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Interviews |  10 Dec 2015 18:13 |  By RnMTeam

AR Rahman echoes Ilaiyaraaja's sentiments about music in schools

MUMBAI: Twenty-five-years ago, A S Dileep Kumar surrounded himself with four keyboards and played tunes that brought him some recognition during his debut appearance on television. Although, over the years, every artist experiences growth as the urge to overcome musical appetite continues, Kumar’s journey gradually turned out to be one of the finest stories ever.

A lot changed for this talented young boy from Madras (now Chennai), the scale of recognition has become global, his projects have gone beyond television and the name became Allah-Rakha Rahman. What remained constant for Rahman throughout the years, apart from his endless love for music, is how he craves to return to his natural habitat-surrounded by keyboards.

The Oscar winner was welcomed with loudest possible cheers by the 15,000 plus attendees, moments before he played his maiden set at the Pune Weekender. Roughly fifteen minutes into his set and the Bacardi arena was filled to capacity with revellers singing along every line at the top of their voices. They were something spectacular, thanks to the keyboard solo that showcased another attribute of Rehaman that makes him a complete musician. The purpose behind the set-list was a trip down the memory lane and the Bollywood tracks that celebrate youth. Be it 'Naadan Parindey', 'O Humdum Soniyo Re' or 'Jo Bhi Main', the fans danced and sang along while some still tried to come to terms with what was unfolding. The highlight of the set, or dare we say the entire Weekender, was what led to the keyboard solo Rahman played - the bassline entry of 'Dil Se'. It was a 'goosebumps moment' as the crowd hummed along while the maestro made his fingers dance over the keyboard.

Rahman bowed down, showing his gratitude to the attendees of the ‘happiest music festival’. The composer was escorted to his vanity van where he met the members of Swarathma - the Bengaluru act that performed before the 'Mozart of Madras’ took over the Bacardi Arena. Rahman looked with interest at Swarathma’s album cover, as he expressed his opinions on how realistically 'original' music was resurfacing in the country. For an on-looker, the tête-à-tête between the musicians seemed like a conversation between equals exchanging ideas though the members of Swarathma mostly stood in silence, allowing Rahman to educate as much as he could during the rendezvous. Rahman expresses his opinions in a simple, yet effective and genuine way. And something similar that could be said to describe his music –simple and genuine. To sum up his entire Weekender experience, the 49-year-old once again kept it sincere. Calling it "really good", Rahman credited the "happy people and amazing atmosphere" for his first multi-band festival experience. "I am always sceptical about playing in the multi-band scenario because when people come to my live shows, they come with a lot of love. So I was sceptical whether people would like the set or not. But it has been amazing, and it broke all the reservations I had." The hunger that Rahman notices in the youth today makes him optimistic about the future. "It's going to get bigger", Rahman added. Born in Chennai, Rahman was expelled from school due to lack of attendance, but talk about music and the amount of time and focus he devotes in a conversation is noteworthy. Rahman dreams of a time when Indian acts receive global recognition, and believes the country has the potential talent worthy of 'being idolised'.

That he is a musical prodigy is well-known, but Rahman is equally a dedicated preacher of music. Echoing maestro Ilaiyaraaja's sentiments suggesting music should be actively taught in academia, Rahman mentioned how his own school was trying to create a difference. Teaching the underprivileged kids through the institution is a selfless act indeed, and Rahman debated how musicians and their music should be making the news. "We (musicians) are here to create a parallel world, to give hope and love, and that is what we have been doing all our lives," said Rahman reflecting utter modesty through his tone and intent.

Rahman considers himself fortunate to have witnessed some of his favourite musicians play live, the latest one being the John Williams concert in 2014 at the Hollywood Bowl. "A two hour amazing set that also involved some of his film scores", Rahman recounted with excitement in his eyes. Rahman happily recalled some of the concerts he attended - Prince, Sting, Michael Jackson- and does not find any reason why Indian bands cannot showcase their talent on the global stage and attain success there.

Although not a fan of news channels, Rahman has noticed the pattern that consumes the majority of the prime time news for the past 15 years. Floods in Chennai may not have had a direct effect on Rahman's activities, but the calamity evidently occupied his thoughts. "It was challenging to entertain festival-goers in Bengaluru and Pune with the Chennai floods in mind. The courage shown by people in Chennai is incredible. It's a reminder, and we need to rediscover Chennai and reconstruct it from scratch. The recent doubts about divisiveness were demolished by the unity portrayed, and Chennai showed that at the end of the day we all are humans."

Thanking the fans for the support, Rahman asked them to avoid vices revolving music. "Support musicians, look up to them, and not look down upon." Rahman extended advice to fellow musicians, asking them to maintain this profession as the most respected and beautiful one.