India's Mozart Hits LA


The biggest annual music event in the West-the Grammys-has just wrapped up in the US. And thanks to the still-reverberating success of Slumdog Millionaire, India has made its mark again on the international scene, with renowned Indian music composer A.R. Rahman picking up two Grammys at the 2010 award show for the movie’s soundtrack.

Right now, I’m listening to ‘Jai Ho,’ (the fantastic) winner of the Best Motion Picture Song, on repeat-in celebration both of Rahman’s skills and Slumdog, a film that only a little over a year exploded into international consciousness, transforming the way India is seen by the world. Rahman also earned two Oscars for the movie’s soundtrack last year at America’s biggest performing arts celebration, the Academy Awards.

According to TIME, who dubbed him the ‘Mozart of Madras’ while designating him a spot in their Time 100 of 2009 list, in India ‘everyone from the street child who sweeps train platforms to the middle-aged doctor in Mumbai’s posh Malabar Hill,’ hums Rahman’s tunes. If this is indeed true, then Rahman’s influence in a country so massive is pretty amazing. 

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But his reach also extends beyond his native India. Slumdog director, Brit Danny Boyle, chose Rahman to mastermind his soundtrack because ‘not only does he draw on Indian classical music, but he’s got R&B and hip hop coming in from America, house music coming in from Europe and this incredible fusion is created.’

Of his process, Rahman himself has made some interesting remarks; for instance, that when he is composing, he tries to imagine himself as a listener rather than creator. He has also spoken out on the heavy influence of Sufism, his religion, in his compositions:

‘I want to create a very positive energy in the songs because so many people listen to them. Even the core and the nucleus of the song have to be true and honest and the only way to do that is set up a foundation which is spiritual. Being religious helps me counter greed and materialism and deal with disappointments in life as well as success.’

It’s all fine with me, for I’m not yet tiring of the results — currently on ‘Jai Ho’ round: too-many-to-count.

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