Monday, March 25, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 115


Rahman brings rich, historic music to forefront

The Best Music You're Not Listening To

Shweta Rao

The music of India is one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world. It is said that the origins of this system go back to the Vedas
(ancient scripts of the Hindus).

Many different legends have grown up concerning the origins and development of Indian classical music. Such legends go a long way in
showing the importance of music in defining Indian culture.

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A.R. Rahman has caught the attention of such prominent musicians as David Byrne and Andrew Lloyd Webber with his unique style of
composition in Indian music.

However, the advent of modern historical and cultural research has also given us a good perspective on the field. This has shown that Indian
music has developed within a very complex interaction between peoples of different races and cultures.

The basis for Indian music is sangeet. Sangeet is a combination of three art forms: vocal music, instrumental music and dance. These three art
forms were originally derived from the single field of stagecraft. Today these forms have become differentiated into complex and highly refined
individual art forms.

At the turn of the century, when the country was poised for major social and political reform, a new entertainment form dawned in India the
cinema. The development of India's film industry is as old, as varied and as exciting as the history of the medium itself. 

The first Indian feature film was made in 1912, coinciding with the making of features in the United States.

Once films started being made, music for them was born and ever since then, music has been an integral part of Indian films. 

Music in films slowly evolved into the binding factor that prevented the linguistic splintering of the audience. It evolved from an essential element
of entertainment into a defining characteristic of togetherness.

In the 21st century, no one has been able to win hearts of people all over the world and also mesmerize and captivate them with his varied and
unique style of music like A.R. Rahman.

Rahman is one of the foremost musical artists in India today. In a music industry dominated by film scores, Rahman has churned out more than
two dozen hit singles from eight films, and they all sold more than 2.5 million units.

Rahman, a former jingle composer, not only works to exacting standards of quality, but is also an inveterate risk-taker. 

With his mop of dusky curls and apparel of T-shirt and jeans, he looks like a young college student, but the very first film for which he scored
music fetched him the National Award and thrust him into the limelight.

This was called Roja (Roja is the name of a beautiful flower). It was released in three languages simultaneously: Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. The
music was very different from the usual fare. Especially striking was the use of chorus and the instruments in most of the songs. The
soundtrack and songs churned cash registers for a long time, and they have been doing so vigorously each time he makes music.

He is the most-sought-after music director in the business. Roja proved that traditional tunes could also be blockbuster hits. Songs from Telugu
movies such as "Donga Donga" ("Thief Thief"), "Gentleman," "Prema Desam" ("World of Love"), "Premikudu" ("Lover") and those from Hindi
movies such as "Sapnay" ("Dreams"), "Dil Se" ("From the Heart"), "Rangeela" ("Colorful") and the recent smash hit "Lagaan" ("Land Tax")
established him as a prodigy.

Modest, religious and totally dedicated to his craft, Rahman has a great penchant for fusing music of different traditions. Bach, Beethoven,
Mozart, reggae, rock and Carnatic music are his musical preferences.

Rahman has worked not only with Indian musicians and performers but also has been in collaboration with renowned artists such as David
Byrne and Apache Indian both recording and on tour. On a recent trip to India, Byrne met Rahman and was so impressed that he went on to
record some sessions with Rahman for a project he is currently completing (as yet unreleased).

Impressed with Rahman's film songs, the famous musical composer and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber has signed Rahman to compose a
Broadway musical titled Bombay Dreams. Webber was introduced to Rahman's style of music through the songs from "Dil Se" and "Rangeela."
Joining Rahman in this musical would be Academy Award-winning lyricist Don Black.

After eight years of continuous hard work, Rahman got the "Padmashree" award for his achievement in music. He is the only person in the
Indian music industry to get this prestigious award for music.

Rahman is definitely here to stay, with his digitized sound based on pop-rock and reggae and fused with traditional Indian music. He has
deviated totally from the norm, and rung up hit after hit and spawned on the way a whole new approach that is finding imitators countrywide.

His music is worth listening to, because once you listen to it, it grows on your mind and leaves you craving more of his ever-enchanting and
unique music.

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