AR Rahman and Michael Jackson: What’s the Real Story?

By June 16, 2010 No Comments

BY: Samantha

In interviews, AR Rahman frequently mentions the genius of Michael Jackson and how inspirational he found the late King of Pop.  We’ve heard stories of a collaboration between the two, that they toured together, that they may have composed a song together…and so we decided to ask AR Rahman about it himself.

In the video below, our NY AR Rahman concert sweepstakes winners ask the Mozart of Madras about his rumored collaboration with Jackson, entitled “Ekam Satyam,” and what his interaction with MJ was like.

Rahman explains why he’d rather not perform “Ekam Satyam” as a tribute, and reveals the fact that they only interacted 2-3 months before Jackson’s death. At the Staples Center in LA, Rahman met MJ’s manager asked to meet him. A week before Oscars, Michael was free to meet but Rahman was rehearsing so the meeting fell through. The day after the Oscars however, a day before Rahman boarded a flight out of town, MJ had time and invited Rahman to his place.

[Keep reading after the video!]

But what of that concert in Munich? Did they tour together? How did “Ekam Satyam” come to be?

Well, the song is a duet sung and composed by Rahman. The track is part Sanskrit and part English. The Sanskrit portions were written by AR Parthasarathy and sung by Rahman, and the English lyrics were penned by Kanika Myer Bharat and sung by Michael Jackson. The song was written specifically for the Michael Jackson and Friends Concert held in Munich in June 1999, and it was performed with a Tamil Cinema dancing troupe onstage.  The Michael Jackson and Friends Concert was a two-part benefit tour held in Seoul, South Korea, and Munich, Germany, to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Red Cross, and UNESCO. Michael Jackson worked with many artists for the tour including AR Rahman, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, and Andrea Boticelli.

AR Rahman sings “Black or White” behind a dancer dressed as MJ on his 2010 Jai Ho tour

Sadly, Rahman and Jackson never got a chance to perform together because Jackson suffered an injury onstage earlier that night in Munich. During a performance of “Earth Song,” Michael was standing on an elevated bridge when the pyrotechnic flares (one assumes) caused cables to snap. The bridge collapsed (you can view the incident at approximately 5:00 here) and even though MJ finished the song as though everything went according to plan, he was taken to the hospital afterwards for a back injury and burns. So AR Rahman performed the song solo, and the song eventually gained some popularity with MJ’s fans in the West. There were plans to eventually release the song as a single, and even some discussion about adding the song to Jackson’s album Invincible. However, no plans were ever finalized.

So ten years later, in February 2009 AR Rahman met Michael Jackson for the first time. They talked for two hours about chord progressions and admired each others work. Michael congratulated Rahman on “Jai Ho” and introduced him to his children. A few weeks, later Jackson asked Rahman if he would compose a song for him similar to “We Are the World,” the unity anthem written by Jackson and Lionel Richie in 1985. Just as Rahman started to get excited about the honor of producing such a song for Michael Jackson, he found out the icon had passed away.

Rahman reflected on MJ’s influence, saying: “Every musician would wait for a Michael Jackson casette to come and rip it apart [saying] ‘its not music’…and then finally we all get hooked and it stays with us the rest of our lives.”

Rahman released the following statement after Michael Jackson’s death on his website on June 25, 2009:

I met him personally after the Oscars in Los Angeles and we vibed very well. He said that he loved India and the Indian people. He said he heard good things about me and he was praising the chord progression of Jai Ho’s chorus. He was bursting with energy and told me that every  dance move he did,came from his soul and did a five second stunning example. It was like a lightning strike 🙂

He was concerned about developmental issues such as Global Warming and about wars and its damages to the human community. He asked me to compose a unity anthem on the likes of “We are the World ” for him. I nodded in awe …!He introduced me to his three lovely bright kids.  The kids told him “I love you dad” and he replied  “I love you more” as a proud father.

I wished him well for his concerts and he said “God Bless you”…
I remember,  my late sound engineer Sridhar had brought me a video of the premiere of “Remember the Time” when I was recording “Kadal Rojave” for my first movie Roja. Seeing it inspired all of us that afternoon.

Now, there is no Sridhar and no Jackson anymore. I hope all of us value people’s existence  more and respect them when they are alive.

LIFE IS SHORT…! Artists and their art live for ever. Jai Ho, MJ !

We  love you for your music, regardless of all the controversies!