Billboard Q&A: A.R. Rahman
ďIndia has a rich music diversityĒ Ė
Composer A.R. Rahman might not be a household name in the United
States quite yet, but heís one of most well-known musicians in
his native India, where his musical scores appear in a host of
films every year.
Heís well on his way to breaking through in the West, though,
with his Golden Globe win for best original score for the film
Slumdog Millionaire, as well as three Oscar nominations. The
soundtrack, which features M.I.A. on several songs, was released
digitally November 25 and physically December 23 by Interscope.
Rahman got his start writing music for Indian TV ads in the
early 1990s and switched to film, composing several soundtracks
a year. In 2002, Andrew Lloyd Webber commissioned him to write
the music for the play Bombay Dreams, which ran in Londonís West
End. Billboard spoke to Rahman about his Golden Globe victory
and plans for the future.
Q: Do you feel your Golden Globe win represents a step
forward for Indian music in the U.S.? Do you anticipate more
Americans will begin to seek out Indian music?
A: I think itís probably the first major breakthrough, and
it will create a bridge between the audiences. With the film
winning so many awards and getting so much attention, I think it
will lead to a crossover and more people exploring Indian music.
I also think M.I.A had something to do with it. It was great
timing, because her song became such a hit right before the
soundtrack was released.
Many people in the States who do know about Indian music think
that it is mainly Bollywood-style, up-tempo compositions, when,
in fact, India has a rich musical diversity?
Q: Is it your intention to try to introduce Americans to
different genres of Indian music?
A: The win is such a blessing in disguise. Bollywood music
is definitely a big part of Indian music, and can be a great way
to introduce people to the sound. But I hope to continue to
incorporate other types of Indian music into my work.
Q: Lots of Hollywood scores have a similar, very orchestral
sound and feel, but Slumdog Millionaire is very popular. Do you
see your victory as a sign that filmmakers want a more modern
sound in a score?
A: The fact that you say the feel of Slumdog is different is
a great compliment. I felt so good at the [Golden Globes]
ceremony because I was there with Peter Gabriel and Sting and
Hans Zimmer, all people I respect and admire so much. I think
what directors want is good music, not one sort of sound.
Q: Are you planning on releasing your own work, not connected
to any film, at some point? How would you release it?
A: Iím not signed to any label, and I am planning on
releasing music on my own label at some point. I donít know when
Iíll be able to do it, because things are a little busy right
Q: What do you have coming up in 2009?
A: I have lots of movie soundtracks, including the
soundtrack to a film called The 19th Step. I usually work on a
film soundtrack for two years, turning in a song every few
months, and that keeps my creative energy high, because Iím
constantly rotating projects. The trick is to make sure I donít
work too hard and get exhausted. Iím also planning some
collaborations with some interesting people, but they are
confidential for now.