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AR Rahman releases The Flying Lotus, a song on demonetisation

Double Oscar-winning singer-composer AR Rahman has just launched a 19-minute track, The Flying Lotus. To tune into the public mood on demonetisation, Rahman travelled economy and listened to reactions.

music Updated: Oct 06, 2017 15:12 IST
Samarth Goyal
Samarth Goyal
Hindustan Times
Narendra Modi,A.R. Rahman,AR Rahman
AR Rahman’s latest single, The Flying Lotus, is 19 minutes long, and has been divided into eight segments. (Photo: Raajessh Kashyap/HT Photo)

The first anniversary of one of the biggest economic exercises in India — the November 8, 2016, declaration of demonetisation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — is round the corner. And AR Rahman has a song for the occasion.

The double Oscar-winning singer-composer has released a 19-minute track, The Flying Lotus, which is about demonetisation and the impact it has had on society. The 50-year-old insists that he isn’t criticising the move, and feels that the song is open to interpretation. The lotus is also the symbol of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

“I don’t see any politics in the move,” says Rahman. “I personally believe that historic moments like these need to be recorded artistically. For example, the initial motif of Beethoven’s (18th century German composer) Fifth Symphony is credited with symbolic significance as a representation of fate knocking at the door. Similarly, when the Prime Minister made the announcement, it was a big moment for India, and the rise of the country, and I felt like talking about it through my music. The song is open to interpretation.”

Rahman says that while he wasn’t directly affected by demonetisation, he turned to the common man to gauge their reaction. “I thought the common man felt extremely good about the move. I like to live a very normal life, and I live in a normal neighbourhood. For this song, my voice is their (common people’s) voice,” says the composer. “Sometimes, I travelled economy class to understand what people thought about it. You can’t live a comfortable life and then try and have an opinion about something. You have to see both sides of the world, and then derive your opinion from it.”

How the demonetisation happened
  • During demonetisation, all Indians got just four hours’ notice — the nationally televised announcement by Narendra Modi came at 8pm — that at the stroke of midnight, all the 1,000 and 500 rupee denomination notes in their possession would become worthless for all cash transactions, though the notes could be deposited in bank accounts over the next 52 days, till December 30, 2016. The following weeks saw turmoil across India, as people queued up to deposit the demonetised bank notes in their accounts, and struggled to purchase daily necessities. But there was no widespread agitation against the demonetisation measure.

The singer-composer cites examples of legendary musicians, including Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley and English singer John Lennon, who were known for writing socially relevant songs. “People still have a connection with the kind of songs written by Bob Marley and John Lennon,” says Rahman. “Even in [Indian] history, people still listen to, and relate to songs written during the freedom struggle. And doing stuff like this gives a composer the visibility that they might not get when they’re composing film music.”

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First Published: Oct 06, 2017 14:46 IST