Monday, January 19, 2009
Yep, it's time for another Newbie's Guide post, and who better than the Man of the Moment: A.R. Rahman!
A.R. Rahman has an interesting religious background in addition to his professional achievements: he was born into a Hindu family and named A.S. Dileep Kumar. However, his sister fell seriously ill. After his parents visited a Muslim place of worship, she was cured, and the entire family converted to Islam. Afterwards, he changed his name to A.R. Rahman. However, his musical history is just as interesting as that little tidbit!
A.R. Rahman was born in Tamil Nadu, India in 1966. He comes by his composer tendencies naturally: his father composed music for Malayalam films. After his father died when Rahman was only nine years old, the family had to start renting out his musical equipment to pay the bills. Just two years after his father's death, the boy joined a musical troupe belonging to a composer named Ilaiyaraaja, as a keyboardist. Later on, he added computer programming to his list of skills.
Rahman won a scholarship to Trinity College of Music, London, and earned a degree in Western classical music. He also completed a few world tours accompanying other artists and played in an orchestra. He garnered recognition as a popular commercial jingle writer, but his talent would afford him much greater opportunities.
In 1991, Rahman founded Panchathan Record Inn, his own recording and mixing studio. That same year, film maker Mani Ratnam asked Rahman to compose for his Tamil movie Roja, which earned Rahman the Indian National Award for Best Music Composer. According to Rahman's official website: "Time magazine rated the soundtrack of ‘Roja’ in their top ten compilations of the all time 100 best movie soundtracks of the world." Rahman followed up his achievements by writing a lot of my very favorite soundtracks, including those for Dil Se, Kandukondain Kandukondain , Jodhaa Akbar, Rangeela, and Taal. Of course, he's written a lot more than those, but they were the ones I actually remembered. Hey, I'm still mostly a newbie myself! (He also did Lagaan, which tends to be the One Bollywood Movie Non-Bolly-Lovers Have Seen.)
In addition to the Indian languages in which he's composed, Rahman's also written music for the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical Bombay Dreams, the Mandarin language Warriors of Heaven and Earth, and co-wrote the score for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. He's released albums of stand-alone music on his own KM Music label (founded in 2006). He also co-wrote the music for The Lord of the Rings theatre version (be still my pounding, geeky heart!).
Rahman is active on several philanthropic fronts, the most recent being the proceeds from his first English-language release, "Pray for Me Brother." All proceeds from the 2007 song go to his own A.R. Rahman foundation, which focuses on eliminating poverty by giving the poor skills to succeed in life.
Rahman's won, oh, a bazillion awards, but the one for which Westerners will most likely recognize him is for his recent Golden Globe win for Slumdog Millionaire as best composer. He's the first Indian national to ever win the award. He certainly isn't one to rest on his laurels, however; he's got nearly a dozen upcoming Indian-language projects lined up for this year and next, and if his past success is any way to judge, he'll undoubtedly garner even more critical and popular acclaim during the coming months and years. In my opinion, he deserves every bit of it!
Side note: there's been a bit of debate over at BollyWHAT's forum about how best to pronounce Rahman's family name, something nobody at the Globes seemed certain about either. In the end, the common consensus seems to be that nobody can be bothered to transliterate it properly, but that it is not pronounced like the Ramen Noodles brand. Thanks for clearing that up, guys.
Sources for this post:
The A.R. Rahman Official Website and the A.R. Rahman Wikipedia entry