, as they are mostly particular of how their films sound.
Do you always listen to the director?
Yes of course. The main thing is that I give them a lot of choices, and when they hear my tunes I am not inside the room with them, so they can choose whichever one they like. I heard some people say that I just give one tune, which is not true.
What has been the biggest influence on your music, through the years?
I think working with Mani Rathnam. Starting with him uplifted my energies because whenever I work with him he wants the best and something international, so you don't sleep for days. It's the same tension when I work with Subhash Ghai. He also wants something original, classy and international.
As you said songs could take 2 days to 45 days, so what is it about a song that convinces you this is it?
Instinct wise you know, it's working even if other people don't agree. On the other hand, if they say its working and I don't feel right then I keep working on it and they feel very irritated. Finally when they realise that yes there was something, which was missing which I found out, they also accept it.
Do you have this reputation of being difficult to work with?
Yes difficult for the product but not as a person.
So what's next after "Taal"?
Film wise, after "Taal" I am doing "Pukar" "Thakshak" and Earth.
Joined: 01 May 2006
Americans without footwear in A R Rehman concert
|Americans attended A R Rehman concert without footwear at Dallas. Americans with barefoot are very rarely seen, because wearing shoes is a way of life there. The climate in America is very cold so without shoes are very difficult. The Americans attended the concert without footwear was a surprise for Rehman, was it compulsory or due to respect for Indian culture|
Agency : Acv News
Joined: 20 October 2005
thanks 4 d articles too
Joined: 01 May 2006
interview - Lisa Tsering, India Abroad News Service - july 2000
a r rahman - on the brink of worldwide acclaim - By
New York, June 5 -- Being roped in by international playwright Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Shekhar Kapur to compose the music for the former's next stage spectacular, "Bombay Dreams," Allah Rakha Rahman, or A.R. Rahman, is today on the brink of being discovered by a Western audience.
India's most sought-after music director, who wants the whole world to hear his music, has been given full artistic freedom for Webber's stage production, based on the Indian film industry. He has set up a studio in London where he will be working on the project in between his Indian film assignments. Rahman discloses he is considering working for another international project, "The Thief of Baghdad," but has not finalized it yet.
Rahman, who has sold an estimated 40 million albums in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, was in New York to accept an award for his score for Subhash Ghai's 1999 musical love story "Taal" at the Zee Gold Bollywood awards presentation. He described the challenges that now lay ahead in an interview with the California newspaper India-West.
Q: First of all, do you prefer to be called Allah Rakha? Or A.R. Rahman?
A: A.R. Rahman...like M.C. Hammer (laughs).
Q: Do you feel a very great responsibility now that you've been named to the "Bombay Dreams" project?
A: There has been a great responsibility when I started, actually. It's not a sudden thing. When I did my first film, "Roja," my main intention was that the music should go beyond the walls of India and should be heard all over. Indian culture should be accessible to everyone, even for young people.
Q: How will composing for the international stage be different for you?
A: See, the main thing that strikes them - the Really Useful group (Webber's production company) - is that it's accessible to them and it's accessible to the Asians too. It's going to be the same way.
Q: What is it? The person goes to Bombay to try to be a star...
A: No, no, no (laughs). You'll get to know when it's ready. There is a lot of traditional stuff, the way they started this originally, but I've been given the liberty to develop this any which way I want. So in fact, I have set up a studio in my flat near the campus of the Really Useful Group in London. So I started to break tradition there.
Q: Once this starts, will you be stopping your Indian projects for a while?
A: I'm not going to stop, because that was the inspiration. That is my inspiration. All the films have been my inspiration to the whole "Bombay Dreams" itself. If I stop that, I will feel unconnected from my roots. So I said I will probably work 20-30 days in the United Kingdom, and then go back to my projects.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: Everything. I feel the whole world is like one. There are different cultures, but you get moved, and even when they listen to a "raag" like in "Vande Mataram" I did, or the Bombay theme or anything, they hear the "raag" and they feel they can tell what the pulse is, I can see tears sometimes and I can see joy sometimes. So it doesn't have any language.
Q: I heard that you like to work all night and sleep all day.
A: Mostly (laughs). When I work during the day, I get a lot of phone calls, and a lot of decisions need to be made. I have to come out of my trance. So nights are better for me. Mainly when I do overdubs and things it's during the day. My own work, whenever I write and do creative work, though, is mostly at night.
Q: Let's talk about the singing. You have the ability to coax these incredible performances out of incredible singers, be it a Sonu Nigam, Kavita Krishnamurty, or Udit Narayan, or in "Dil Se," making Lata Mangeshkar sound like she was 20 years old. What is your secret for pushing them?
A: See, the main thing is for them to get comfortable. When they come to sing a track, it shouldn't be like an exam, they should have fun. First of all, you set up an environment for them. The vibes are much better than if they are thinking, "I have to go in one hour." So they come to Madras and it's almost like a holiday for them. They come to the studio and they have endless time. There's no other artists waiting. Once they start singing, I just keep recording all the candid performances. Whatever they sing.
Q: The demands of singing on the Broadway stage require a whole different set of pipes than the studio singing and the Indian classical singing. You are going to be working with a completely different breed of singer entirely.
A: That is quite a difficult task, to find talent like that. But we have time to train them, as long as the compositions work. That's a very tough task, and we'll probably come to that stage in a couple of months so we'll know then. But there are so many equally talented people coming up, we may be surprised to find someone excellent and good-looking.
Q: Why don't you work with Kumar Sanu?
A: I did work with Kumar Sanu once, in "Kabhi Na Kabhi," but he sings in a different, traditional Bollywood kind of style. Most of my stuff is ... freaky, you know? (laughs) I mean, my school is slightly different. Maybe it's how you reach people rather than having any type of type-casting in mind.
Q: What are your current projects?
A: "Lagaan" with Amir Khan and "Zubeida" with Shyam Benegal, and "One Two ka Four" with Shah Rukh Khan. The playback singers will be Lata, Asha Bhosle, the pop singer Raageshwari, Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik, plus a couple of new singers - Poonam and Mahalakshmi.
Q: Besides Webber are there any Western collaborators in the wings?
A: There is The "Thief of Baghdad," a film which is a co-production between Hollywood and Madras, which we might collaborate on but we still haven't done it.
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