The first time I heard this name, AR Rahman, was when I watched this episode of DD’s vintage show, Surabhi hosted by Renuka Shahane and Siddharth Kak. . AR Rahman was hailed as the “Mozart of Madras” at a very early age in his life, sending a clear message to us mortals that we sure might see more of this God in the future. The rest, of course, is history!
While the recent pandemic induced lockdown saw artists, big and small, from different corners of the world making music from their living rooms and home studios, Rahman, it seems, took a break from work and the only thing that kept him going was music.
In a recently released video, as part of the one-on-one talk series between Rahman and other famous musicians, the maestro talked about the same. “For me, music is a form of therapy. It functions as an alternate reality which provides hope and peace to people who hear it.” While his guest for the day, American musician and ace producer, Will.i.am said that he has been spending most of his pandemic days making new tracks and new music, Rahman said he preferred to rest it out and just not think about work at all. “Sometimes, being in the zone all the time takes a toll on me. It’s happened to me that I have to be on stage and then suddenly I get this bad news, but I can’t take that to the stage. I have to only take the rhythm and my music and give joy to people.”
As a musician myself, I don’t expect any less or different from the two-time Academy Award-winning musician. These are the words and the way of thinking of a true-blue professional musician of the stature of Rahman. It reminded me of the finale scene from the Bollywood movie, Fashion, when Priyanka Chopra’s character receives bad news, the death of a dear friend just before she is to step on to the stage. And although she takes a moment to consume the news, holding back tears, she then braces herself to walk on to the stage with confidence and panache, like a professional must.
It was exciting and in fact, inspiring in many ways to listen to the two legends discuss the pandemic, their respective creative processes and future collaborations during the hour-long chat. Rahman was all praise for Black Eyes Peas’ new song, “Action” that brings together an ensemble of really cool and fun action sequences from the Tamil movies, Enthiran (Robot) and Singham. During the conversation, Rahman also mentions that his song, Urvasi, which was recently remade by Will.i.am as “It’s My Birthday”, is in fact from 1994, movie Kaadhalan (Humse Hai Muqabla in Hindi), incidentally directed by Shankar who made Robot. Will.i.am’s mind is blown away when Rahman explains how he created the snare patch for Urvasi Urvasi, which the former is a big fan of.
It’s My Birthday – will.i.am, Cody Wise
Will.i.am initiates a conversation about how different is the music-making process in India from America and since Rahman has had experience in both the industries, he wonders how ARR has ensured the longevity of his career. To this, Rahman simply answers in one word, Discipline. Says Rahman, “If I lose my discipline, I lose my music. This constant need to refine myself; refining myself as a father, husband, citizen, as a musician, this is what keeps me going.” Well, I guess that’s the mantra for most successful musicians, in fact, people around the world. This segment of the talk immensely inspired me because it brought back memories of my own childhood when my father would wake me up early mornings to do my “riyaaz” (Urdu for practice).
Rahman also goes on to explain to Will.i.am that the Indian music-making process is quite different from that of the west. Indian music is primarily composed and produced for and by the movie industry. Bollywood being the richest and biggest in scale compared to all other cinema in India, songs are commissioned based on the story and plot ideas in a movie and this gives composers like him the freedom to explore different genres, sounds, instruments, pallets and not get bracketed in a single zone. “I go with the vibe of the director and based on references we try to create something new to convey the emotion,” he said.
One of my favorite parts of the talk was when they spoke about future collaborations. Being an equal part Will.i.am fan and AR Rahman fan, I was super excited to know that there are some creative collaborations in the pipeline between the two legends. Will.i.am also thanked his influences from Bollywood for his previous two releases, Elephunk and Monkey Business. He also announced that one of his next projects named, Translation 2 will also pay homage to his love for Indian music. Rahman talked about his music school in Chennai, KM Conservatory that teaches and incubates new musicians and young talents from all over the world.
All in all, it was a great talk and it is something I recommend all you music lovers and aspiring artists watch because it will not only inspire you but also will be a lot of laughter and light. I leave you with an anecdote from the talk, which is also one of the funniest moments in this virtual show. Will.i.am asks Rahman where he is currently, which part of the world to which Rahman says, he is currently in his studio/home in Los Angeles and he believes the two of them are actually neighbors in LA. To this, Will.i.am gets surprised and blurts out his own studio address saying, “Wait, hang on, is your studio on **** street?” To which Rahman says, “Oh, this is a LIVE show, I’ll do a personal chat with you on this, but yes, I am your neighbor I guess.” Hilarious!
watch The Entire Episode
Featured Image via A.R. Rahman YouTube