BizAsia recently had the privilege of meeting internationally acclaimed Oscar winning music composer AR Rahman, who was in London ahead of his UK tour. He spoke candidly about performing for the audiences, the newcomers of the music industry, and how he’s preparing to amaze his audiences once again.
BizAsia correspondent Shyama Sudra spoke to the music maestro.
You۪ve performed live many times in the UK. What makes you want to keep coming back?
I think the UK brings back a lot of nostalgia for me because of Bombay Dreams (2002), and the support I get from this whole country. Also the three generations of Indians; the ones that came from India, the ones that were born here and now their children, and how my music relates to all of them is interesting to see and get that vibe.
Do you find that you connect with all three generations in a different way?
Well these are all the checkpoints, to make sure it۪s all happening (laughs).
You performed last year in the UK on Indian Independence Day. The concert had a phenomenal response with the theme of the concert being your greatest hits. What will be the theme this time?
The theme will be an extension of what I did in the US. It was all about the vibe, the interaction, and having fun. It۪s about music but also about the experience and the journey in connecting with people.
Are there any songs in particular that you love performing to?
You know some songs are produced for the films, and some songs have a tendency of being very good live, you can feel that. When people feel that your are crying out, we feel like we want to do more of it, like we want to extend it. So those are the kind of songs that I love to do.
You always do get the crowd pumping, and you have a very brilliant way of catering to all your audience, whether it be with Bollywood songs, South songs, instrumentals etc. When preparing for your concerts, how are you able to have a balance for all?
I think with music, if you take the right music which doesn۪t need to be in a particular language; if it۪s a group based one or if it۪s a raag based one, whether it۪s a Hindi song or a Tamil song you start enjoying the raag. So there۪s many commonalities in the ones we select. We select very carefully, even if it۪s an English song that they can relate to, and these are the kind of things we tap on. So we do songs that are done in both languages, it’s got a great melody, it۪s got a great groove, and language doesn۪t matter.
You hold a lot of influence, especially for the newcomers who are trying to find their way in the music industry. How does it make you feel when you hear that so many young people are looking at you up to you as inspiration?
What۪s happened over the last 15-20 years is that all the gatekeepers have vanished. So for them, nobody has any hurdles to overcome as a singer it۪s only them. Their success and failures are from them. If they work really hard they shine better than other people. There۪s nobody holding them back saying Oh you are from this caste, or religion. All that۪s been broken, and that۪s the great thing about living in this era. It۪s actually good a bad. Good because you don۪t have anything holding you back, it۪s on your credibility and talent. The bad is that there;s a lot of clubber keeps coming. So now I don۪t even listen to anybody (laughs), I just see who۪s got the most hits and who sounds amazing without any description when the audio comes in. So I۪ve picked Jonita (Gandhi), Sana all of them through YouTube and just watched them and seen the confidence they۪ve had.
Talking of which, who will you be bringing with you on stage this year?
So it۪s Jonita, Haricharan (Seshadri) and some others. And of course me as I۪m singing too (laughs).
Having performed so many times all over the world, developing as a must-see live performer, what kind of challenges do you face and how do you overcome them?
We slowly started eradicating things that are very troublesome. Like we did the Jai Ho۪ tour in 2010 which was very complicated, it was a multi million dollar production and we had an accident and we had to come back where we almost lost all of it. Like I nearly lost everything like my house and everything. And my commitment was to everyone who got tickets, and we went back to the US and performed free almost, because we had a payroll. That actually felt good, that rather than saying that it۪s not in the contract and I shouldn۪t have to go back, we felt like making that commitment to those who got tickets and we went back as much as we could. After that, I felt like this is too much pressure. It۪s all about the music, even if I just go with a keyboard and sing, people will just come…not that many people (laughs). So it۪s about the music, the art, it۪s about the nostalgia, and the love and support there. And then I took this road where it۪s more comfortable for me, at least for now, things may change in the future.
Do you have any messages for your UK fans?
I am very concerned about what۪s happening here, so my prayers and good wishes for you guys. And here to cheer for you and to pep you up.
Rahman will be performing in September this year, at the SSE Arena, Wembley, Birmingham Barclaycard Arena, First Direct Arena, Leeds and Manchester Arena.