Five years ago he presented an enthralling concert in Dubai. Since then, A.R. Rahman has further enhanced his impressive repertoire with award-winning compositions for Bollywood films such as Rang De Basanti, Guru and Jodhaa Akbar and south Indian movies such as Sivaji: The Boss.
The composer, who has redefined contemporary Indian music and put it on the world stage, also worked on the soundtrack of Hollywood film Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Chinese movie Warriors of Heaven and Earth, the stage adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and released his first English single, Pray For Me Brother, under his own music label.
Now music lovers in the UAE can look forward to another memorable evening at his upcoming concert titled A.R. Rahman: Live in Concert, to be held at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on April 18.
Rahman was in Dubai recently to announce details of the show at a press conference held at the Grand Hyatt.
"I felt the time was right for another concert here because I now have a good body of new work to present,'' he said.
Later, in a chat with tabloid! the soft- spoken and reticent music maestro spoke about his recent projects and his plans for the future.
What kind of research was involved in creating the music for Jodhaa Akbar, Elizabeth and Lord of the Rings, which all belong to different eras and genres?
The process began with discussions with the directors, who gave me various references to use in the music. Working with great teams who took care of the details made my job easier on these projects. For the Jodhaa Akbar title number, I took words from old books and references to construct the song. But the fact is that when you have a great melody it always fits in because the emotions are universal and beyond any period or situation. So, if you have a melody that appeals to everyone you can get away with it.
Your compositions are complex and layered. How long does it typically take you to create a number? And is it true that you work mostly at night?
It varies. Sometimes it takes just three minutes to create a song. I like to work at night because it gives me a sense of
peace. But I am composing all the time.
With international projects, your music conservatory and your own label, will you still do Bollywood films?
Movies provide great exposure and the success of my Bollywood music gives me the power to do other things. I do not want to lose that, but I will only take on films that excite me. My forthcoming films include Ghajini, Delhi 6, Yuvraj, Adaa and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.
What is the aim of the A.R. Rahman Foundation?
We want to help eradicate hunger and poverty by providing the underprivileged with education and skills to earn a living. But our main aim is to create bridges between people and to make them understand that there are greater aims in life than the petty issues that we are fighting over and senseless human divisions.
Which is your favourite instrument of the many you play?
The best instrument is the voice, which offers many different creative possibilities.
How do you feel about the many awards you have won?
Recognition for my work is like a blessing, but it is not my ultimate goal. I will feel fulfilled if my songs influence
people and change their lives for the better.
Why do you often trust your complex compositions to new singers?
I constantly want to give something new and using new voices is like an energiser for my audience and me. I believe that every talented singer should be given an opportunity and I always keep my mind and arms open.
Time magazine listed Roja in their top ten all-time best movie soundtracks of the world and the UK's The Guardian listed your music for Bombay in the 1,000 albums to listen to before you die. If you made such a list, what would be number one?
I need to think about this.
What is your view of world music?
I like the concept of world music because it breaks through the monopoly of commercial music and gives an opportunity to extraordinary musicians who do not sing in mainstream languages. It creates an interest in their cultures and helps to create bridges between diverse people.
How did it feel to be offered Lord of the Rings? How different was it from doing film music?
My first reaction was to decline because I knew it would take a lot of time. But it was a great experience. In a film you can
always make the music work by adding rhythm or a chorus but a stage production is more challenging because it must work on stage with live singers. We were constantly improvising till the last show in Toronto and we added a new number for the performances in London.
What has been the most satisfying moment in your career so far?
I am never satisfied and always hungry for more.
Why did you refuse Shah Rukh Khan's Om Shanti Om?
It was due to a silly reason called publishing rights. At that particular time I had decided that things should change for
musicians and unfortunately Shah Rukh Khan was the first victim of that decision. But now people have understood my stand that I want to share the music rights of my compositions.
What do you hope to achieve through your recently established music conservatory?
Youngsters today are not interested in playing instruments like the violin or trumpet and it is vital for the future that we
encourage them to do so. The syllabus I have drawn up will train musicians to be both classical and electronic musicians, which is necessary today.
An impressive line-up of singers and musicians will perform along with A.R. Rahman at his concert on April 18. These include well-known singers Hariharan, Chitra, Sadhana Sargam, Karthik, BlaaZe, Madhushree, Mohammad Aslam and percussionist Sivamani as well as upcoming talents Neeti Mohan, Naresh Iyer (Patshala and Rubaroo), Javed Ali (Jashn-E-Bahara) and Benny Dayal
(Balleilakka from Sivaji).
The stadium has a capacity of over 30,000 people. The massive 80-by-50 foot stage will be built on three levels and the show is expected to last four hours. The performers will sing in various languages.
"The main focus of the show is the music. I do not have an official compere because that takes away time from the music and the back up dancers are only there to enhance the singing. The number of Hindi and south Indian songs will depend on the response from the audience,'' said Rahman, who will be on stage throughout, playing the keyboard and singing some of his hit songs.
The concert has been organised by Oasis Productions and sponsored by Eastern Masala.
Did you know?
A.R. Rahman changed his name from A.S. Dileep to Allah Rakha Rahman after embracing Islam.
He has a degree in Western classical music from Trinity College of Music, London.
He owns a recording studio in Chennai that is said to be technically the best in Asia.
He won a national award for his first film Roja in 1992 and has since won three more national awards besides various other prestigious awards and honours including the Padmashri.
He composed the music for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams.
Time magazine listed his soundtrack for Roja in their top ten all time best movie soundtracks of the world and the UK's.
The Guardian listed his music for the film Bombay in their 1,000 albums to listen to before you die.
He has sold more than 100 million records of his film scores worldwide putting him in the world's 25 top-selling recording
artists. He is the only Indian on the list.
Time magazine called him the "Mozart from Madras''.
His Bombay Theme from the film Bombay featured in the Nicolas Cage movie Lord of War and Chaiyya Chaiyya from Dil Se was used in the opening credits of Spike Lee's film Inside Man starring Denzel Washington.
Proceeds from his single Pray For Me Brother went to charity through the A.R. Rahman Foundation.
His hit Bollywood films include Rangeela, Taal, Dil Se, Lagaan, Yuva and Swades.
Don't miss it
When: April 18, 7pm onwards.
Where: Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Tickets: priced at Dh125, Dh175, Dh500 and Dh1,000 are available at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium box office, Virgin
Megastores, Lulu Hypermarkets and supermarkets, Al Mansour Video, Spinneys, Choithram, Sindh Punjab and Chappan Bhog outlets around the UAE.