What do A.R. Rahman and Madan Mitra talk about with an eye on the September sky? The sports minister hailed the “Mozart of Madras” as the “Tansen” of our times on Sunday evening and said: “You will be happy to know that any programme of our chief minister Mamata Banerjee starts with rain… heavy showers. And after that everything clears up. It’s blessings from ooparwalla,” he told Rahman.
Thousands of fans will be hoping for blessings from Mitra’s “ooparwala” at the October 1 Celkon RahmanIshq concert at Salt Lake Stadium, conceptualised by Techfront and Rapport Global Events and held in partnership with The Telegraph. Late on Saturday, soon after arriving at Hyatt Regency, the Academy and Grammy winner spoke to Metro…
Welcome back. You first performed here for The Telegraph Concert in February 2003. What makes the city special?
I think it has a great audience. So, whenever you think about certain places, which gives you a positive energy, this is certainly among the best.
Any Calcutta places you would like to visit?
Who knows, I am going to check out some places secretly at night. (Laughs) Well, sometimes I go for a ride…
Your setlist for this features some electronic dance music?
In a way, yes. I think the numbers just started piling up… you know, Infinite Love and many others. There is a lot of other stuff that I have been doing and kids love EDM nowadays. So, it’s a part of it…
Do you feel that the youth are listening to Indian music more than before?
Well, Indian music has got its own charm. You know, it’s like an ocean from which you can pick stuff. And, of course, we need to be proud of our culture. And we need to take it further. We have culture and it’s important to use it to shape what people listen to. So, even if you take the Coke Studio (@ MTV Season 3), we have brought some old songs back. And strangely that seems to be the favourite among people, like Aao balam and Soz o salaam.
While working on film scores, does it help to work with people who have a sense of rhythm?
It’s easier to sell something that’s very musical… to people who understand music. Otherwise they settle down to mass numbers or something catchy. Sometimes I don’t even work on an idea fully; it’s on my phone… and they hear that and say they like my stuff. For some people I really have to produce it… with rhythm and chords and everything to convince them.
And how do you decide which song you’ll lend your voice to?
(Laughs) I decide not to sing every song. Inevitably if it has to be done, I do. So that way I could probably find the right voice, which we have so many nowadays.
TANSEN OF OUR TIMES, MADAN HAILS MAESTRO
So, how do you spot talent?
I don’t need to spot anymore. (Smiles) YouTube is there! I do see it a lot.
KM Music Conservatory evolved into KM College of Music and Technology in Chennai on August 9. How do you want to take it forward?
Now we have a lot of space. The first step… the big step… has been taken. We see a lot of people who are interested. I think the students now have to become an entity by themselves… forming different bands. That’s what I am trying to facilitate.
Does it help you to work with young musicians?
As you grow older, you want to reflect the enthusiasm of those who have it. And so that helps a lot… working with younger people. They give you the energy and you give them the wisdom… if you have any (adds with a laugh)!
Thanks to you, the West has got a feel of the music of Indian cinema rather than just Bollywood. How do you look at that?
Ah, I don’t like the word (Bollywood) either! I think we are pretty lucky the way things are going. Some Hollywood movies just want to reach the one billion mark. So, sometimes it becomes a tedious process in music making.
In India, it’s 100, 200 crore…
Rs 400 crore now! But it’s not every movie. Some beautiful movies are also being made. So, it’s fine.
When you started, your music was in many ways theatrical. What’s your take on that?
Depends on what I am doing. Certain songs demand it, like Kochadaiyaan, the Rajinikanth movie. That’s fully orchestral and choral. That demands it. And certain songs have just four instruments. But when you listen to a good song, it’s a good song.
Does A.R. Rahman ever get nervous working with any particular singer?
When I work with legends I get nervous, like SPB (S.P. Balasubrahmanyam), Lata Mangeshkar, Yesudas or Asha Bhosle. I guess they also feel sometimes… when you are working, till you crack a song, there is so much tension out there.
Who are some of the film music composers you listen to?
Many actually. John Williams is an influence, definitely. Ennio Morricone and his son Andrea Morricone… he is a friend also. Sometimes I listen to Marathi music, like Hridaynath Mangeshkar and some of the movies are beautiful… the new movies based on theatre. And what else… of course, because of the school, the conservatory and the whole music history thing, I have been looking at the evolution of Western classical music coming from the 12th century, Renaissance period, the Romantic period, Gothic, and so on.
As your music evolves, how are technological changes helping you?
Well, technology is moving towards simplicity. Before, you could get something beautiful but the process of that was complex. Now it’s much more simpler than what it was… in terms of synthesis, playing an instrument and other ways.
When you are not busy, what do you do?
I spend time with my kids (Khatija, Rahima, and Ameen).
Footnote: A.R. Rahman spent Sunday at Hyatt Regency. He had stepped out briefly to visit a dargah in Kidderpore around 6.30am. He was scheduled to go to the Salt Lake stadium at night, weather permitting, to check out the arrangements.
- Chicken clear soup
- Fish tikka
- Chicken tikka
- Black dal
- Orange juice
- Egg white masala fry omelette
- Multigrain bread
- Chicken sausage
Hearty Thanks To “The Telegraph” | Kolkata