Original post : Rahmaniat blog
Interview Transcript | YouTube Video
Interview was broadcasted on Asianet TV on May 3, 2008 11.05PM (Indian Time)
Voice Over: The music Rahman has been composing ever since Roja has captured the hearts of millions across the world.
“Do you pick up music from your sorroundings, and may be subconsciously perhaps?
Subconsciously I like to see what is happening in the area, like I was very pretty surprised when I went to Jeddah, and find the seal of Lebanon and Beirut, making a different kind of music. And Dubai ofcourse is another big creative place where I have been to. I have not followed that much because I have been involved in something else like Lord of the Rings and Elizabeth and my own projects which were K M Music. But I think it evolved in it, like Arabic music. There is a quality production at the same time maintaining the tradition of the Makkah..
“Do you obviously try to bring in the new element, let’s say, like if it’s Arabic or Sufi that now that affects you, do you try to subconsciously bring them to the songs that you do? Or is it really technical…
I…it’s that it’s mostly dependent on the Director. If something is good I tell them that you wanna hear this and he hears it and if they like it they embrace it, if they don’t then I keep it as it.
Since you mentioned Lord of the Rings, you just completed album with that Warriors of Heaven and Earth, the Chinese movie… I mean you are really going international. Is it something that you really aspired for? What does it mean to you, this international reputation?
…For me I think music is…when I do music for a Tamil movie it is as respectful as when I do it for a Hollywood film. I don’t think “oh it is a Tamil movie, let me do it all shoddy…give more finished work…(blurring )…hopefully I treat them all equally, whether it’s American audience or Indian audience. And that’s other one of the reasons why it transcends the audience.
When you work with the western orchestra, what is one similarity or one difference that you find compared to the Indian team with which you work?
I…here, I think once you work with musicians you know, you just have to say, we have to begin something and they will end that for you, they can take it further. But when you work with musicians you don’t know, especially cast and orchestra, you need to write everything, you need to show them all, so you can’t have it in mind and think that you can pull it off. You need to…there’s a full process of orchestrating and copying down the stuff to the orchestra…
So it is more challenging?
It’s not challenging, it’s just the step towards that. I can’t now wake up in the afternoon and say “call the orchestra, let me do a song.” I can do that in Chennai. But I can’t do that else. I need to have an orchestra booked three months in advance, I want to finish the scoring and then on the day of the recording they play. So it can’t be done overnight. Everybody is preoccupied.
People complain that Indian musicians lack the dedication that classical musicians feel the rest have. What do you think about it?
I don’t agree the generalization of dedicated/non-dedicated people. I think those who are dedicated are dedicated in a different way. You can’t compare with them, they are unique in their own way, and they are unique in their own way. Because the infrastructure is built in such a way that it is organized, in the West. But here due to various different thing...lack of unity…may be it suffered a bit. But now hopefully things will get better.
Will K M Music Conservatory be one step towards that?
True music conservatory is definitely a step towards that because we have it all in us and it just needs that one step of organizing, or, helping to give infrastructure where they can play any kind of music and they can, in one step, jump to go to international arena.
And focusing on bringing more Western song music to Indian music through this institution?
No, it’s not that why it works actually. It’s acquiring more perception, and…generating more jobs, generating more passion, generating more shows and…so many other things. I think once it happen I’ll also be more convinced than at this stage…
You also have a school of musical tradition as part of the conservatory. So are you actually encouraging people to learn the instruments that are fairly old? Considering that you have been accused of bringing in technology to music, you know, is it sort of repentance for that?
It is not a repentance. It is the way of life now. Because if somebody knows only one way, one little thing and they don’t know the other thing, they cannot complain that this came in, like the video came and the radio starved (smiles). Let there be both and let them have a choice. If given an opportunity I’d have learned, that time, I would have gone to conservatory and all. But we all came up the hard way, so I think if they provided with the right sort of education, we can see much more music. We are only accusing “oh music is not like that those days”, but nobody has ever thought of giving that to the people to educate them in the right way. Well, if somebody wants to get educated, the rich could go to Europe or America and learn, the poor could go nowhere.
So is it a paying back to the society today?
Also, it is also a selfish reason.
What is the selfish reason?
Selfish reason is that I’ll be listening to the orchestra for five years and I’d be having an orchestra of our own, in five years or three years, or ten years, but the seed had to be sown, and it had to be done now.
How do you respond to that allegation you are clinging on, you are depending too much on technology? Do you feel…
I don’t think it is an allegation, it’s just…sometimes ignorance, sometimes lack of understanding of what they say. If you say, now that you are carrying a camera, (pointing at the camera), if I say you should use a machine old camera…you are using the technology to capture me. So that is not a…that’s a progress. So certain things are progress, certain things are… If I make good music with whatever it is, then it is… it’s a progress for me. If I deteriorate from that, if I’m making noise, so you are going to technology and making something irritating which I shouldn’t like
But doesn’t that happen now too often in modern music? Don’t you feel, see, hear…
There is, there’s good and there’s bad. And we have to filter it, I think. That happens in every era I think. Mediocrity is in every era. That shortcut to creativity always happens.
Voice Over: Other than music, Rahman is involved in many humanitarian actions too. Rahman founded the A R Rahman Foundation with the aim of wiping out poverty from the face of the earth. Rahman was appointed as the Global Ambassador of Stop TB Partnership of WHO in April 2004. Albums like Pray For Me Brother, Indian Ocean etc depict Rahman’s interest in humanitarian endeavours.
Is mediocrity what irritates you the most?
Definitely, all of us. And that is the reason for K M Music Conservatory. I feel, if we build up musicians, we muster them for melody and harmony, and they will never do that. Because they can never allow their conscience to go against what they have learnt. They’d give that, you know, beautiful format. They would take it further what good people have left.
You have once said that, you know, what Indian music now lacks is perhaps is a powerful, overwhelming male voice. Do you still stick to that?
(eh)…well, there was a time when people used to love this kara kara(rough) voice, which is not there now. The last I‘dthink was Jesudas having that, probably Jagjit Singh and all..
But then you hardly use him these days, is it like you are giving a chance to newcomers?
No. What I have been doing is, I am doing very experimental stuff. I have never done the very straight stuff. In my understanding I am a rebel in my own way. I’d like do all the movies. I’d say “Give me all the movies, I’ll do all of them”. Then I’m responsible for that. I want to do things which excite me, which take me more, excite me, and take me to another spectrum of the music which has not been explored.
That makes you a rebel with a cause. What would be your cause?
(Laughing)…My cause is to give people something interesting. Because when you have something interesting…I want something interesting to listen to, I want to make something interesting to listen to. …of course…
Obviously there is something more in it. Anyone..a lot of people make music, which is interesting…I am sure you have something more spiritual, perhaps, than that.
Well, I think, definitely. Without any blessing I would be nothing. I believe that making peace out of chaos, making
What personal was perhaps the experience doing Pray For Me Brother? Was it a personal…Did it haunt you personally?
Pray For Me Brother…it did haunt me, because that is the only one thing which we always say to people, when friends meet they say oh brother I’m so pray for me, or I’d say to somebody, so that, whatever it is connotating, it is the only thing that we exchange. So I thought that is a good outline to have as a song. It’s not about giving money, it’s about wishing someone good.
It was thought provoking. I think that music must have helped in some way. Do you believe that these things actually make a difference?
At least the people have noticed, people have in a corner of their heart it’s laid a seat. And lots have thought twice before spending money for unnecessary reason. This one could have done for that. So I just want that to be an inspiration. Not a solution. So in that way I think it did.
Do you go back to your pre-ghazal (that’s what it sounded to me)days, when you are struggling, you are working. Do you do that ever?
I don’t. (both laughs). Not that I have to, I think of the future always. Because the past sometimes is bad. It only brings the venom and brings the bad memories. And that’s what is happening in the whole country, perhaps, the whole world. “You have done this to me long back, let me do it again now”. It’s just pointless. Good experience…definitely I’m grateful and have my gratitude towards them, but bad things I keep forgetting and thank you very much.
Sorry, but I have to take you to the past and considering that you have spend some part of your life in Kerala. What memories of Kerala you have
Kerala, I think…very laid back people, very honest…well…I…my first recording…actually Kerala was in my house. When I used to come out of my house I used to see musicians, producers, and directors, all waiting for my father, assistants and singers…so the whole of Kerala was in Tamil Nadu. You know, the whole industry was there. And it was like a family, a family of Malayalam and Telugu and Kannada men. My father was involved in so many different, he was assistant to so many different music composers. He was probably like a nucleus for everyone, and that’s a reason he died, he go overworked. The lesson I learnt from him was not to overwork and worn out yourselves, because you need something for yourself.
Is it possible for you to follow that?
Ya, I tried it, and that is why I did one movie in six days
You keep visiting Kerala, on and off regularly on personal trip. Did you go to your father’s place?
I did go to Kerala recently. I went for Muthu, I went for Padayappa , for an ad for Worldspace…
But you have never done a movie in Malayalam after Yodha. Has it been deliberate?
It’s no deliberate. Just that I need something exciting. There were some movies which were very close to execution, but then it fell out, because of various reasons.
Can I give a suggestion perhaps. Considering that you bring in a lot of different world sounds, from different parts of the world, how about doing a song only with Kerala musical instruments?
Good Idea. In fact one of the bands gave me all the percussion instruments after an award I gave. They were so moved they gave me all the instruments they played, still I have that, I don’t know what to do with it.
Why don’t you consider doing something, perhaps for Asianet?
For your own reason…but something…
Well, there will be something, you never know. When it’ll come.
Where does it, when does the spark come in, when do you realize that I am going to work on this and not on that?
I don’t know, because there are some albums which I have done, Dakshinamoorthy Swami has composed it…(some part missing)
Do you think you are perhaps handicapped if you weren’t too well versed in Carnatic or Hindustani music?
No I don’t think so, because if I was fully into one music, I wouldn’t have embraced the other kind of music, but the idea of going something, having the object of look on musical landscapes, the landscapes are different. There are extraordinary geniuses in Carnatic music, and Hindustani and every…But I felt that because my understanding is more from a distant point of view I can get away with certain kinds of things which I can’t if I had known too much of nuances.
Sometimes… you picked up (some singers name) randomly pull out of audience and make them stars. What is it that make you feel that this star material, this is the guy who will make it work?
I never do that. They have it in them and that’s what happens. I can never make a person star. What I can do is I can just try them out and if they have it in them, it shows, adrenalin comes in, the life comes out, and nobody can halt that.
Where does the role of a composer begin, and a singer begin? Where is that dichotomy? Is there a dichotomy at all? Or who needs to be credited for a song’s success?
I think we are all instruments, we are all acting upon what we have to do. So nobody is in control, God is in control. And when Minmini just came and sang the track, so God wanted that to happen.
Are you treating it very spiritually this way?
I am in a way, actually, because things are put together, and because you believe in good things, I feel that things come together.. even if you want, sometimes you want a singer for a song for a concert and they don’t come for ages and you call another singer, he sings the song and it becomes much better, and this happens every time. And then you think that may be he was the person to sing this song.
But what is one song you would want to give in birth for?
I don’t know.
Something which is very close to your heart?
I cannot …each person has one, no two people will say the same song. They are all beautiful. So I give respect to them ,and nothing to comment.
Thank you very much.