London: He did India proud by bringing home double Oscars and two Grammies and musician AR Rahman, a practising Muslim, has taken it upon himself to promote love and unity through his music as he believes that Islam has been “hijacked” by extremists.
Rahman who changed his name from Dileep Kumar to Allah Rakha Rahman after converting to Islam, said that the religion has a rich musical tradition.
“What appealed to me about Islam was that this is areligion based on unconditional love and a belief in one god and one love, and I was especially drawn to Sufism which has a rich musical tradition,” the musician who was recently awarded the Padma Bhushan, told a news daily.
The artiste said that contrary to the perception popularised by fundamentalists Islam does not forbid music.
“I never skip prayers. I find it releases me from tension and gives me hope and confidence that Allah is with me, that this is not the only world. Why is the azan (the call to prayer) in tune? Why is it musical? Islam has been hijacked by the extremists and what drives me in my own work is to create a music that will bring people together,” said the 44-year-old musician.
The London Philharmonic will perform some of his best-known works, from his Oscar-winning soundtrack of course, but also from the likes of `Elizabeth: the Golden Age`, the hit musical `Bollywood Dreams`, and some of his landmark Indian films, such as `Lagaan` and `Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na`.
Next week`s concert is part of his mission, an effort to use music to unite.
“At one of my concerns you will see people of all colours and religions together. That is what music can do. A song is more powerful than a thousand rallies,” said Rahman.
His musical work in more than 100 movies has produced sales of more than 100 million records and over 200 million cassettes, making him the only Asian in the list of the world`s top 25 bestselling recording artists.
Time magazine, which dubbed him the `Mozart of Madras`, placed him in its list of the world`s 100 most influential people last year.
He`s won numerous awards, both in India and further afield, but it was last year`s Oscar win, for his work on `Slumdog Millionaire`, that really changed things.
“Everyone dreams of winning an Oscar. It gave my work a new level of recognition and legitimacy,” he said.
Rahman`s gongs, for best song and best score, made him only the third Indian to win an Academy award.
The success of Slumdog Millionaire brought other advantages, “I had the chance to meet some of my great heroes. I got to meet Barbra Streisand and work with Celine Dion, and I was the first Indian to perform at the Hollywood Bowl,” said the musician.
Rahman`s great innovation for Indian movies was to introduce orchestral melodies to the traditional Bollywood soundtrack`s fondness for slashing violins and dramatic tablas.
“In India we love melodies in the background of scenes. But in the west there is a sense that soundtracks should not distract so there is a greater preference for more ambient sounds and plain chords,” said Rahman.