This is a golden age for Hindi singers: AR Rahman

This is a golden age for Hindi singers:  AR Rahman

By Arti Dani

Published: Wed 17 Jan 2018, 3:23 PM

Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 1:41 PM

Oscar and Grammy-Award winning musical maestro AR Rahman surprised around 1,000 female singers from the UAE when they were singing as a choir at Bollywood Parks Dubai on Tuesday evening. "I just went towards the end and I was really surprised. I am always intrigued and pleased when I see the talent of the younger generation and the innocence on their faces. We all get corrupted when we get old," said Rahman while talking to City Times, describing the experience of listening to the talented girl singers. He was in Dubai to promote The Journey: A Celebration of Music - an event celebrating Rahman's unparalleled 25-year career, coinciding with Indian Republic Day.
Do you prefer recording songs in a studio or do you enjoy going out on stage and performing live?
In India, when I was growing up, there were only film composers and a couple of pop stars. There was a gap. I always thought that I would fail with what I wanted to do as an independent artiste because there was no outlet for that (kind of music). I wanted to combine what I wanted to do as an artiste and as a film composer. And because I did songs like that, it led me to do shows like I wanted to. I started as a very boring person, hiding behind the keyboard, then I got bored watching myself on TV. Then, I started wearing proper outfits and we had dancers as we felt that it was not fair to make people see a boring person on TV, they might as well play a CD and listen to the music. We researched on what compels people to come to a show and we added some spice to our shows. Then, we (shows) went bigger and bigger. In 2015, we did 21 shows in the United States and we made a movie called One Heart. We went all bold. The feeling of connection with the audiences is most important to us.
Maa Tujhe Salaam is one of the most popular patriotic songs from India. Can you recall the making of this cult number?
My intention at that time was to connect with every person in India. That desire was deep in my heart. Bharat Bala, who directed the video, came to me and asked me to make a song on Vande Mataram. We did not get any tune for six months because I was constantly working on movies. One day, I did all the choruses and showed it to him and he started crying. He was constantly weeping and I asked him what happened and he said that the song was amazing. Then, we found producers. I had an extremely memorable experience making that song.
You are extremely passionate about your music school. With your busy schedule, how closely are you involved in honing the skills of your students?
The whole idea was formed in 2008. After hitting 40, people get this idea that they are hitting the wall - you want to do something great and plant a tree. I said that we don't have (enough) musicians and nobody is nurturing Western classical musicians in India. And for film music, we need a lot of Western classical stuff. Of course, we go to Prague, London and all these places to record. It is indeed a great paid holiday. But then, you see masses of people in India and hardly anyone leads them. Imagine, if we convert them into artistes, musicians, scientists etc. We did an experiment and announced it and we started getting a lot of support. We started it (the school) from the garage in my studio. Students started coming from Kashmir to Kolkata to Gujarat and different parts of India. Everyone loved to walk through the (music) school street because there was opera, symphony, music etc. It was like a dream street because it had amazing things happening. Then, we bought land and extended it. My sister is taking care of it since she is from a musical family, she understands the business. Right now, we don't have support from anyone, it's just our family putting in money, just to cultivate talent.
How different is working in Bollywood and Hollywood?
The expectations are different in both places. You have to be mentally prepared for anything in Hollywood. In India, you are pampered. But anyone can be fired in Hollywood. It is straight but terrifying, and the whole world sees it.
Recently, during a round table interview, female singers from Bollywood spoke about pay disparity and how they were treated and paid differently than their male counterparts. Also, they get fewer lines in songs compared to male singers. Do you think Bollywood needs to reflect upon these issues?
I think it is a golden age for Hindi singers. They now have the freedom. Even if the singer has three songs in their kitty, they can almost buy an apartment in Mumbai. I get this message from singers saying, 'Thank you, Sir. I bought an apartment.' I think if they are talented, people don't care. If they are great singers, sometimes even on my show, I get messages like, 'Neeti (Mohan) was awesome, sir. And you were too,' I am proud. They are singing my songs and I feel proud when people love their work.

To buy tickets, and for more info on AR Rahman's concert, visit or
Date: Friday, January 26
Gates open: 6pm, show begins at 9pm
Concert bonus
Armaan Malik, Neeti Mohan, Harshdeep Kaur, Javed Ali, Benny Dayal, Jonita Gandhi, Keba Jeremiah and Haricharan Seshadri will also perform
AR Rahman's songs at the concert.

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