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AR Rahman: Global tunesmith

AR Rahman
Rahman is a composer with a staggering range
Indian music director AR Rahman's score for Slumdog Millionaire has won an Oscar for best music, and a second for best song. The BBC's Soutik Biswas discusses what makes Rahman tick.

The curiously named Panchathan Record Inn is a nondescript building tucked away in the thriving film district of the southern Indian city of Chennai (Madras). The backyard music studio is also AR Rahman's atelier.

"We make a lot of noise here," one of Rahman's assistants told me wryly when I paid a visit a few years ago. It was late in the evening, and trombone loops floated down the stairs from the state-of-the art studio above.

The "noise" has now conquered the world.

Seventeen years after he began writing music and songs for films, the jingle maker-turned-musician has finally got recognition as India's first truly global film music composer with his score for Danny Boyle's sleeper hit Slumdog Millionaire.

The score is an untidy smorgasbord of hip hop, Bollywood remix and signature pop anthem. But it works because it follows the film's giddy pace, the darkness of its characters, its portrayal of lives on the edge.

Bollywood outsider

The golden statue is a global recognition of Rahman's enormous talent.

Like many film composers, he is not a particularly gifted vocalist or a player. Rahman, instead, is an alchemist of sounds and voices, mixing and melting them in a potion that is usually a joy for the ear and soul.

Rahman is an alchemist of sounds and voices

It is not surprising then that he is a composer with a staggering range - from raga to reggae to hip hop to Indian rustbelt folk to jungle rhythms to faux baroque. All of it is brewed with an unerring feel for melody, swing and soul.

Rahman, who converted to Islam some 20 years ago, is also India's - and Bollywood's - first truly successful cross-over music director.

Bollywood has filched tunes from the West for as long as I can remember - check out rip-offs from Chuck Berry, The Beatles, swing jazz and vapid disco for many home-grown hit tunes since the 1950s. But Rahman is not your archetypal tune ripper; he is, instead, an intrepid fusion tunesmith.

MIA
Rahman says he is impressed with MIA's music
It helps that he remains the outsider in Bollywood - the world's most incestuous film industry.

Rahman cut his teeth scoring music for southern Indian films in the Telugu and Tamil languages, before scoring for Bollywood. Even this year, he is working on several Tamil and Telugu films, and only two Hindi films.

And that is one of the reasons why the 43-year-old composer has often reached out to little-known new singers and musicians from all over the country to lend their voices and instruments to his songs and score.

Rahman is also globalisation's favourite child, always abreast of the world music that is making waves. No wonder he discovered the music of MIA, aka Maya Arulpragasam, the war child turned feisty alternative rapper, who very few people in India had heard before Slumdog.

Rahman uses MIA's Paper Planes - the singer rapping over a compelling sample riff and a rousing chorus line with gunshots and cash registers jingling in the background - in Slumdog.

"We met before but we never worked before," he told one interviewer. "MIA, she's a real powerhouse. Somebody played me her CD and I thought, who is this girl? She came here and knew all my work, had followed my work for ages. I said cut the crap, this 'idol' crap. You have to teach me. We started working in India, then we e-mailed the track back and forth. She did the vocals in England, I did the rest in India."

Mixing old and new

I am now not surprised that the gritty girl rapper and the reclusive composer bonded so well. I met MIA a couple of years ago on the Jamaica seafront where she was shooting a music video for a new album. The boom box was playing her new song, a noisy mish-mash of what sounded like raucous Tamil gaana - a form of Tamil fast beat slum rap - over hip hop grooves. The Sri Lanka-born Tamil MIA and Rahman share some of the same culture.

Roja poster
The score for Roja was a limpid fusion of raga and reggae
For the Slumdog score, Rahman says he was mixing the sounds of new and old India. But Slumdog is not even among his top five scores.

The songs and score for Roja (The Rose), a 1992 film directed by Mani Ratnam, is possibly his best and most consistent work to date.

A limpid fusion of raga and reggae, Roja was a breathtaking achievement for a composer taking his first steps in the intensely competitive world of Indian film music.

Working with a number of vocalists, the film's music showcases his talents - fusing flutes, synthesisers and traditional melody to a reggae backbeat and a rolling bass line. Sometimes it felt like listening to The Wailers - Bob Marley's iconic reggae band - playing to Indian vocals. Time magazine called it one of the top 10 movie soundtracks of all time.

From then on, there has been no stopping the Rahman revolution in Indian film music, his best work usually coming with Mani Ratnam, an MBA-turned-filmmaker.

On the Ratnam movie, Bombay, on love and longing in a city torn apart by religious rioting, Rahman's offerings are again rich and varied - from a sweaty, breathless love song by Remo Fernandes to a child chorus ditty to a background score that highlights the bleakness of a city and its people broken by hatred and fighting.

And then, just to pick two films, come the pulsating baroque tunes and sounds in Ratnam's Thiruda Thiruda (Thief, thief) - my favourite Rahman soundtrack.

From there, Rahman travels to fusing swing jazz and smoky blues with pristine Carnatic classical in the political hero biopic, Iruvar, another Ratnam film.

There have been many good soundtracks and songs before and after these two films.

In the end, Rahman, like the best of Indian film music composers, is melody's slave. At his place we had discussed the possibility of a rap musical some day. "I don't think," the alchemist frowned, "rap could sustain a two-hour musical!"


This debate is closed. Here is a selection of your comments.

I grew up with AR Rahman. Every time I listen to a new sound track or song he's done, I am blown away. I don't think any musician anywhere in the word has been able to deliver instantly catchy songs at such a consistent and frequent rate. Another thing about ARR are his huge list of influences. His early work indicates Blur, Carnatic music, Michael Jackson - in short the popular music at that time. But over his career he's increased his influences and allowed artists working under him to explore their creativity too. He's a genius. Rock on Rahman.
Kaber Vasuki, India

This was an interesting article. The film and music were excellent and really deserved to win this year!
Gary, Thailand

I still remember the first time I heard AR Rahman's music in Roja and Bombay, I thought why have I not heard such melody before? Bombay and Roja were a huge success in the Indian music industry. Given the plethora of tunes and singers in Indian Cinema, any one in India knows that if the music is by AR Rahman, 1) It will be very pleasant to the ears 2) You always listen to it with respect as opposed to the suspicion which rises when you first listen to a new song. Its completely befitting that he received two Oscar awards.
Chandu, US

I have been listening to Rahman's music for around 14 years. I am happy to know that he has finally got a recognition in Hollywood. Hopefully, this will open many doors to him and we can listen to more of his "soul rendering" works. I agree with Rahman's views on Bollywood, even the name itself doesn't have originality, nevertheless to say about most of the screenplays. The duo Rahman-Ratnam are one of the best things to watch out in Indian (not Bollywood) movies.
Chanchal, Nottingham, United Kingdom

Quite true, Roja is the best.
Anoop, India

Well written article! You are right when you say that Rahman's best comes from the stables of Mani Ratnam and Thiruda Thiruda music is also my favourite. But I don't think Rahman deserves an Oscar for Slumdog simply because it isn't that great as compared to his other music scores.
Sri Vikas, India

Wonderful piece this, really enjoyed reading it. I was all this while a closet Rahman fan, worried that acknowledging Rahman's greatness would somehow dilute my liking for, and loyalty to, RD Burman's music. Fact is, Rahman is perhaps superior to Pancham.
Rajan Chakravarty, India

AR Rahman is a truly magical musician. His ability to pick and mix instrumentals, melodies and vocals into meaningful coherent and powerful film ballads is unrivalled. He is one of Asia's few musicians who make classical Indian music relevant to our generation, Through the use of modern technology. Rahman's dedication and love of his art is evident in all of his work.
Haridhos Kurunadalingam, United Kingdom

I remember his Vande Mataram album in India in 1997. I thought that was pure genius as well
Daniel James, New Zealand

AR Rahman is more than just a musician. He is a part of history. I am an Indian who grew up in America, and while I love new music, English and in Hindi, my comfort music will always be the soundtrack of Bombay. It has been there for me as a child, through high school, college, and hopefully for ever more. Its the music I will have my children hear, and hope they love it as much as I have.
Monica, USA

Thank you BBC for this title on an Indian. Today i am feeling very proud to be an Indian. Rahman is now become a precious asset not only for India but also for whole world.
Sunil Dhiman, India

AR Rahman hasn't just won an award, he has won world recognition for Indian music, its long music tradition and Indians' love for good music. I'm proud of Rahman for his talent, creativity, professionalism, hard work, modesty and his service to Indian and world music. Hats off to Rahman for scoring distinction for India and Indian film music.
Jay, Australia

Feel really proud for AR for winning this. Had it not been a UK film he would never win an Oscar. Congrats to all Slumdog winners.
D Kathapurkar, UK

From the very first movie scored by Rahman, I have been listening to almost all the tracks composed by Rahman. Being a resident of Tamil Nadu, from where "The Alchemist" comes from, I can surely say that Slumdog Millionaire is not Rahman's best. He had composed even better scores for Tamil movies which were left unrecognised. Even it is a pain that larger part of his music is left unnoticed, I take this opportunity to praise the efforts of this great composer on behalf of all Indians.
David P Shenba, Chennai, India

Very well researched and written article - shows the depth of talent Rahman possesses and his vast contribution to the Madras and Indian music industry. Glad he got this long overdue recognition now - he has done India very proud!
Rose Ambat, India

Oscar is GREAT but I want him to win a few Grammy awards too.
Sameer Rasaily, India

He also wrote the amazing score for the recent release Ghajni. Sadly, only the pop songs are available on CD, not the incredible background he is so genius at. If any Bollywood bigwigs are reading this, PLEASE release the Ghajni complete score. It is so good.
Caleb Hicks, USA

Search for the music from the Bollywood movie Taal. It's also provided by A.R. Rahman. Check YouTube. Great sound. Roja's soundtrack is also great.
John, New Zealand

Soutik Biswas's pen-portrait of AR Rahman is superb. Indians in general, and those in the South of the country in particular, are really happy that Rahman has won two Oscars for his work in Slumdog Millionaire. Congratulations to the master music maker! We in India have never seen the kind of celebrations in our country that marked the Oscar awards this year. Eight Oscars for one India-centric movie - can one ask for more?
Achal Narayanan, India

I was waiting for this moment since his first music direction in Roja. All the best wishes to Rahman for his achievement.
Md Khairul Bashar, Bangladesh

Dis Indian really kool man! he can make gud music man! Bless
Reggae King, Kingston, Jamaica

Years ago when I first heard Rahman's theme music from film Bombay, I was convinced he would ascend to international recognition one day. Here we are with two Oscars. Congratulation, AR Rahman
Kanti Shah, UK

I truly believe that Rahman has conquered the world by winning Oscars for best score and best song. This has been ONE award that has eluded him since the time he made the charts and I think he deserves it in every way you can think of. Rahman has done India, his motherland proud, and has put her on the international map of music and song. Congratulations and we are extremely proud of you!
Christopher Dawes, India

AR Rahman has once again proved to the world that there is no substitute for originality.
Dipayan Dasgupta, Singapore

Certainly, the music of AR Rahman in Slumdog Millionaire is not that great as compared to his other works. However, the Oscar has recognised him that he is now a Mozart of East. And the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, is not exceptionally that good. In fact enjoyed watching Salam Bombay.
Puran P Vista, Nepal

Rahman is truly a tunesmith. I am not surprised he has won the Oscar. I am however more surprised that it takes an Oscar for the world to recognise the genius that is Rahman. Very few musicians can compose, sing and create music commercially in as many as 6 different languages. I am surprised that this acclaim has take this long. Jai ho Rahman
Jason C, Hong Kong

Bravo Mr Rahman! The movie was really awesome and the same can b said about him too - his music really makes you literally feel the movie from within !
Derick Fernandes, Cayman Islands

I have grown up on Rahman songs....It is like a drug, you get addicted to them and then you yearn for more....We are really proud of him.
Suna, Oman

Its great to see AR Rahman with such an achievement, he really deserves it. He is not only popular in India, but he is equally popular in Bangladesh.
Ashik, Bangladesh

I remember when I first heard A R Rahman's songs from the movie, 'Roja', all those years ago. The songs captivated everyone in our Indian community, and people were rushing out to buy the cassette of the movie soundtrack. Tamil audiences in have long enjoyed the beautiful songs he has produced for various Tamil movies and I'm sure that the fame and awards he has garnered from Slumdog Millionaires will garner him new fans from other cultural backgrounds across the world. Well done, A R Rahman.
Pari, Hong Kong

Rahman was already a genius. The difference is, now not just India but the world knows about his work. Article is very well written.
Shah, Hong Kong

Great moment and even greater news. I congratulate Rahman and all Indians, for this great musician that they have produced.
Mohamed Adham, Sri Lanka

The music of Slumdog is not ARH's best work. He has been creating great music for over a decade in Bollywood cinema. Its good to see he finally receives an Oscar. Its just a shame that the Academy (and the 'west') has overlooked many of his real masterpieces from the past.
Amjad, UK

AR Rahman is truly a musical genius. Though Slumdog is no way near his other best scores, we shall happily take it as this give him the global recognition that he richly deserves
Sreeranga, India

Congrats to the music wizard. Slumdog is one of his average albums. The world and Oscars must take a look at the scores he has done in the beginning of his career. They will be nonplussed by the range.
Srikanth Mantena, India

It is a great moment for India, I am proud to be an Indian
Harish M Pavithran, INDIA

Well, at least now the world has recognised the immense talent of Rahman, by honouring him at the Oscars. Rahman you really 'deserve' the Oscars and you have put the Indian music on the global map.
Tom, India

AR Rahman i s just next to the God to me
Protik, Bangladesh

Jai Ho AR Rahman, Jay Ho Bollywood!
Imran, Saudi Arabia

I've been a big fan of Rahman for over a decade now and to my untrained ears, he has done much better work than Slumdog. But i guess as Einstein won the noble for e=mc2 rather than for theory of relativity so has Rahman for something that his not his best work and surely in either case, the true genius eventually got the reward it deserved
Rajesh, India

Rahman's music unlike others isn't just hear once and move on, it lingers in memory and one tends to hum it over and over again, he is beyond doubt the greatest musician we have ,his talent in music is truly gifted, and like they say God chooses one in a million and he is the chosen one.
Vijay, India

ARR is a trend-setter and a perfect inspiration for aspiring creative pros like me. Though many can identify ARR's song in their sleep from even a small interlude, his greatest composition till date is contemporarising India's National Song Vande Mataram... making it cool to sing patriotic songs :) ARR ki Jai Ho!
Magesh Iyer, India

I'm thrilled that an Indian has won not only one but double Oscar award. My best wish to all Indians around the globe and I hope this trend of fetching the Oscar will continue in the future.
Deepak Chawla, Hong Kong

AR Rahman is so humble and down to earth. His great work in music speaks for itself. You will never find him praising his own work. He is a true Indian Hero. Great talent and someone who makes us all very proud to be an Indian. I wouldn't say that Slumdog his best work but he has done marvellous job in his earlier Tamil (Mani Ratnam's esp.) films like Roja, Bombay, Dil Se (Hindi), Minsara Kanavu, Kannathil Muthamittal, etc.. He should have won the Oscar long time ago but nothing is too late for him to bag two Oscars.
Mohanavanan Selvaraju, China (Malaysian)

Rahman has made all Indians very proud today. He is the best musician of the modern India and represents India in its true form, traditional with a modern twist. Few years ago I took my English husband to his concert in NEC a few years back and my husband has since become a fan of his, having loads of his tunes on his IPod along with the rest of the western music that he is into. Way to go Rahman and India, we are very proud of you!!
A Shelley, UK

Kudos to Rahman! If his Slumdog score can fetch him 2 Oscars, one can only imagine how many will he be able to win if his other original works in Tamil and Hindi can fetch him. He is a class act; no doubt about it but what stands out is he keeps reinventing himself and his music. No two films, songs, background score ever sound the same surprisingly for a career spanning 17 years so far. With greatness comes humbleness and the only other contemporary that I can think of who fits this bill is Sachin Tendulkar !
Rajasekaran Elangovan, India

Rahman Rocks! Its just fitting that he got this recognition globally. Also what better a place than the Academy Awards, after all, Slumdog Millionaire is a film about a city in India, directed/produced by a British, winning an Academy Award in America, that is being hosted by an Australia. Now that's a perfect global setting for a global tunesmith
Vishal, US

You have done a great job to make the world know his talent, creativity, humbleness and humility. I salute you Biswas. No wonder he has proved to this world that a guy with humble back ground can reach heights if one concentrate only on growth and love. Rest is history.
RN Anand Kumar M.tech: M.B.A, India

He's not my favourite but, I respect him for his originality and creativity. I'm proud he hails from my home town - Chennai and very glad that he remains as an outsider to the "world's most incestuous film industry" - Bollywood, whose survival is a mystery. Other Indian film industries like Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Oriya have managed to maintain higher degree of originality and has delivered lots of quality films and music. To me, AR Rahman's melody is only next to my all-time-favourite, genius, 'Maestro' Illayaraja, whose talent is largely unrecognized outside South India.
Dbalaji, US

Yes, I have to agree with the writer. Somehow for me nothing comes close to Thiruda Thiruda (Thief, Thief). It is Rahman's most unnoticed work.
Anand, India

It's proud to see Tamils did very well in the Oscar. Rahman is rock and MIA is upcoming singer. I am delight and pleased about both achievements.
Kumar, UK

Roja seemed to revive Indian film music. At that most of music coming out of industry seemed 'routine'. It was like a new breath of life for film music. All of his musical score are worth adding to your collection. Some of them may not be outstanding but can be listened to again and again.
Anurag, UK

I'm amazed no one has mentioned AR Rahman's work for the West End and Broadway in "Bombay Nights", produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2002.
Tanya, UK

I am so pleased for Mr Rahman, he is a musical genius whom I've listened to since the days of Roja and Bombay... Him mixing it up with M.I.A was such an amazing combination.... I'd recommend the BBC to do a documentary on his biography, what an exciting artist! Gwan Rahman!
Aamir Idrees, UK

Congrats to ARR for winning 2 Oscar awards in a year which makes him the only Indian to have achieved the honour so far. He has come a long way from his first Tamil film 'Roja'. The very fact that a Tamil film music director has achieved national and international accolades speaks of his prowess in music. Even though his 'Slumdog Millionaire' music is not extraordinary as his many of the other Tamil movie songs which I have been collecting since his first Tamil movie 'Roja', his recognition in world forum needs to be applauded. Way to go ARR. I am looking forward to hearing more of your melodious Tamil Movie songs where you always excel.
Arun, Seattle, USA

As the writer rightly points out Slumdog probably doesn't rank among his top 5 works- which is an indication of how consistent he is. If you consider how many film scores he has written. There are films like Dil Se, Taal, Rang DB, Lagaan that are arguably better.
Ahmed, UK

What a combination! A Tamil Hindu, converting to Islam, scoring the music and Hindi song for a largely British film, about slums in Mumbai, receiving an Oscar. This is the epitome of a flat world with ARR summing it perfectly by saying that he chose love over hate.
Raj, India

Please check out Rahman's music on the just released movie "Delhi 6"..Its awesome. the hit track "masakkali" and the back ground tunes just amaze me, as to how much more great music is left in his bag..
Guru, India

AR. Rahman is the sure-fire hit maker whose unconventional compositions have inspired a sometimes stagnant genre. As a composer, Rahman's style is instantly recognisable and often imitated. He's a musical omnivore: synthesizers meet flamenco guitar, rock 'n' roll rubs up against Indian folk and classical, and they all seem to get along. Rahman is also known for breaking new and untrained vocalists in a notoriously insular field. Finally an Oscar is an milestone achievement, another feather to his cap of achievements.
Manohar, USA

Oodles of thanks for this wonderful write up. Undoubtedly it is reader's paradise. Bless you for the genuine kudos on an Indian Mozart.
D Ramesh Walter, India

AR Rahman is the best-ever music itself that God has offered us. I am fully delighted and enthralled to live in the same country and having been born in the same state where he was born. The moment of receiving two Oscars in a span of ten minutes is not only his moment but also the whole India's moment. He made India a proud country. Indians look forward to listening to his best music numbers and scores which portray India's talents and make them come to limelight.
Nagarajan S, India

Fantastically written. I am marvelled at Mr Biswas's story-weaving facilities and vocabulary The article made for a very interesting read.
Yogendra Kalavalapalli, India

I am looking forward to watching this movie and after this story paying close attention to music.
Clyde Driscoll, Chicago, US

Well written, revealing and well deserved article. Truly humble personality who uplifted a number of artists and musicians to the Indian music and now to the world music. From his start-up jingles to his first hit movie 'Roja' to the latest 'Delhi 6', ARR beautifully blended Indian classical music, folk music and world music by leveraging his magical synthesizing skills. Wondered why the world unnoticed his music when my western friends instantly loved few of his numbers. Finally, that day is today!
S Nambiar, Netherlands

I don't agree with Soutik on one point. I think ARR is a gifted singer too. Listen to the two Hindi/Jazz tracks of the movie "Jane tu yea jane ne na" and "Delhi 6". No one ever done this before in Hindi. It is a clever fusion of Hindi melody with Jazz. He should sing more. He made us proud to get Oscar recognition.
Ujjwal Dhar, USA

This may be the beginning of the Bollywood crossover into Hollywood.
Krishnan, USA

AR Rahman is over rated!
John, USA

Fell in love with his music, from the first moment i heard the album Roja. It was passed around all my friends how only listened to English music. Since than its been a non-stop love affair. His ability to fuse different sounds, the sheer diversity of his work, takes my breath away. His latest album Delhi-6 is just awesome. He is a genius and am happy that the world has finally recognized it. He deserved the double Oscars long time back. What a moment, just so happy for him.
Aicha, Maldives

This is a staggeringly condescending article about an exceptional and uniquely talented composer of international repute. "not your archetypal tune ripper" -- how exceedingly kind. "The songs and score for Roja ... a 1992 film ... is possibly his best and most consistent work to date" -- so he peaked with his debut album 17 years back?. Skip this article and head directly to Wikipedia.
Srikanth, USA

He's quite frankly a musical genius. Every note he touches is golden. From lounge scene (Cafe del Mar), to dance floor fillers and everything in-between a talent beyond all belief. Well done A.H.R.
Aaron, Netherlands

My introduction to AR Rahman was very interesting. My otherwise serious boss used to play the songs in the office!!!! Have not missed a single one since then. Well done ARR, you are awesome.
M F Fakhru, Cambridge

You don't get tired of listening to his music.
Murali, Denmark

I fully appreciate and endorse most of the points written about Rahman in this article. Years ago, I watched his first movie Roja after travelling about 450 KM in a motorcycle one (that too a late night show). The freshness of his music hit me that night and it continues to hit me movie after movie, irrespective of the language and storyline. A R Rahman's one of the rarest of combination, extraordinary talent and equally extraordinary humility. May God bless him with more and more success and in the process let him make the lives of every music love pleasant with his BRAND of music.
Shankar Muthukrishnan, India

Believe it or not AR Rahman's music made a turning point in my life in 1995. Rahman's one after another super hit film music made me rethink about my way of life. I was forcibly recruited into the child soldier wing of the rebel group in Sri Lanka as a teenage boy and was not allowed to listen to cinema songs. But to listen Rahman's songs from popular Tamil movies such as Roja, Kathalan, Thiruda Thiruda, Gentleman, Bombay and Duet; I secretly sneaked out of the rebel base and used to visit a nearby home to listen to these sweet melodies. Eventually I fell in love with a girl and ran away from the rebel movement to live a new life. Thanks to Rahman, that his romantic music made me found someone to share my dreams with.
A.Murali, Canada

The article is really good. I have seen his first film Roja in 1996 when I was in Sri Lanka. That day I thought this musician would do a lot to the global world.
Anurakumara Munasinghe, Canada

I think A R Rahman deserves more than Oscar award . I am biggest fan of his music specially fusion type. AR Rahman Rocks!
Ajit Kumar , Netherlands

ARR is a legend for any good listener of music..his tunes appeal across all cultures and tastes for music...his works indeed signify the universality of music
Muhammad Sanusi Isa , Kano, Nigeria

Its a good article but misses one thing about Rahman's music and that is his minute depiction of possible & imaginative natural sounds and echoes and his attempt to "musify" nature makes the phrase "nature sings" a literal one.
Syed Yazdan, Canada

Great article, I did not know about AR Rahman that much, and now i enjoy reading about his life and his music. I am just little bit curious that why and how he converted to Islam, not that i am against it just to want to know if some one know more details please write. I think i will listen to his music more now as now i am his fan.
Sonny, Canada

Excellent article in recognizing ARR great talent in music, whether English, Tamil, or Hindi. Well awarded Oscar.
Briya T, Canada

Like many of the posters of above comments, I too grew up with ARR's music. He is a legend in my eyes. The 2nd generation Tamils (i am a Tamil) in London would no doubt state ARR as their favourite Indian musician. He has given us so much - such great music - it is time he is recognised. "Ella Puhalum Oruvan Oruvanuke" - "all praise is really for that One person (Almighty)" - one of his most famous songs.
Mayooran, London, UK

A superb summary of ARR's work & a deserving tribute to him! He deserved it long ago. Long live Bollywood & Indian Music!!!
Ashish, UK

Excellent article. You have almost managed to catch the magic of Rahman's music in words. I am however surprised that you have written that he is not a "particularly gifted vocalist". I believe his version of Vande Mataram in 1997 and the song Lukka Chuppi from the move Rang De Basanti were technically brilliant. Any comments?
Sanjay Krishnamoorthy, UK

Haven't seen the film yet, i look forward to it very much as i was born in Bombay as it was then, fifty years ago. I remember the slums and the hard life of poverty that many shared. i also remember the calm philosophy and acceptance and spirituality that exists there. most of all there was LIFE and a huge Vitality that prevailed. people got on with it. the score of this film reflects this. I plan to search out the music of Rahman,as i don't know it.i look forward to this ----thank you to previous contributors to this item as i now know what to look for. Well done Rahman---Well done everyone connected with Slumdog Millionaire.
Adeline, united Kingdom

Rahman, you are a true genius. I feel as if I got that prize. I hope things improve soon so that we can have you here as well for a performance that would set the pace for new relationship. All the best to you and all Indians who made to the stage.
Ahmed Jahanzeb, Pakistan

Great article, however, I would like to mention that Rahman's all time best is from a Tamil movie called DUET. He has so effectively used saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath in his tunes that it truly puts one into eternal bliss
Pradeep, USA

Those of you who love Rahman's music, make sure you listen to this old (1994) album called "Duet". The movie Duet is a story about two brothers who are musicians and who have a common love interest. Though the movie was standard Tamil romance fare, the soundtrack excelled and is fresh and exciting to listen to, to this day. It has a prominent place for the saxophone and for the Indian drums and other traditional instruments, while maintain that aural sheen that Rahman managed to convey to most of his listeners in his music.
Rajesh, USA

I agree, AR Rahman's best are Roja and Thiruda Thiruda with Manirathnam. There are two more bests with Bharathiraja, Kizhakku Cheemaiyile and Karuthamma. AR Rahman is called Mozart of Madras. I would say he should be called Beethoven of Chennai, Because there is a Mozart in Chennai, in the name Ilaiyaraja. You may equate the relation between Mozart and Beethoven between these two Tamil Musicians, epitome of Indian Music.
Raj, India

Yes indeed - A R Rahman is a true musical alchemist as this feature says. I have mostly enjoyed his music, but my problem with him has always been that he does not have his own signature trend like Ilayarajah, the other great musical legend from Chennai, who ironically has never achieved the recognition he should have. Would Rahman have been such a success if he had started around 20 years earlier in the Indian music industry, when technology was limited and global influence was limited in Indian music. Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy his music. Being a Tamil and Indian, I am proud of his achievement and global recognition. But I am just making my case that everyone should not start thinking of him as the greatest Indian cinema composer ever. He is definitely one of the best, but he is yet to prove that he is the best.
Prathaban M, USA

Great article. But I was wondering how come no one has mentioned the movie Taal. I think along with Roja, Taal songs are immortal. I agree with some of the comments that Slumdog music is not his best - he has done much better with other film music.
Meenal, Boston, USA

Danny Boyle staged the slums of Bombay to Oscar world and BBC followed it up with an exquisite resume of the musical maestro. Britain continues to discover India and stage it to the World.
Rajen Narayan, USA

Undoubtedly, Rahman's master-piece was Roja, closely followed by Bombay. In my opinion, he was quite undeserving of the Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. Nevertheless, it's good to know that his most ordinary work was much appreciated by the world. Just imagine, what happens when the world gets to hear his best work!
Antara Majumdar, India / US

I have been a huge fan of Rahman myself and have followed his career quite closely for the past 16 years. Regional and Hindi music alike, he has produced wonderful tunes that stayed with us for years after the movie faded away. While I agree and join together with you in lavishing praise on Rahman, I would disagree with you when you say Bollywood music has just filched tunes from the West before Rahman came along. Even a cursory glance at the works of giants of yesteryear would easily refute the claim. The names Naushad Ali, Sachin Dev Burman, Madan Mohan, Salil Choudhary, O.P.Nayyar, R.D.Burman, Ilaiyaraaja spring to mind. It might be true that their music didn't have the global appeal but then that's only due to the fact that they never bothered to customize their music to suit the palate of Western audience. They were all geniuses in their own right. Usually, it takes a while to appreciate music of a totally different genre. You can't expect the West to come harping about an Indian classical composition which is what most of these composers built their songs upon. That should not take anything away from the beauty of their compositions though. Even with Rahman's own compositions, I would go as far as saying that this is not even one of his best works. More suited to his global audience perhaps but his best? Not a chance. Yes, there have been instances of plagiarism in Bollywood music but those instances can only be seen as aberrations. It is blasphemous to belittle the countless beautiful melodies heard in the past five decades as unoriginal.
Chandrasekhar, Durham, USA

He also composed music for a Chinese movie called -Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Sidd, USA

What a marvellous musician he is. AR Rahman's music are wonderful, inspiring, awesome. I am a Sri Lankan & proud that an Asian compose such great music to the world.
Ifthica Shamsudeen, Canada

Three cheers for this wonderful composer. I have always loved his music and will always remain a die hard fan. The beauty of his music is that it grows on you. After listening four or five times one begins to like and then to love his music. Many a times it has happened to me that I didn't like his music at the first place but after listening to it two or three times, it really gets you. My favourite albums off course after Roja are: 'Rangeela', 'Taal' & 'Rangde'
Abbas, Pakistan

It was amazing to see AR Rahman winning double OSCARs, congrats to him and India. We were very surprised as well as felt very proud to here Tamil words from him during the awards. (A)(R)eally highly talented and modest Rahman. Jai Ho!!!
Varsha, Manju & Sentil, UK

Do not forget the awesome music of Lagaan...Sheer Genius.
Ameesh, USA

Rahman truly deserves this for his humbleness, talent and simplicity.
William Yesupatham, United Kingdom

An interesting article about ARR. He is a magical musician and deserves this award very much. I like MIA/ARR combination and hope they work together in future projects.
Durai Samy Anandanesan, United Kingdom

I was in school when I first heard Rahman's first song, it was unbelievable. No one in India had ever heard anything like that. From that day onwards everyone new that a legend was born. We used to wait to hear his next song and even after these years it has not changed. I think there is no one in India who has made more hits than him. I am happy that at last he is recognised for his talent. It was just matter of time. I hope this will let people around the world start listening to Rahman's and Indian music and enjoy it.Congrats to Rahman,you just made 100 million people proud to be called Indians.Jai Hind.
Bjorn Mannathukkaren, Nottingham,United Kingdom

If you talk about AR Rahman, you should know about Ilyaraja - the first Indian composer to score a symphony and became the first Asian to score a symphony for the London Philharmonic. Rahman worked as his assistant probably at the age of 14 yrs.
Momtaz A, Canada

Very well written. all those lovers of Rahman's music are very much happy after his victory at the greatest platform. Long live Rahman, long live his magic-music!!!
Shawon, Bangladesh

At last, A R Rahman received his prize for his enthusiasm, dedication & hard working. Hats off to ARR. His creativity will be long run. Anyway, excellent article which drew ARR smartly.
Tanim, Bangladesh

AR Rahman really rocks and he has proved the world that Indian can do anything if they are determined.
Sadia Durrani, USA

Listen to the album Connections (2009) by A.R. Rahman which would get him the next Oscars ... Also probably "Delhi-6" songs are way ahead than the Slumdog scores ... They is no competition to rahman ...
Pratheek, Germany

I had the opportunity to work with Rahman about 20 years ago, on an ad jingle. He was known as Dilip then. I had composed the jingle, and his role was to just put it together on his keyboard in the recording studio. He said hey let's tweak this a bit, and turned a rather commonplace tune into a what turned out to be a hit jingle. We became good friends. I saw his genius even then, and knew he'd make it right to the top. Rahman as I knew him was incredibly unassuming, soft-spoken, always cheerful, and very strong in his faith in God.
Hathef Khazvini, India

While this remains a milestome for Rahman, this can't be said to be recognition of Indian or Classical music which is highly evolved form of music and difficult to understand. This form of music from ARR coming to us is extremely Western, this has everything: software, remix, fusion, rhythm, hip hop everything under the sun. I would also like to point out that most of the Indians back at home realise that A R Rahman's potential is going down, we are not getting to hear what he could compose in 90s, he was far more melodious. Would be very happy the day ARR gets an oscar for a Hindi film.
Niraj, UAE

Very nice article- but you forgot to mention 'Rangella', I think it's fair to say that was the soundtrack that really got him accepted in the mainstream. I haven't watched Slumdog yet but I'm really happy that Rahman got the oscar!
Nell, Uk



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