Importance of being AR Rahman

The versatile composer, who is going global with his scores, will be feted by Stanford's PanAsian Music Festival.
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Updated on Feb 21, 2006 02:13 PM IST
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None | ByHT Style, Mumbai

A triplethreat artist who combines the popularity of Elton John and the prodigious output of film composer John Williams, AR Rahman must check the mirror constantly to see which hat he's wearing. He's currently composing for the musical theatre, rushing to complete arrangements for a Toronto production of The Lord of the Rings.

Soon, he'll be feted by Stanford's PanAsian Music Festival, where, excerpts from his hit CD Vande Mataram will be played along with his rain song from the film Lagaan. Then, it's back on tour as singer-keyboardist. In this incarnation, he leads an exuberant, Vangelis-like fusion of sitar, synthesiser and traditional Sufi music. Later this week, Rahman will be in Hong Kong. If he could pursue only one of those disciplines, which would it be? "I like the way I'm going -- a bit of this, a bit of that," says Rahman, 39.

"It's very satisfying doing all three. Film has its charm, but so too does the stage. Vande Mataram allowed me to reach out to a much younger audience in a very personal, spiritual way. I'd love to do another album like that."

Rahman's take on the national anthem, at first considered risky, even disrespectful, wound up on pop charts, selling in the millions.

"I was at first sceptical that it would reach out," Rahman recalls. "But it went well beyond the city to the coun try, and became popular with Muslims Hindu and Christians. Many started listening to my music started listening."

His Bombay Theme was used in the Nicolas Cage movie Lord of War. In March, another song by him will be featured on the soundtrack of Spike Lee's Inside Man starring Denzel Washington.

Rahman says he's excited about the Stanford tribute. He is also look ing forward to setting the audience straight on the breadth and richness of Indian music.

"There is much more to our music than sitars and tabla drums," he stresses. "I want to go beyond tradi tional music. You must also be true to what is within you, the spiritual side."

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