26 April 2009

Oscar Winner A.R.Rahman

Not many know that AR Rahman, the Oscar award winning Music composer often hailed as the Mozart of Chennai is a Brahmin by birth. Read this excellent background information that not many of us probably do not know despite all the publicity he has reaped consequent to his winning the double Oscars from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in the US.

The Malayalam Motion Picture Industry have always portrayed Rahman's father, RK Sekhar as one of their own which is the popular impression until Tamilnadu claimed Rahman as one of their own sons. Read the interesting bio: A.R.Rahman was a Palghat Iyer Brahmin who migrated to Chennai. His name was Dilip & he also studied in the famous Padma Seshadri School where Brahmin Students were dominant. I'm proud that I'm also an alumini of that school & Rahman too is an alumini.AR Rahman, born in 1966 as Dilip Kumar is the son of RK Sekhar and Kasturi.

His Grand Father Rajagopal Bhagavathar is from Kizhanoor nearChennai and was a popular Harikatha kalakshepam expert. His Father was a Malayalam movie music director. He scored music for just 22 films but was a music arranger and composer for over 100 Mlayalam films.

Apart from having composed many beautiful hit songs, it is said that his was the genius behind the success of many famous composers and their famous songs. It is said that R K Sekhar had a rare mastery over harmonium. Blessed with a deep knowledge of Indian traditional music as well as western music, he was the music arranger for Devarajan, Dakshinamurthy, A.T. Ummer, M.K. Arjunan and others.

When Salil Chowdhury composed music in Malayalam for films like Chemmeen, R K Sekhar served as his assistant and music conductor. In his early days when Ilayaraja played Combo Organ and Guitar for the songs of Salil Chowdhury and Devarajan, it was R K Sekhar who arranged and conducted it.R K Sekhar who learnt the grammar of music by and large on his own, garnered the framework of Carnatic music from Dakshinamurthy. It is said that even composers like S.D. Burman, recognizing his talent in arranging music, invited him to assist him in Hindi film music. He was the music composer for music director Kumar's first film Neerkumuli, a Tamil hit directed by K Balachander.At his age of 31, R.K. Sekhar, married 17 years old Kasthuri. Their wedding was conducted in Tirupati and they lived in Chennai.

Kanchana, the daughter was their first child. Then came Dileep their only son, followed by the girls Bala and Rekha. R K Sekhar had the ear and special talent to recognize the potential of new sounds of music instruments. It was his habit to travel to Singapore to understand the latest trends in music instruments. He introduced to South Indian music the early synthesizers like Univox and Claviolin. In those days only international music bands had them. R K Sekhar introduced Balamurali Krishna and S.P. Balasubramaniam to Malayalam film songs in the film Yogamullaval. R K Sekhar had introduced many new singers to Malayalam film industry like Brahmanadan, etc.A music fanatic and a workaholic, R K Sekhar worked day and night rehearsing songs, arranging music and recording songs without sparing time for either food or sleep. He literally lived in the recording studios with only tea and dry bread for food and an occasional nap. As a result, he contracted chronic ulcer. Finally, he had to move from hospital to hospital for treatment as the disease reached terminal stage. His assistants went and waited in hospitals to write down the music scores as he dictated them from bed, amidst excruciating pain.
In 1977, R K Sekhar passed away in his 42nd year. Dileep, the now Mozart of Madras, was just eleven then.R K Sekhar's daughter Kanchana is also a good singer and today her son GV Prasad is a music director to reckon with and has made music for hits like Kreeedom, Veyil,Unale Unale,Pollathavan, Seval, Vellithirai and, of course, Rajini's Kuselan. His father, Venkatesh is a business man. Rahman's mother became Rahana when his entire family converted to Islam.

There are many positive traits Rahman has picked up by ancestry. Like his Father, Rahman was innovative and ready to absorb and blend foreign music to his original score. He like his father was always a keen ear for new, fresh talent. He probably started living his father's dream but has surely surpassed it, long ago."The memories of my father remain my inspiration. I have seen famous film music personalities and film directors of those years waiting for my father in the verandah of our house.

Father used to work for eight or nine films at a time. I think he died of excessive exertion. Beneficiaries have recounted to me how my father helped them, how he created opportunities for them. I was very moved by all that...."On another occasion A R Rahman said: "My mother has told me a lot about my father. Hearing them gave me great pleasure. Father was greatly regarded as one well-versed in Music. I listen to his old songs even now. I believe that by God's grace I have inherited a small part of his great genius in music." So we can more or less understand the seed of his music. But what made him special is the faith and spiritual experience he underwent. In his sorrow-filled days, Dileep found consolation in Islamic faith. It is said that in 1988, when his sister was in death-bed suffering from the same disease as his father and all efforts to save her reached a dead-end, a Muslim Sufi Pir saved her. After this event the entire family converted to Islam. Dileep changed his name to Allah Rakha Rahman, in short A R Rahman.Dileep's initiation in music happened in the early years. He obviously took the first music lessons from his father, RK Sekhar.

He also began to formally learn Indian classical music, carnatic from Dakshinamoorthy and N. Gopalakrishnan, Hindustani from Krishnan Nair,film music from Nithyanandham and Western Classical from Jacob John( aka Jim, an Orthodox Christian from Kerala who was an ace pianist of his time!).All this learning experience enabled him to earn a scholarship to the famed Trinity College of Music at Oxford University London, from where he obtained a degree in Western Classical Music. He also learnt the Sufi Qawwali style from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, in 1997 and Ghazzals from our own Hariharan.

Rahman has always been immensely spiritual. The faith in god and his attraction to sufi music is visible in his creations. His patriotic Vande Matram is still the popular soul song of India. The Airtel tune, The stamp song of most popular TV channels down south are all his creations.

In his own words-"We get our basic recognition from this country and it is a part of you, whether you are Hindu or Muslim or anything else, the Koran says, 'at the feet of the mother lies the Jannat'. And the Prophet says, 'Whichever country you are in, youhave to respect the laws of the land, because it is the land above all, which gives you life.' " So a true Indian, a faithful Muslim, born Hindu, a Tamilian, influenzed by Malayalam music, married to Saira Banu whose father is a Gujarathi and mother Malayali, JUST TO WHOM DOES HE BELONG?

The reason for which he is thought about all over India today is his double award in Oscar for a film which is essentially an UK intellectual property based on an Indian's story shot in slums of India's financial capital. So is his success Indian or British? To whom does he belong at this time of glory?While getting the award, Rahman said "the essence of the film which is about optimism and the power of hope in the lives, and all my life I had a choice of hate and love. I chose love and I'm here. God bless" - If these words had come from any other mortal, it should have been seen with suspect, but coming from a sincere man dedicated to music, it should be seen as it is and thus it reveals that he belong to Love and Music.In his own words,"Music is language itself. It should not have any barriers of caste, creed, language or anything. Music is one, only cultures are different. Music is the language of languages. It is the ultimate mother of languages- Film music in India is like pop music in the West.

Movies are the channels for this music. But music stays on long after the films. - If a music artiste wants to blossom into a full-fledged person, it is not enough if he knows only classical music; nor is it enough if he is well-versed only in Raagas and techniques. Instead, he should be a knowledgeable person interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be, at least in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow." And so, A R Rahman belongs to World Music and he cannot be confined to any boundaries.

After the award he was quoted by a foreign newspaper that Rahman hopes all the attention will encourage other young Indians to choose music as a future. We really need that space for creativity in India right now,' he said. 'Most of all, I just want that to be recognized.' He and his music belongs to us, all of us. Hope he remains what he is and by that he will grow only more taller, taking us along.

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