In dialog with AR Rahman on his upcoming sufi music live performance

At round 6 within the night, A.R. Rahman excuses himself from a dialog. Inside his ARR Studios at Chennai’s Kodambakkam, the Oscar winner swiftly paces from one block to a different, his thoughts pre-occupied, solely briefly pausing to smile at a couple of individuals on the best way. Clearly, the person must be someplace quickly.

Someplace is simply three flooring above. Right here, amidst many devices which have been performed in superhit albums, is silence.

He requires that for his prayers, a time that’s sacred, a time spent in solace. His assistant tells me, “It’s his prayer time. Nobody disturbs him for some time.”

Watch | In dialog with AR Rahman on his upcoming sufi music live performance

Someday later, the Mozart of Madras emerges from the elevator, clad in a maroon kurta and sporting a smile. The composer is in nice spirits, which soften after we enquire about his son Ameen, who escaped a serious accident on the units of a track shoot every week in the past. Rahman says, “He’s shaken. He tells me, ‘Appa, I can’t sleep nicely. I really feel that the fan would possibly fall on me’.”

As we await the interview to start, Rahman hums a line from ‘Adiye Sonali’, a one-minute unbiased music video launched by his son in January. Good issues await Ameen; he has additionally sung a track in upcoming Simbu-starrer, Tamil movie Pathu Thala underneath his father’s composition.

AR Rahman during a previous Sufi concert

AR Rahman throughout a earlier Sufi live performance
| Photograph Credit score:
Nishant Matta

Good issues additionally await Rahman. He’s gearing up for a live performance in Chennai this weekend, however it will likely be very completely different from the head-banging, acquainted rhythms that draw big crowds for his each dwell efficiency. At Wings of Love, scheduled this Sunday night at Nehru Indoor Stadium, the composer will carry out a “Sufi live performance”. “There will likely be no ‘Muqqabula’ or ‘Chaiya Chaiya’, however “there will likely be numbers like ‘Kun Faya Kun’,” he informs. “I wished to do an even bigger live performance however that couldn’t occur. Nonetheless, I realised there are a lot of followers for numbers like ‘Kun Faya Kun’ and ‘Khwaja Mere Khwaja’, and thus we have now this.” This live performance is to boost consciousness and in assist of the ‘Save Lightman’ fund, to recognise lightmen working in numerous movie industries. “We’ll get a blessing from everybody that means.”

That is A.R. Rahman the Oscar-winner speaking, however within the late Eighties, he was a simply boy named A.S. Dileep Kumar. So, when did he get drawn to the world of sufi music? “I used to be not a fan of qawwali,” he admits candidly, “In 1991, a good friend of mine, Sarangan, launched me to a document of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and I used to be like, ‘Who is that this? What is that this music?’ It modified my entire paradigm of pondering. Later, I met Nusrat and learnt a couple of classes, however then he handed away. Then, Khalid Mohammed got here to me and stated that he wished a track like ‘Muqqabula’. I didn’t need to do this but once more, however learnt that he was planning a qawwali, and I wished to do this.”

Although Rahman was initially nervous about experimenting with a very new style, that dialog did lead to a memorable track: ‘Piya Haji Ali’ ( Fiza) in 2000.

Throughout a go to to Ajmer, Rahman says a khadim requested him to compose one thing for Dargah Khwaja Saheb, which finally made its means into Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar (2008) . One other favorite quantity for followers is ‘Kun Faya Kun’ from Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar (2011) ; the feedback on its YouTube video even go to the extent of likening it to remedy. Rahman explains, “Whether or not it’s a bhajan or a gospel or a sufi observe, it’s the sincerity that the listener hears. Once I hearken to a ‘Vaishava Janato’, the sincerity is what makes that track. You don’t want a two-hundred piece orchestra observe for that.”

A.R. Rahman with actor Ranbir Kapoor during the promotions of ‘Rockstar’ in 2011

A.R. Rahman with actor Ranbir Kapoor throughout the promotions of ‘Rockstar’ in 2011
| Photograph Credit score:

A voice for hope

Although different in style performers, together with Javed Ali and Sivamani, will likely be a part of this sufi live performance, Rahman the singer will undoubtedly be the massive draw. In a 2018 interview, he advised The Hindu, “My spouse retains asking me to sing extra in movies however I dodge it as a lot as attainable…” Issues have modified vastly since then; singer Rahman is a continuing characteristic in virtually all his latest albums. “In the course of the U.S. excursions, I had a whole lot of time to practise. Within the bus, within the automotive… I might simply placed on the tanpura and sing. All of the singers I work with — younger or outdated — are higher than me. I get impressed by them, and push myself to sing higher.”

He’s additionally pushing himself on different artistic fronts; the previous few years noticed him conceptualising and writing 99 Songs and Le Musk, each of which have added a dimension to him past music. After working with a number of administrators and producers, how does it really feel to be in charge of a whole challenge? “Terrifying,” he laughs, “Typically, I really feel alone and there’s nobody else to say, ‘What in the event you make a nasty resolution?’ And I feel I might need made some unhealthy selections — in 99 Songs, for example, individuals cherished it as a theme however we pushed it too excessive to individuals within the sense that we showcased the lead character’s whole journey. As a substitute of getting 5 hit songs, we tried to see how he advanced as a composer and the errors he made. It was satisfying to do one thing that attempted to be trustworthy to the script. It was a chance, nevertheless it was value taking.”

AR Rahman with Mari Selvaraj during the recording session of ‘Maamannan’

AR Rahman with Mari Selvaraj throughout the recording session of ‘Maamannan’

Moreover working with regulars similar to Mani Ratnam, Rahman is eager to forge newer collaborations, one thing that’s evident in Tamil tasks like Cobra (Ajay Gnanamuthu), Pathu Thala (Obeli N Krishna), Ayalaan (R Ravikumar) and Maamannan (Mari Selvaraj). “We study from one another. They don’t have the bags of the earlier technology, and the keenness of their eyes is infectious. It makes me work tougher.” Mari Selvaraj, who wowed Tamil cinema with Pariyerum Perumal, is somebody Rahman describes as a “completely different variety”. “I used to be amazed together with his selection of music. He’s doing nice service for individuals from underprivileged backgrounds.”

What the Oscars imply

“We missed the bus throughout ‘Jai Ho’. We must always have cashed in on its success, contemplating it was a worldwide hit, and may have raised our profile extra. Now, with ‘Naatu Naatu’, we have now one other likelihood; the entire profile of India’s music and cultural facet can change. Individuals are going to be like, ‘What else has this composer carried out? What else has AR Rahman carried out?’ Additionally, India has lengthy been related to Bollywood; however now, RRR is a Telugu movie and The Elephant Whisperers is shot in Tamil Nadu. We’re so bundled with expertise, and we deserve this.”

Being a star

Whereas on the transfer, Rahman is besotted with requests and selfies, one thing that he takes in his stride. Celebritydom does come at a value certainly, and the composer smiles after I inform him I did one thing he can’t: stroll throughout the road to purchase biscuits whereas I used to be ready for him. “They’d eat me as a substitute of the biscuit if I did that,” he guffaws, “However, we get different extraordinary issues to do; like travelling continuously. While you win one thing, you lose one thing.”

AR Rahman with his mother Kareema Begum

AR Rahman together with his mom Kareema Begum
| Photograph Credit score:

The uncommon occasions when he’s alone, he says he typically thinks about his mom, Kareema Begum, who handed away in 2020 and was the most important help in his musical journey. He chokes a bit after I point out her, and says, “Even when she handed away, it was an odd response for me. I knew she was struggling — with needles continuously poking at her physique —- and someplace felt that it was a reduction that God had given her. However then, I used to be acting at a live performance, and noticed an empty seat, and remembered out of the blue how she used to attend my concert events with a giant thousand-bead prayer necklace. It hit me very exhausting after I realised that, ‘Oh my god, I’ve misplaced my mom’.”

Rahman factors out that the whole lot he has right now is due to his mom. “All that stuff you see round is due to her one resolution to place me into music. Whereas all different dad and mom again then had been saying issues like, ‘Change into a health care provider after which do music,’ she was saying, ‘Do music.’ That’s genius.”

AR Rahman’s Sufi live performance will happen on March 19 at Nehru Indoor Stadium, Chennai. For particulars, go online to

Graphic: Albert Francis, Photo: Nagara Gopal

Graphic: Albert Francis, Photograph: Nagara Gopal

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