'Music is music'

Maverick composer A R Rahman, the repository of raga renown, turned 48 yesterday.

In a conversation, Rahman said he relived his childhood through his son Ameen. "So far I've just been busy living life. From my childhood I was surrounded by grownups, I never got a chance to enjoy being a child. It took me a while to realise how young I was. By the time I realised I was missing out on youthful activities I was no longer young. And what sense has he made of his life! "My life has always been a journey. When I was in my 20s, I went through the most turbulent and hectic time of my life. Now I spend as much time as possible with my children Khatija, Rahima and Ameen." When asked what lessons Rahman had learnt from his life, the reticent genius pondered then said, "In my life, I've always found dreams do come true, though often they true come long after you've forgotten them.  Just preserve your dream at the bottom of your heart and wait for it to fructify. My ultimate dream was to create an orchestra that would be capable of performing the world's best musical pieces and thereby building a cultural bridge across western and Indian music. We finally launched our music conservatory.

"Rahman earnestly desires new generations of musicians to find their bearings. "I want to teach young musicians how to play within an orchestra. As things stand if I want to record orchestral music I've to go to Prague. If Ilaiyaraja wants to record an epic score he goes to Budapest.  Why can't we do it right here in our own country? I want to give a certain legitimacy to western classical music in our country. Indian classical music has room for unlimited improvisation and spontaneity. A classical recital requires far more formal discipline. And the whole orchestra brings one emotion into play throughout a recital.  We don't have that discipline in our country. It used to be there. I want to inculcate that sense of discipline required for western classical music. Today a keyboard player gets tons of money whereas a violinist gets a pittance. I want the orchestra player to be proud of what he does." Rahman feels India's art and culture stands a terrific chance in the West. "I think the time for India in the western world is now.

The respect for all things Indian has gone up in recent times. On the deteriorating standards of film music Rahman said, "If you have durable melodies and good poetry people do respond to it, even if not immediately. When I see the so-called difficult songs being sung effortlessly by children on television's talent-scouting contests I realise the most hummable songs are those that touch on life. Composers take the easy way out. They make tunes that hit the charts for a month and then exit, therefore nothing memorable happens. When told he's considered the saviour of film music in India, Rahman said, "I guess different people like different things in my music. For me, music is music; it doesn't belong to any region. My theme for Mani Ratnam's 'Bombay' was done in Tamil, then it went into Hindi and soon it was playing all over Europe and Australia. If a tune comes to me it takes wings. The problem is with the shrinking film market in India. My creative vision has to be tailored to suit the altered financial state. This is the first time I'm facing this situation in the last ten years, and I don't relish it," said Rahman.