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Features |  06 Jan 2009 19:11 |  By chiragsutar

To Rahman Sir with Love

MUMBAI: Musicians who work with him call him 'Rahman Sir' and technicians in his studio refer to him as 'Boss' – out of sheer respect and admiration. On his 43rd birthday, spoke to those who have worked with the homegrown genius and also his composer fans from the industry who have followed his music.

Rahman has a set of musicians whom he prefers to work with. We know that Rahman composes at night and that he also owns the best equipped studio that anybody could ever dream to own. But there is something more interesting than that – the ability of this man to understand emotions and music so well.

Needless to say, Sivamani is one such musician who has worked closely with Rahman and is extremely proud about it, "I started my music career with Rahman, we played together in a band called 'Roots' – I feel really proud to say that 'I know Rahman'" says Sivamani.

On Rahman's working style, Sivamani says, "When Rahman is working on music, he has ideas about which musician should be given the song for improvisations I don't know how but he has that knack". We know that Bollywood has a tendency to follow things or ideas that 'work'. However, when it comes to music, Rahman has been in the forefront – in setting trends and experimenting with sounds. "Well, Rahman belives that in music, you should not follow any rules – just fill the plate the way you like it at that moment," adds Sivamani.

Often, the maestro captures 'recording takes' of musicians while they are not even aware or are completely lost – this way, he tries to get the best of the musician or the singer's creative instincts in their most natural state. "Even when I would sing some parts with less involvement, or inadvertently cough during a song, Rahman would still retain and use it at an appropriate place," recalls singer Mahalaskhmi Iyer, who sang one of her earliest hits for Rahman in Mani Ratnam's Dil Se.

However, it's not just the songs by Rahman that stand out – his background scores are also equally good. "Rahman pays equal attention to his background scores as well. Films like the recent Slumdog Millionaire, Guru or Bombay all had phenomenal background scores" she says, "I don't see him just as a musican - he's a magician." Many, who have worked with him, feel that Rahman is a completely different person in studio. For the outer world he may be an introvert, but those who have seen him closely say that the man also possesses a good sense of humour – lucky guys!

Working with Rahman is the biggest achievement any musician can ask for. Working with a director of his reach also exposes the musician playing with him to the entire world. Sanjeev Thomas, guitarist of Rainbow Bridge and someone who often plays for Rahman says, "His reach is unimaginable, if you are a musician working with Rahman you meet so many musicians, creative and like minded people from all over the world. Not to forget he is the best 'paymaster' in the industry most importantly, he knows how to treat and respect a musician." Rahman can really pump you up to take the best out of you. Thomas says, "I was supposed to play a guitar solo in Ghajini's 'Aye Bacchu' – Rahman's brief was simple – he said, 'just make it the most memorable solo of your life'." He adds, "Mostly, Rahman is quiet, he doesn't spend too much time directing – but we all know what he wants." Rahman acknowledges inputs from all, be it lyricists, musicians or technicians. Besides that, he makes sure that those who have contributed gets their due credit – something which musicians and technicians really value.

Benny Dayal, who has sang several songs like Tu Meri Dost Hai, Behka, Papu Can't Dance for Rahman sums it up in a line, "Well, he's pretty chilled out."


Amit Trivedi, who recently hit it golden with debut film Aamir says, "I have grown up listening to him and have probably heard all his albums – right from Roja to Slumdog Millionaire. I have also been following his Tamil and Malayalam releases closely."

"Most composers either draw refrences or influences from other composers for sound or song structures. I feel what makes Rahman stands out is that he starts with a 'blankspace' - no references no influences. He simply follows what comes naturally - that is what makes him unique" he adds.

Composer and singer Rabbi Shergill says, "I see him as a very mature musician, composer and a settled human being. Well, one album which I really liked of Rahman was Swades."

Most likely, we may never be able to figure out 'how' he makes that music because it's the emotions and experiences of the musicians which make his music standout and which ultimately reflects in the music – lets just enjoy the music while the man does his work.

Rahman is probably ageless; at least that is what his soulful music suggests – isn't it?

The maestro, who has created many an unending spells, holds a special place in the hearts of music aficionados across the world. Rahman got international acclaim in 2002, when he composed his maiden stage production Bombay Dreams, produced by Andrew Lloyd Weber. He also composed the music for The Lord of the Rings theatre production along with the Finnish folk music band V?¤rttin?¤. He has composed the piece "Raga's Dance" for Vanessa Mae's album Choreography.

Rahman also composed the score for the Chinese film Warriors of Heaven and Earth in 2003. He composed the music of Shekhar Kapur's sequel to Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) alongwith Craig Armstrong. Taking time out from his hectic lifestyle, Rahman has set up the 'A R Rahman Foundation' to eradicate poverty. This includes setting up and partnering with educational institutions across India to provide education to children who do not have easy access to schools or funds.

He is currently making waves in America with the soundtrack of 'Slumdog Millionaire'.