A.R. Rahman

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About A.R. Rahman

Composer A. R. Rahman combines a fierce work ethic with an inquisitive, musically omnivorous approach that has forever changed India’s film-soundtrack industry. Born A. S. Dileep Kumar in Madras (now Chennai), India, in 1966, Rahman had two obsessions growing up: music and technology. After the untimely death of his father, a musician and sometime film composer, Rahman began playing music professionally to support his family; he was just 11 years old. He went on to study western classical music at Oxford, convert to Sufism and change his name, and then return to India to compose ad jingles. There, he learned how to write quickly and convey strong emotions in short musical snippets—two skills that would prove invaluable in India’s high-volume film industry. But no one could have predicted his success when he began composing for film in 1992 with the Tamil-language film Roja. He introduced a sense of spaciousness and experimentalism into the genre that was unheard of at the time, and he soon made the leap to composing for Bollywood with 1995’s beloved Rangeela. The soundtracks for 1998’s Dil Se and 2001’s Lagaan represent high-water marks; his penchant for using non-celebrity singers and combining folk instruments with electronics made for utterly surprising listening and set him up for the later triumph of the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, which yielded the hit song “Jai Ho” in 2008. Rahman is also a beloved performer in his own right, releasing several albums that have allowed him to pursue his love of pop and rock music while continuing his wider musical explorations (and judging a few idol shows) into the 21st century.

Madras, India
January 6, 1967
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