Biography of A R Rahman

Great Indian Musicians A R Rahman Biography

Allah Rakha Rahman ( born 6th January, 1966 as AS Dileep Kumar ) is an Indian film composer, record producer, musician and singer. His film scoring career began in the early 1990s. He has won fourteen Filmfare Awards, eleven Filmfare Awards South, four National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe.

Rahman obtained a degree in western classical music from the Trinity College of Music in London, and set up his own in-house studio called Panchathan Record Inn at Chennai, arguably one of Asia’s most sophisticated and high – tech studios.

Later by working in India’s various film industries, international cinema and theatre, by 2004, Rahman, in a career spanning nearly two decades, had sold more than 150 million records of his film scores and soundtracks worldwide, and sold over 200 million cassettes, making him one of the world’s all – time top selling recording artists.

A R Rahman was described as “India’s most prominent movie songwriter” by Time magazine in 2005. His works are notable for integrating eastern classical music with electronic music sounds, world music genres, new technology and traditional orchestral arrangements.

Time magazine has referred to him as the “Mozart of Madras” and several Tamil commentators have coined him the nickname Isai Puyal ( Tamil : இசைப் புயல்; English : Music Storm ). In 2009, Time magazine placed Rahman in its list of World’s Most Influential People.

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A R Rahman Early Life

AR Rahman was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India to a musically affluent Mudaliar Tamil family. His father RK Shekhar, was a Chennai based composer and conductor for Malayalam films. Rahman lost his father at the age of 9 and his family rented out his father’s musical equipment as a source of income.

AR Rahman was raised by his mother Kareema ( previously called 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 played the keyboard and piano, the synthesizer, the harmonium and the guitar. His curiosity in the synthesizer, in particular increased because, he says, it was the “ideal combination of music and technology”.

AR Rahman began early training in music under Master Dhanraj. At the age of 11, he joined and worked, as a keyboardist for nearly a decade, in the troupe of Ilaiyaraaja, one of many composers to whom musical instruments belonging to Rahman’s father were rented.

Rahman later played in the orchestra of MS Viswanathan, Ramesh Naidu and Raj – Koti, accompanied Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music where he graduated with a degree in Western classical music.

AR Rahman was introduced to Qadiri Islam when his father was dying and his younger sister fell severely sick. He describes the process as taking five years; he along with other members of his family converted to Islam in 1989 when he was 23 years old. He changed his name to Rahman.

A R Rahman Career

Though his film career started in 1992, Rahman at the age of nine, in 1975, had accidentally played a tune on piano during his father’s recording for a film, which R.K.Shekhar later developed into a complete song, “Vellithen Kinnam Pol”, for the Malayalam film Penpada. This track credited to his father, was sung by Jayachandran and penned by Bharanikkavu Sivakumar.

Film Scoring and Soundtracks

His notable film career began in 1992, when he began the 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. He initially composed scores for documentaries, jingles for advertisements and Indian Television channels and other projects.

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 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 Minsaara Kanavu ( Electric Dreams, Tamil ) in 1997, Lagaan ( Tax, Hindi ) in 2002, Kannathil Muthamittal ( A Peck on the Cheek, Tamil ) in 2003, the most ever by any composer.

Roja’s score met with high sales and acclaim in both its original and dubbed versions, 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, Bharathiraaja’s Karuththamma, the saxophonic Duet, Indira, and the romantic comedies Mr. Romeo and Love Birds, which gained him considerable notice.

A R Rahman 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 Bombay Theme – from Ratnam’s Bombay – would later reappear in Deepa Mehta’s Fire and various compilations and media. The soundtrack of Bombay sold 12 million copies worldwide, becoming the highest selling Indian album of all time.

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 orchestral and choral arrangements. 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 ). Rahman has worked with Indian poets and lyricists such as Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Vairamuthu and Vaali.

A R Rahman 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 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 co-scored the Shekhar Kapoor project Elizabeth : The Golden Age in 2007. 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. Rahman scored the film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, for which he won a Golden Globe and two Academy Awards, becoming the first Indian citizen to do so. In the United States, the soundtrack topped the Dance / Electronic Albums chart and reached #4 on the Billboard 200 chart. The song “Jai Ho” reached #2 on the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles and #15 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

A R Rahman Other Works

Rahman 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.

A R Rahman 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.

In 1999, Rahman partnered with choreographers Shobhana and Prabhu Deva Sundaram 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.

Since 2004, Rahman has performed three successful world tours to audiences in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Dubai, the United Kingdom, Canada, the U.S. and India.

A R Rahman has been collaborating with Karen David for her upcoming studio album. A two-disc soundtrack, Introducing AR Rahman ( 2006 ) featuring 25 of his pieces from Tamil film scores was released in May 2006, and his non – film album, Connections was released on 12 December 2008.

Rahman also performed at the White House State dinner arranged by U.S. President Barack Obama during the official visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 24 November 2009.

Rahman is one of over 70 artists who performed on “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti”, a charity single to raise emergency relief funds in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In 2010, Rahman composed “Jay Jay Garvi Gujarat” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the formation of Gujarat State,”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 AR 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.

Rahman, who had composed the highly successful signature tune for telecom brand Airtel, released a new version of the song on 18th November, 2010. He also released the theme song for Radio Desi Beats, of which he is a brand ambasaddor of, a couple of days later.

Automobile brand Toyota roped Rahman in to endorse their India specific car Etios in 2010. He scored the ad and was featured in it. Rahman also recorded a song for it, called “Pehli Baar”, recorded by Chinmayi, Javed Ali and Madhushree.

Rahman Music Style and Impact

Skilled in Carnatic 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 timbres, 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.

A R Rahman 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”.

A R Rahman Awards

Rahman 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 conferred the Padma Shri from the Government of India, Rahman has also received six Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, fourteen Filmfare Awards and eleven Filmfare Awards South for his music and scores.

In 2006, he received an honorary award from Stanford University for contributions to global music. In 2009, for his score of Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman won the Critics’ Choice 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 2009 Oscars. 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 was nominated for the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for the film 127 Hours. He is also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music for the same film. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Trinity College of Music in London.

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A R Rahman Personal Life

A R Rahman is married to Saira Banu and has three children, Khatija, Rahima, and Ameen. Rahman made his son Ameen sing the track “NaNa” from Couples Retreat and his daughter Khatija the track “Pudhiya Manidha” from Enthiran.

Rahman is the uncle of composer G. V. Prakash Kumar, who is the son of Rahman’s elder sister, A. R. Reihana. She debuted in film singing on the track “Vidai Kodu Engal Naadae” from Kannathil Muthamittal. He is the brother-in-law of Malayalam film actor Rahman.

A R Rahman had become an atheist as a result of childhood struggles, and eventually in 1989 converted to Islam, the religion of his mother’s family. In an interview with Time magazine, he said that he embraced Islam through Sufism.

A R Rahman is very devoted to his mother. During the 81st Academy Awards ceremony, he paid her a tribute saying: “There is a Hindi dialogue ‘mere pass ma hai’ which means even if I have got nothing I have my mother here.”

Despite being a former atheist, Rahman began his own catchphrase, “Ella pughazhum iraivanukke”, a sentence in Tamil which literally means “All praises dedicated to God”. The phrase was further popularized after Rahman uttered it during his speech at the 81st Academy Awards ceremony.

A R Rahman Social Service

Rahman 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.

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, along with 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.