Who is Allah Rakha Rahman? The entertainment and music world knows him as A. R. Rahman, he an Indian composer, singer-songwriter, music producer, musician, multi-instrumentalist and philanthropist. Described as the world's most prominent and prolific film composer by Time, his works are notable for integrating Eastern classical music with electronic music sounds, world music genres and traditional orchestral arrangements. He has won two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, four National Film Awards, fifteen Filmfare Awards and thirteen Filmfare Awards South in addition to numerous other awards and nominations. His extensive body of work for film and the stage earned him the nickname “the Mozart of Madras” and several Tamil commentators and fans have coined him the nickname Isai Puyal (English: Music Storm). In 2009, Time placed Rahman in its list of World's Most Influential People. The UK based World Music magazine Songlines named him one of 'Tomorrow's World Music Icons' in August 2011.
Having set up his own in-house studio called Panchathan Record Inn at Chennai, arguably one of Asia’s most sophisticated and high-tech studios, Rahman's film scoring career began in the early 1990s with the Tamil film Roja. Working in India's various film industries, international cinema and theatre, Rahman has reportedly sold more than 300 million records worldwide of his film scores and soundtracks as of 2009 for over 100 film scores worldwide, making him one of the world's all-time top selling recording artists. In a notable career spanning two decades, Rahman has garnered particular acclaim for redefining contemporary Indian film music and thus contributing to the success of several films. Rahman is currently one of the highest paid composers of the motion picture industry. He has also become a notable humanitarian and philanthropist, donating and raising money for beneficial causes and supporting charities.
Early lifeA. R. Rahman was born as A. S. Dileep Kumar on January 6, 1966 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India to a musically affluent Mudaliar Tamil family. His father R. K. Shekhar, was a film music composer and conductor for Tamil as well as Malayalam films. Rahman used to assist his father during recordings and play keyboard for the songs. Rahman lost his father at the age of 9 and his family had to rent out his father's musical equipment as their source of income. Rahman was raised by his mother Kareema (born Kashturi). During these formative years, Rahman served as a keyboard player and an arranger in bands such as "Roots", with childhood friend and percussionist Sivamani, John Anthony, Suresh Peters, JoJo and Raja. Rahman is the founder of the Chennai-based rock group, "Nemesis Avenue". He mastered various music instruments like Keyboard, Piano, Synthesizer, Harmonium and Guitar. His curiosity in Synthesizer in particular, increased because, he says, it was the "ideal combination of music and technology".
He began early training in music under Master Dhanraj. At the age of 11, he started playing musical instruments in the orchestra of Malayalam composer and a close friend of Rahman's father, M. K. Arjunan. Soon he started working with other composers such as M. S. Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraaja, Ramesh Naidu, Raj-Koti and also accompanied Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship with Trinity College, London, board of the Trinity College of Music. Studying in Chennai, he graduated with graded examinations and a diploma in Western classical music via the college. He was introduced to Qadiri Islam when his younger sister fell severely ill in 1984. Subsequently, Rahman along with other members of his family converted to Islam in 1989, when he was 23 years old. He changed his name from A. S. Dileep Kumar to Allah Rakha Rahman i.e. A. R. Rahman.
Film scoring and soundtracksJayachandran and penned by Bharanikkavu Sivakumar. His film career began in 1992, when he started Panchathan Record Inn, a music recording and mixing studio attached to the backyard of his house. Over time it would become the most advanced recording studio in India, and arguably one of Asia’s most sophisticated and high-tech studios. He initially composed scores for documentaries, jingles for advertisements and Indian Television channels and other projects. In 1987 Rahman, then still known as Dileep got his first opportunity to compose jingles for new range of watches being launched by Allwyn. In 1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam's Tamil film Roja. The debut led Rahman to receive the Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus) award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards, an unprecedented win for a first-time film composer. Rahman has since been awarded the Silver Lotus three more times for Minsara Kanavu (Tamil) in 1997, Lagaan (Hindi) in 2002, Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) in 2003, the most ever by any composer.
Chinna Chinna Aasai" bringing about a marked change in film music at the time. Rahman followed this with successful scores for Tamil–language films of the Chennai film industry including Ratnam's politically charged Bombay, the urbanite Kadhalan, Thiruda Thiruda and S. Shankar's debut film Gentleman, spurred by the popular dance song "Chikku Bukku Rayile". Rahman worked with director Bharathiraaja's Kizhakku Cheemayile and Karuththamma, producing successful Tamil rural folk inspired scores and delivered the grand saxophonic score for K. Balachander's Duet. The 1995 film Indira and the romantic comedies Mr. Romeo and Love Birds all gained him considerable notice. His fanbase in Japan increased with Muthu 's success there. His soundtracks gained him recognition in the Tamil Nadu film industry and around the world for his stylistic versatility incorporating Western classical, Carnatic and Tamil traditional/folk music traditions, jazz, reggae and rock music. The soundtrack of Bombay sold 12 million copies worldwide. The "Bombay Theme"—from Ratnam's Bombay—would later reappear in his score of Deepa Mehta's Fire and various compilations and media around the world. It was featured in the Palestinian film Divine Intervention in 2002, and in the Nicolas Cage film Lord of War, in 2005. Rangeela, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, marked Rahman's debut for Hindi-language films made in the Mumbai film industry. Many successful scores for films including Dil Se.. and the percussive Taal followed. Sufi mysticism would inspire the track "Chaiyya Chaiyya" from the former, as well as the composition "Zikr" from his score for the film Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero for which he created large symphonic orchestral and choral arrangements. His score for the Chennai production Minsaara Kanavu garnered Rahman his second National Film Award for Best Music Direction in 1997, and a South FilmFare Award for Best Music Direction in a Tamil film, breaking a record with six consecutive wins in the latter category. Rahman would go onto win the award a further three consecutive times. Musical cues in scores for Sangamam and Iruvar employed Carnatic vocals and instruments such as the veena with leads of rock guitar and jazz. In the 2000s Rahman created hit scores for Rajiv Menon's Kandukondain Kandukondain, Alaipayuthey, Ashutosh Gowariker's Swades and Rang De Basanti. He composed songs with Hindustani motifs for Water (2005). By the end of 2003, Rahman had sold more than 150 million records of his film scores and soundtracks for over 50 film scores worldwide.
Rahman has worked with Indian poets and lyricists such as Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Vairamuthu and Vaali. He has consistently produced commercially successful soundtracks when collaborating with particular film directors such as Mani Ratnam, who he has worked with since Roja, and the director S. Shankar in the films Gentleman, Kadhalan, Indian, Jeans, Mudhalvan, Nayak, Boys, Sivaji and lately for Enthiran.
In 2005, Rahman extended his Panchathan Record Inn studio by establishing AM Studios in Kodambakkam, Chennai, thereby creating the most cutting-edge studio in Asia. In 2006, Rahman launched his own music label, KM Music. Its first release was his score to the film Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. Rahman scored the Mandarin language picture Warriors of Heaven and Earth in 2003 after researching and utilizing Chinese and Japanese classical music, and won the Just Plain Folks Music Award For Best Music Album for his score of the 2006 film Varalaru (God Father). He co-scored the Shekhar Kapur project and his first British film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, in 2007. He garnered an Asian Film Award nomination for Best Composer at the Hong Kong International Film Festival for his Jodhaa Akbar score. His compositions have been sampled for other scores within India, and appeared in such films as Inside Man, Lord of War, Divine Intervention and The Accidental Husband. In 2008, Rahman scored his first Hollywood picture, the comedy Couples Retreat released the next year, which won him the BMI London Award for Best Score. Rahman scored the film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, for which he won a Golden Globe and two Academy Awards, becoming the first Asian to do so. The songs "Jai Ho" and "O…Saya" from the soundtrack of this film met with commercial success internationally. In 2010, Rahman composed scores for the romance film Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, blockbuster sci-fi romance film Enthiran and Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. Rahman started off the year 2011 by scoring Imtiaz Ali's musical film Rockstar. The soundtrack became a phenomenal success and earned Rahman immense critical praise.
Performing and other projectsRahman has been involved in several projects aside from film. Vande Mataram, an album of his original compositions released on India's 50th anniversary of independence in 1997, enjoyed great commercial success. Vande Mataram is the largest selling Indian non-film album to date. He followed it up with an album for the Bharat Bala–directed video Jana Gana Mana, a conglomeration of performances by many leading exponents and artists of Indian classical music. Rahman has written jingles for ads and composed several orchestrations for athletic events, television and internet media publications, documentaries and short films. He frequently enlists the Czech Film Orchestra, Prague and the Chennai Strings Orchestra.
In 1999, Rahman partnered with choreographers Shobana and Prabhu Deva and a Tamil cinema dancing troupe to perform with Michael Jackson in Munich, Germany at his "Michael Jackson and Friends" concert. In 2002, he composed the music for his maiden stage production, Bombay Dreams, commissioned by musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Finnish folk music band Värttinä collaborated with Rahman to write the music for The Lord of the Rings theatre production and in 2004, Rahman composed the piece "Raga's Dance" for Vanessa-Mae's album Choreography performed by Mae and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
"Semmozhiyaana Thamizh Mozhiyaam" as part of World Classical Tamil Conference 2010, and the official theme song of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, "Jiyo Utho Bado Jeeto". Rahman organised his first world tour, named A. R. Rahman Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour, in 2010. The ongoing tour was kicked off on June 11 at the Nassau Coliseum in New York and will span 16 major cities worldwide.
Some of his notable compositions were performed live by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2010. In February 2011, Rahman collaborated with Michael Bolton for his new studio album Gems – The Duets Collection. Rahman reworked on his song "Sajna" from the 2009 American film Couples Retreat to create the track.
On 20 May 2011, English musician Mick Jagger announced the formation of a new supergroup, SuperHeavy, which includes Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, Damian Marley, and Rahman. The band's self-titled album is slated for release in September 2011. The album will see Mick Jagger singing in Rahman's composition "Satyameva Jayate", which translates to "the truth alone triumphs".
In January 2012, it was announced the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg would join KM Music Conservatory musicians in a 100-member concert tour of five Indian cities performing Rahman's compositions. The tour, named "Germany and India 2011–2012: Infinite Opportunities'. Classic Incantations", will mark the centenary of Indian cinema and of Studio Babelsberg, the world's oldest film studio.
Music style and impactCarnatic music, Western classical, Hindustani music and the Qawwali style of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahman has been noted to write film songs that amalgamate elements of these music systems and other genres, layering instruments from differing music idioms in an improvisatory manner. Symphonic orchestral themes have accompanied his scores, occasionally employing leitmotif. In the 1980s, Rahman recorded and played arrangements on monophonic sound, synonymous with the era of his musical predecessors K. V. Mahadevan and Vishwanathan–Ramamoorthy. In later years his methodology changed as he experimented with the fusion of traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology.
Rahman's musical interests and outlook stem from his love of experimentation. Rahman's compositions, in the vein of past and contemporary Chennai film composers, bring out auteuristic uses of counterpoint, orchestration and the human voice, melding Indian pop music with unique timbre, forms and instrumentation. By virtue of these qualities, broad ranging lyrics and his syncretic style, the appeal of his music cuts across the spectrum of classes and cultures within Indian society.
His first soundtrack for Roja was listed in Time's "10 Best Soundtracks" of all time in 2005. Film critic Richard Corliss felt the "astonishing debut work parades Rahman's gift for alchemizing outside influences until they are totally Tamil, totally Rahman." Rahman's initial global reach is attributed to the South Asian diaspora. Described as one of the most innovative composers to ever work in the industry, his unique style and immense success transformed film music in the 1990s prompting several film producers to take film music more seriously. The music producer Ron Fair considers Rahman to be "one of the world's great living composers in any medium".
The director Baz Luhrmann notes
|“||I had come to the music of A. R. Rahman through the emotional and haunting score of Bombay and the wit and celebration of Lagaan. But the more of AR's music I encountered the more I was to be amazed at the sheer diversity of styles: from swinging brass bands to triumphant anthems; from joyous pop to West-End musicals. Whatever the style, A. R. Rahman's music always possesses a profound sense of humanity and spirit, qualities that inspire me the most.||”|
AwardsRahman was the 1995 recipient of the Mauritius National Award and the Malaysian Award for contributions to music. He was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for his first West-End production. A four-time National Film Award winner and recipient of six Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, fifteen Filmfare Awards and thirteen Filmfare Awards South for his music and scores. He has been conferred Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamil Nadu for excellence in the field of music, special music achievement awards from the Government of Uttar Pradesh and Government of Madhya Pradesh and the Padma Shri from the Government of India. In 2006, he received an honorary award from Stanford University for contributions to global music. In 2007, Rahman was entered into the Limca Book of Records as "Indian of the Year for Contribution to Popular Music", and the Guinness World Records in 2010 as the original composer of "Maa Tujhe Salaam", from the album Vande Mataram – the song performed in the most number of languages worldwide (265). He is the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from the Rotary Club of Madras. In 2009, for his score of Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, and two Academy Awards for Best Original Music Score and Best Original Song at the 81st Academy Awards. Rahman has received honorary doctorates from Middlesex University and Aligarh Muslim University. Later the year Rahman was conferred the honorary doctorate from Anna University in Chennai. He has also won two Grammy Awards, for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album and Best Song Written for a Visual Media. Rahman was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian honor, in 2010. Rahman's work for the film 127 Hours garnered him Golden Globe, BAFTA, and two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Music Score and Best Original Song in 2011. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Trinity College of Music, presented to him by Trinity College London.
On May 7, 2012, he was conferred Honorary Doctorate from the Miami University, Ohio. During the acceptance speech, he mentioned that he received a Christmas card from the US President's family and an invitation for the dinner at White House.
|Rahman and his wife|
An atheist through much of his childhood, in 1989 Rahman converted to Islam, the religion of his mother's family. After the early death of his father, his family went through hard times and Sufism had a great influence on his mother and slowly on his family. During the 81st Academy Awards ceremony, he paid tribute to his mother, saying "There is a Hindi dialogue, mere pass ma hai, which means 'even if I have got nothing I have my mother here'." He also began his own catchphrase, "Ella pughazhum iraivanukke", in Tamil which literally means "All praises dedicated to God". The phrase was popularized after Rahman uttered it prior to his speech at the 81st Academy Awards ceremony.
Humanitarian workRahman is involved in various charitable causes. In 2004, he was appointed as the Global Ambassador of the Stop TB Partnership, a project by WHO. He has shown support to charities including Save the Children, India, and worked with Yusuf Islam for his song "Indian Ocean". The song featured a-ha keyboard player Magne Furuholmen and drummer Travis, Neil Primrose. The proceeds of the song went towards helping orphans in Banda Aceh, that was affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. He produced the single "We Can Make It Better" by Don Asian alongside Mukhtar Sahota. In 2008, Rahman opened his KM Music Conservatory partnered with Audio Media Education facility to tutor and train aspiring musicians in vocals, instruments, music technology and sound design. The conservatory – with preeminent musicians on its panel and a newly founded symphony orchestra – is located near his studio in Kodambakkam, Chennai, offering courses at Beginners, Foundation and Diploma level. Violinist L. Subramaniam is on its board of advisors. Several of Rahman's proteges from the studio have gone onto score music for feature films. Rahman composed the theme music for a short film for The Banyan in 2006, in aid of destitute women in Chennai. In 2008, Rahman with noted percussionist Sivamani created a song titled "Jiya Se Jiya", inspired by the Free Hugs Campaign and promoted it through a video shot in various cities in India.
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