World-renowned music icon A.R. Rahman is set to lighten up fans with a special live concert at the Etihad Arena in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Talking to the media, Rahman showed his excitement to perform first time in Abu Dhabi, saying: “I’m thrilled and honored to be performing live for the first time at Etihad Arena in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. I always endeavour to celebrate music globally and connect with my fans and music enthusiasts worldwide!”
Talking to IANS, he revealed many things about his upcoming projects and ongoing developments including his favourites and use of technology in the music industry…
Q: You have done many concerts in Dubai and always it comes with a theme. What is the theme for the Abu Dhabi concert? this time will it be different or something which we’ve never seen before?
Rahman: You should wait and watch. of course, because performing songs is fine. But then if you leave an impact on certain things, you could go back and make them engaged. I think that is the best success. So, you can remember that experience. So, we always think about what experience we can give. But this concept we really thought about for three months and didn’t get any idea and then we had a fire setlist and then towards I think my daughter’s marriage finished and the whole team was there. That day everything came together.
Q: Every time you do a concert, there are certain songs that really connect with the audience, for example, ‘Jai ho’, ‘Chaiyyan Chaiyyan’, there are these songs. So, do you do those songs because the audience demands it or some songs which are very close to you like ‘Ma tujhe salam’?
Rahman: It is tough, the certain things we must do, but other things which we don’t even expect sometimes people love and they showed for it. This year we did the 23-concert tour in the US and in each place I have a different vibration. Every venue has its own choice. So, after we’ve all unified, it was very difficult to gauge what we decided was what we love is what we should do.
Q: From an industry perspective, has technological reliance taken away melody which is the essence of our music? Will technology replace the human touch?
Rahman: Technology was always there. You know, even I bought my first computer in 1985 and then I’ve been working, then bought my first samplers in 1987. My base was technology, but the challenge was how you can inject soul into technology. How can you make technology speak your language? Because if it pulls you in, this is what technology can do, that doesn’t make sense. But what you want to do with technology makes sense. Is it telling a story? Is it helping the storytelling of music?
This conversation has been going on since 1985. Humans are humans, humans can always beat technologies because they find new ways to excellence. I mean, it is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good for certain things.
Q: There’s a scene in ‘Tamasha’, where Ved proposes to Tara and she declines. The background score of that scene has subtle psychedelic elements with the synth being the prominent one as there are changes in Ved’s subconscious due to rejection from Tara. What was your idea behind the score of that scene, and how did you approach it?
Rahman: When Imtiaz (Ali) told me the story and second part was very dark. And that’s what I like about certain directors, they go deeper than other people. Imtiaz is such a director who goes deeper than others, and he reflects on his own personal experience. So here music was needed to go with the scene’s requirement and it was for the whole film.
Q: With the last hit movie ‘Ponniyin Selvan: I (PS1)’ itself, what I noticed was there was a resurgence of that right for the storyline for the history behind it, as well when it came to you what was running through your mind, any pressure that you could do justice to this you’ve achieved so much in your life. So how do you set that bar high?
Rahman: ‘PS1’ is like how for Europe, Lord of the Rings was, such a great piece of work. For us in South India PS1 is one of them. I think because you have to see that the audience is new and the expectations are, you know, they’re watching the world’s best stuff, and suddenly getting the whole tradition and putting in the red throat is not a good thing, but making them feel that this is their tradition, but it’s a cool way of presenting what’s important.
Q: Whether numbers marketing like streaming numbers or revenues, matters for you. Do you see any competitors?
Rahman: Each one of us is catering to what comes to us and if you take GV Prakash or even Shankar they’re all doing their own thing, and people are loving it. So, for me, I must love my work first. I have lots of tick marks for myself, like music, tune, lyrics, production, etc. So, first to take all the stuff which I expect to optimize myself is tiring. Somewhere in that hotel’s free time I see many other people’s work and appreciate it.
Q: What is the biggest change that you have witnessed in A.R. Rahman between the 90s and 2022?
Rahman: The 90s what happened, when I started music, my team was just three people because nobody else would get what I was trying to express. Literally, it was one-way traffic, each one had to go through one small pipe. Now the kids are much smarter. We have a school where we’ve been training the children, we’re recording production. So many of the kids are interning with us. They’re part of the process and a young, vibrant army of amazing talented team players.
Q: What do you think about the new artists of Bollywood?
Rahman: I love new talents. Even in independent English music, there are so many artists. We’ve been doing something called Mexico music in that we got almost two thousand entries and was very difficult, very, very difficult. It took me like six-seven days to take from 13 to 24 as heartbreak for others.
Q: You’ve written over 300 jingles, do you ever miss making that?
Rahman: I still keep doing it and paid better…
Q: What is your favourite Bollywood song?
Rahman: ‘Aap Ki Nazron’ by Madan Mohan
Q: You were in the UAE recently, working closely with Expo 2020 Dubai for a special concert, Firdaus, the all-female choir. It has been quite a success, tell us about your love for the Middle East.
Rahman: I think I’ve been coming here for like 25 years. At the first concert, I had a fever and we had problems with the promoter. They don’t even come, and you don’t have to go on stage, but the public was shouting “AR, AR”. I think I don’t mind without promoters, as it was the first concert and then we were singing with Javed Jaffrey, we all remember that show.
Our people build this country with our sweat and soul. You feel connected to all that consider lives and souls and dreams in buildings. So, that connection and the way we coexist with everything, and they want peace, irrespective of religion. So, I feel like all that stuff makes me more comfortable here.
Q: The time when there’s so much prominence in this, so many numbers on remixes and remade songs. One song of yours, you don’t want to be remixed?
Rahman: Recently ‘Khwaja mere Khwaja’ had been remixed with completely wrong cords, so I requested to makers to remove it.
Q: How you are seeing the future of the Indian music industry?
Rahman: I think so many singers and songwriters are coming in this renaissance. It gives us more energy to do something better. That’s a good feeling, that so many great talents are coming from different regional and Hindi languages.
Q: How did you manage to beat the language boundaries? Making exceptional music for movies in several languages?
Rahman: Respect, I respect all the language. I don’t mock any language. Of course, I’m being born in Tamil, but I respect every language, culture, and tradition. I’m always a student, for a new song. Wonder what progression made them make that change. So that makes me curious. Even now I am doing a Punjabi movie with Imtiaz, named ‘Chamkila’ and there’s so much to learn and so much to give also, why don’t we do it like this or why can’t I adapt to this tool? Which is so beautiful.
I think my job is to understand the tradition, there is a director and there is a lyrics writer, and in that combination, I’m just one element. Though I’m driving it. I have the right intentions and the right people.