There was a time when Indian music was recognised abroad only through
music or for classical music. But because of A R Rahman, we’ve climbed another step of the ladder when it comes to international recognition. We’ve got a Grammy for collaborations before, and now we’ve got it for an Indo-western fusion. But we still need to climb higher so that someday, we get Grammies for traditional Indian music too.
On Kailasa’s USA tour, we realised that the reference point for Indian music, for quite a few reporters, was Rahman’s score for Slumdog Millionaire.
Since I’ve sung for the Hollywood movie, Couples Retreat, for Rahman, they would often quiz me about our association, and draw parallels between our calibers, and give us the same respect. Even when we performed at the Hollywood bowl, people of different cultures and backgrounds came up to us and conveyed how they deeply respected Indian music now.
People are definitely more aware of Indian music after Slumdog, and are more welcoming towards our sound. In fact, after our tour, and because of Couples Retreat, I’ve even been getting offers to sing in international projects. But I still think we need to go a long way internationally. The day we get an award for an A R Rahman song like Vande Mataram is when I’ll feel truly happy.
Let’s not get overexcited already. It’s definitely an honour for us to get a Grammy, but the western audiences still don’t perceive Indian music and culture with the respect it deserves. Our currency isn’t even available for foreign exchange in banks abroad. So let’s not make a big deal about India on the world map, much too soon.
Man of work
And even though we may be very happy about Rahman, I know that Rahman himself isn’t too concerned about his awards. He’s a man of work, he’d much rather be spending time in making music, than collecting awards. But of course, he deserves the recognition he’s getting now – it’s been long overdue.
Rahman is very unique in that way, because he is a brilliant sound engineer, a great piano player and a fantastic singer. Since he has so many qualities rolled into one, he gives soul to every song he composes.
He’s drunk on music; log nashe ke baad matakte hain , (usually people get into a trance after some intoxication) but Rahman gets high on the spiritual connect he makes with his music. His music rhythms are closely connected with the rhythms of our heartbeats. That’s why Rahman never does projects for the money or for the awards. He does projects the way he says his prayers.
In fact, whenever I’ve worked with him, he’s never given me a brief. He won’t even tell me what the song is. He’ll ask me to go inside the dubbing room, and then he’ll turn on the music, and ask me to do my best. Other music composers draw for you, and then ask you to colour the drawing. But Rahman asks you to draw yourself. He brings out sensibilities to his song.
Rahman is much bigger than Slumdog Millionaire’s Jai ho. Similarly, our music is much bigger than what we’ve won Grammys for so far. I’m still positive that there will be no disparity when it comes to appreciating Indian music for the west. Slowly, but surely, we will take over the West with our music, and that’s when these awards will hold more meaning to us.
— As told to Nikhil Taneja