In a world where it is possible to measure music and musical chords, you would think there is a recipe for the perfect soul music. But you see, this is soul music we are talking about, it is understood best by the soul, even if your mind and heart agree too. Extend that argument to the creator and you know soul music is created: it is a fabric of your being when you hear it. And like true love, you know it when you hear it. A R Rahman’s music is one of the most soul stirring music.

Scratch that, he has been a pioneer in the field. His music has a rare power, and it is not often that we come across such gems.

All musical hats are his in this game of musical chairs

Singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, music director: you name it. There hasn’t been a single musical hat he hasn’t donned during his illustrious career. How do you describe the talent that has won both awards and hearts?

He has National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, among others to his credit, and he will surely come up with another melody that’ll sweep the listeners and juries off their feet.  Trained in Carnatic, Qawwali, Western and Hindustani Classical music, Rahman dips his compositions in layers of experimentation.

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But it isn’t just the awards and the accolades. Every time A R Rahman writes, the lyrics reek of Indian soil, every time he composes, the output is a theme song for the country, every time he performs, the stadium is packed with goosebumps.

Each song is a story

Every one composes music with a fervour, but Rahman has done that for so long, it is easy to forget how deep music can seep into you. His music has been the best gift Bollywood, for example, has received.

His music transcends forms, defies genres and throws surprises. Think freeform poetry on the beats of an orchestra. It becomes part of what makes some Bollywood movies so special.

Let’s take a few movies for a case in point: Rockstar, Tamasha, Highway, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Raanjhanaa, Delhi- 6, Ghajini, Rang De Basanti. You know what all these movies have in common? The director trusted the music of the movie to carry forward crucial parts of the script. Rahman created soundscapes that become an indispensable part of the movie. The movies that the songs rest in, are impossible to imagine without the music. Can you imagine a Highway without the Patakha Guddi?

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Would Delhi – 6 be able to look into the intricacies of life the same way, had it not been for Masakalli? The songs are often reflective of a phase of self-discovery in a person’s life: ‘Tu Koi Aur Hai’ from Tamasha, ‘Kun Faya Kun’ from Rockstar, among others. That should give you a hint of where the inspiration comes from.

He has infused patriotic songs with a new life, a life that is in tandem with the new century. Whether it’s Maa Tujhe Salaam or Yeh Jo Desh Hai Tera, or Bharat Humko Jaan Se Pyaara Hai.

He has been playing for a quarter of a century now, we won’t be surprised if his finesse remains matchless for eternity.

The man behind the talent is the talent behind the man

You don’t have to understand the language to savour the songs he composes in Tamil. Consider this the next time you want to believe in magic.

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His work has been in more than 100 films since 1992. He is one of the forerunners when it comes to embracing the digital technology in the music industry in India. And yet, his life has had its fair share of controversy. That comes with being a public figure.

His conversion from Dilip Kumar into AR Rahman had the religious fanatics boiling with rage. (They still tweet slurs at him)

Parting Words

So you see, there isn’t a recipe: symphonic orchestra and an occasional leitmotif are the ingredients, but the magic is a secret. And we still get goosebumps when we hear his rendition of Vande Mataram, because that is what a good musician does. Create a song to stir you to the core. And more importantly, this is what an artist does. Forget himself in his creation!

He isn’t the Mozart of Madras: He has outshone that title.

As the maestro turns 51 today, we wish him a very Happy Birthday!

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