Earth Day 2020: AR Rahman believes a lot can be achieved with the ‘power of music’

Debarati Palit Singh
Wednesday, 22 April 2020

In a chat with Sakal Times, AR Rahman talks about using music as a tool to spread the message and what keeps him motivated and his debut production -- 99 Songs.

AR Rahman has a spiritual connection with music. Every piece that he creates deeply connects with people and leaves an everlasting impression. The Academy and Emmy award-winning composer, who has scored music for more than 100 films, both in India and internationally, says that God has been kind to him and blessed him with success early in his career.  

The composer who has given soul-touching music for films like Roja, Bombay, Lagaan, has taken India to global map with his compositions in films like Slumdog Millionaire, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and others. 

A global icon, Rahman, believes that music, lyrics and narrative stories can play a critical part in unifying people. He promotes a project he dearly holds – Hands Around The World, with the legendary Ken Krager.

Excerpts from an interview:
Music is becoming a major tool to spread the social message, be it about climate change or COVID-19. What is it that music has which can inspire listeners?
A: I think opportunities like these force us to think differently. And this gives us a chance to say something, and also subliminally plant the seeds for change in society.

Besides Earth Day, are there any other causes that you want to get associated with?
A: There are many things that we can do. But whatever we do, we have to be very careful in today’s divided world. Music, lyrics and narrative stories can play a critical part in unifying people.

Many, who listen to your music or follow your work, would say that music is no longer a profession for you. From promoting your students to collaborating on projects with a cause, you have done it all. What all does music mean to you?
A: Music is an elevation that is given by the genes of my father and my family lineage. And in my case, God has been kind and blessed me in so much of early success -- you know the first movie won a National Award; first Hollywood movie won an Oscar. 

I feel there is a reason for music being in our life -- we can do a lot with the power of music, and I try to do whatever little I can. I’m trying to connect people, and in the process, I’m learning a lot. I have gone on to many, many fields which I didn’t know or have a clue about when I was growing up. I was not educated with all that. But each day, it seems like a layer of knowledge opens up. And the possibilities are endless.

After having worked for three decades and being a global icon, what keeps your motivated to make music?
A: I believe in what many great philosophers said, ‘When you don’t know, there is much to learn’. I think our lives are much more meaningful when we keep learning. Rather than being a cup full, be a cup empty.

There is a lot of excitement around 99 Songs, not just among the listeners but your team too. What makes the project so exciting?
A: I’ve been commissioned to do music in the past. Even though I had a sense of freedom within that circle, with 99 Songs, as a producer, it was the first time I had to face things like: ‘Okay, if you spend too much, then you go bankrupt. If you don’t spend, it won’t look good’. My sense of freedom and also a sense of responsibility were in a way exhausting like, ‘Oh my God, is it good enough? Should I do one more song or should I change this?’ I think that was one of the reasons why it took a bit of time sometimes to go back to the drawing board and redo the song, then come back with a simpler idea or a more complex idea.

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