AR Rahman is an Indian musician, multi-instrumentalist, and philanthropist who works as a composer, vocalist, songwriter, music producer, musician, and philanthropist. We take a look back at the life of Mozart of Madras, who turned 55 today.
AR Rahman was born AS Dileep Kumar in Madras, Tamil Nadu, on January 6, 1967, to musicians RK Shekhar and Kareema Begum (born as Kashturi). Rahman began learning the piano at the age of four and worked in the studio with his father.
Rahman’s father died while he was nine years old. Rahman, who was studying at Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan at the time, began working to help support his family. In addition, the family made money by renting out his father’s musical instruments.
Rahman failed his examinations because he was working so hard to make ends meet. Mrs. YGP, the school’s then-principal, summoned his mother and told her to take him to Kodambakkam’s streets to beg instead of sending him to school.
Rahman attended MCN for a year after the incident and then Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School. Rahman, on the other hand, dropped out of school with his mother’s permission to pursue a career in music.
Later, he received a Trinity College London scholarship to Trinity College of Music and graduated with a diploma in Western classical music from the Madras music school.
Rahman is a practising Muslim who converted from Hinduism with his family in his 20s and changed his name from AS Dileep Kumar to Allah Rakha Rahman (A.R. Rahman).
Wife and Children
In 1995, AR Rahman married Saira Banu, and the pair had three children: Khateeja Rahman (daughter), Rahima Rahman (daughter), and A.R. Ameen (son) (son).
The family went through a difficult period after his father’s untimely death. AR Rahman, a devoted Hindu, converted to Islam alongside his family in his twenties.
Sufism drew the family in, and the family converted to Islam before the premiere of Rahman’s first major effort, Roja. Kareema Begum, Rahman’s mother, insisted on changing Rahman’s name in the film’s credits at the last minute and was adamant about it. She would have rather not to see his name at all than to see his new name in the credits.
Many people ask AR Rahman if switching to Islam will make them successful, but he prefers to remain silent. “It’s not about converting to Islam; it’s about discovering the area and seeing if it presses a button in you,” he once said. Spiritual masters, particularly Sufi teachers, taught my mother and me things that we will never forget. Every faith has its own unique characteristics, and this is the one we picked. And we’re sticking to it.”
When AR Rahman was nine years old, he accidentally performed a tune on the piano in the studio with his father, which was later expanded into a complete song by R.K. Shekhar.
Initially, Rahman was trained by Master Dhanraj, then at the age of 11, he joined M.K. Arjunan’s orchestra, a Malayalam music composer and a close friend of his father. M. S. Viswanathan, Vijaya Bhaskar, Ilaiyaraaja, Ramesh Naidu, Vijay Anand, Hamsalekha, and Raj–Koti were among the composers with whom he collaborated soon after.
AR Rahman began his career doing soundtracks for documentaries and jingles for television commercials before landing his big break in 1992 when director Mani Ratnam invited him to write the score and soundtrack for the Tamil film Roja. Cinematographer Santosh Sivan later signed him for the Malayalam film Yoddha.
AR Rahman got his first National Award for outstanding music director for Roja the next year. Following that, he had a string of hit scores and songs for Tamil films. Later, Rahman teamed up with filmmaker Bharathiraaja to produce music for Tamil films influenced by rural folklore.
With the Tamil film Muthu, he attracted a Japanese audience. His soundtracks, which were a mix of Western classical music, Carnatic and Tamil traditional and folk-music traditions, jazz, reggae, and rock music, began to gain international acclaim.
In 1997, he earned his second National Film Award for Best Music Direction and a South Filmfare Award for Best Music Direction in a Tamil Film for his soundtrack record for Minsaara Kanavu, a Chennai production. Six South Filmfare Awards for Best Music Direction have been bestowed upon him.
He continued to collaborate with Indian poets and lyricists such as Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Vairamuthu, and Vaali, as well as filmmakers Mani Ratnam and S. Shankar on commercially successful soundtracks.
AR Rahman extended his Panchathan Record Inn studio in 2005, which he had founded in his backyard in 1992 as a recording and mixing facility. He founded his own record label, KM Music, in 2006.
In 2003, he co-scored Elizabeth: The Golden Age with Shekhar Kapur for the Mandarin-language film Warriors of Heaven and Earth, and in 2007, he co-scored Elizabeth: The Golden Age with Shekhar Kapur for the British film Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Couples Retreat, a 2009 comedy, was his debut Hollywood picture score. He was named Best Score at the BMI London Awards. When he composed the soundtrack for the 2008 British film Slumdog Millionaire, which won two Academy Awards, it was a watershed moment in his life. The soundtrack’s songs “Jai Ho” and “O… Saya” became international hits.
Rahman’s music for Mani Ratnam’s Kadal had topped the iTunes India chart for December towards the end of 2012.
His background music is a mix of ambient noises and modest orchestration. Roja, Bombay, Iruvar, Minsara Kanavu, Dil Se…, Taal, Lagaan, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Swades, Rang De Basanti, Bose: The Forgotten Hero, Guru, Jodhaa Akbar, Raavanan, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, Rockstar, Enthiran, Kadal, Kochadaiiyaan, and I are some of the films
Slumdog Millionaire earned A. R. Rahman two Academy Award nominations while 127 Hours garnered two. Rahman won his third National Award for the background score of Mom in 2018.
Rahman has worked on non-film projects in addition to creating songs and music for films and documentaries in several languages.
Rahman released his album Vande Mataram on the 50th anniversary of India’s independence in 1997. To date, it is Sony Music India’s best-selling non-film album.
AR Rahman collaborated with Shobana and Prabhu Deva, as well as a Tamil film-dancing company, to perform alongside Michael Jackson in his Michael Jackson and Friends event in Munich, Germany, in 1999.
He wrote the music for his debut theatrical performance, Bombay Dreams, in 2002. Andrew Lloyd Webber commissioned the music.
For the Toronto production of The Lord of the Rings, Rahman collaborated with the Finnish folk music band Värttinä.
Rahman has performed in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Dubai, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and India since 2004.
AR Rahman performed at a White House state dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama on November 24, 2009, during the official visit of then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
On the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Gujarat State, he composed “Jai Jai Garvi Gujarat.” As part of the World Classical Tamil Conference 2010, he composed “Semmozhiyaana Thamizh Mozhiyaam.”
He even wrote the theme song for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Jiyo Utho Bado Jeeto.
In 2012, Rahman composed a Punjabi song for Danny Boyle’s London Olympics opening ceremony. The song was part of a medley that highlighted Indian influence on the United Kingdom.
In the same year, he and Shekhar Kapoor co-founded Qyuki, a social networking site that allows storytellers to share their ideas.
In 2017, he released The Flying Lotus, a 19-minute symphonic work. It discusses demonetization and contains a speech by Narendra Modi.
The following year, he starred as the host of Amazon Prime Video’s “Harmony,” a five-episode series. In the same year, he debuted ARRived, India’s first YouTube Original. The 13-episode series intended to uncover the top singers from all throughout the country. As judges, Rahman is joined by Shaan, Vidya Vox, and Clinton Cerejo.
Maruti Suzuki India Limited launched NEXA Music on January 16, 2019. Rahman and Clinton Cerejo chose 24 musicians to train in order to develop worldwide music in India.
In December 2019, he partnered with the Irish rock band to release Ahimsa, a single. The song was written to highlight India’s ethnic and spiritual diversity.
AR Rahman supports a variety of philanthropic organisations. Some of them are listed below:
He was the global ambassador for the WHO’s Stop TB Partnership. In 2008, he founded the KM Music Conservatory, which offers audio-visual instruction to budding musicians interested in vocals, instruments, music technology, and sound design.
He launched Sunshine Orchestra with the goal of establishing India’s first symphony orchestra, in which economically disadvantaged children can receive free music lessons from the KM Music Conservatory.
Rahman gave a Sufi Benefit Concert at Pratham’s annual gala in New York in 2019, which focuses on providing great education to India’s disadvantaged youngsters. It is one of India’s most important non-governmental organisations.