A. R. Rahman
Like many other music composers, he is not a particularly gifted vocalist or an accomplished instrumentalist. A. R. Rahman, instead, is like an alchemist of sounds and voices, mixing and melting them in a potion that becomes a joy for the ears and the soul. The name itself stands for melody, quality and energy — a sound both personal and universal, devouring older forms and transforming them into something gorgeously new.
Allah Rakha Rahman was born as A.S. Dileep Kumar on January 6, 1966, in Madras (now Chennai), India, to a musically inclined family. Dileep started learning the piano at the age of 4. At the age of 9, he lost his father. The onus of supporting his family fell on his shoulders and he joined legendary composer Ilayaraja’s troupe as a keyboard player at the age of 11. He dropped out of school as a result and travelled all around the world with various orchestras.
Skilled in different genres of music like Hindustani music, Carnatic music, Western Classical and Qawwali styles, the musician is known to amalgamate many elements of music and produce phenomenal compositions. Rahman has been bestowed with the ‘Padma Bhushan’ and ‘Padma Shri’, two of India’s highest national civilian honours. A two-time winner and five-time nominee of the Academy Award (Oscar), A. R. Rahman is popularly known as the man who has redefined contemporary Indian music. He has also been conferred with honorary doctorates from the Trinity College of Music, Aligarh Muslim University, Anna University and the Middlesex University. Winner of four national awards, 15 Filmfare awards, 13 Filmfare Awards (South), six Tamil Nadu state film awards, two Grammy awards, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, Mauritius National Award, the Malaysian Award for his contribution to music and many more, the global tunesmith needs no introduction.
The enormous success of his first Hindi venture was followed by the chart-topping sound track albums of films such as Bombay (1995), Dil Se (1998), Taal (1999), Zubeidaa (2001) and Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) which was nominated for best foreign-language film at the 2002 Academy Awards. His musical masterpieces include his compositions in Hindi films like Roja, Swades, Rangeela, Jodha Akbar, Rockstar and equally successful Tamil film compositions. His contribution to international music is equally prodigious including Academy Award-winning ‘Jai Ho’ in the movie Slumdog Millionaire, sound tracks in British film Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Danny Boyle’s 127 hours, Divine Intervention, Lord of War and The Accidental Husband. His first Hollywood project was for a comedy flick Couple’s Retreat for which he won BMI London award for the best score music. He has also composed the world’s most downloaded tune; the sound track for Airtel having a record of 150 million downloads. He has worked with many of his country’s brightest music stars and a growing list of international luminaries, including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain, L. Shankar and David Byrne.
Rahman has undertaken several sellout concert tours in over 50 international destinations including one at the prestigious Hollywood Bowl in 2006 and the Royal Festival Hall in 2010. Also, Time magazine rated the sound track of Roja in the Top 10 of their all time best movie sound tracks of the world and The Guardian, UK, listed the sound track of Bombay in ‘1000 albums to listen before you die’. His work in music apart from films like Vande Mataram – an album with his original musical composition is till date one of the largest selling non-film albums and is recognised worldwide. Apart from being a successful musician and composer, Rahman is also a true philanthropist. He has been involved with various charitable organisations like ‘Save the Children’ in India and was also appointed as a Global Ambassador of the ‘Stop TB Partnership’- a project by WHO. He also serves as the UN Ambassador for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Rahman has expanded his focus to newer horizons like setting up the ‘A. R. Rahman Foundation’ to help poor and underprivileged children. Rahman’s strength in picking an incredibly gifted team of professionals and fostering team play is another hallmark of a leader. In combining sounds, instruments, effects and voices that are unconventional and unique, Rahman proves himself to be a true explorer and adventurer.