Rahman speaks

The more I compose, the more I know that I don’t know it all. I think it’s a good way to start. If you think you know it all, the work becomes a repetition of what you’ve already done.

A.R. Rahman (2007, Working on ‘Guru’)More ↓

We are a great musical nation, but do we look at music as a profession?

A.R. Rahman (March 12, 2008, Sify)

Music knows no barrier of age or culture. It isn’t about being politically correct or even making a statement. Music is what appeals to the ears and touches your soul.

A.R. Rahman (March 28, 2004, The Hindu)

It’s not the instrument. It’s how it translates from an artiste. I love the voice – it’s the most perfect instrument ever heard. It’s God given.

A.R. Rahman. Filmfare, July 2001

Everyday is about choices, and in my case, these choices involve the public. They have the right to express their delight and their discontent. I give every song my best, but destiny, that vibration of fate, sometimes fails me. Still, I a m a believer in the Almighty and I leave it to Him to carry me along.

A.R. Rahman, Hindustan Times, 26 Jan. 2010.

I mostly don’t write to specifically defined cues. I just watch the film a couple of times, stop watching it, then write something that comes to my mind from the film. This way, when I try to sync the music, the results are that much more wholesome. You get something extra that you don’t get when you’re looking at specific points in the timeline. The music is much more organic this way, not jumping cue to cue.

A.R. Rahman, interviewed by Divanee, 24th Dec. 2010.

I try to make the music work independently from the movie I’m scoring, with pieces that are musically independent and make sense even without the movie.

A.R. Rahman interviewed by The National on 15 Dec. 2010

What we were trying to achieve (with the score for 127 Hours) was immense energy, not self-pity. We wanted something constantly uplifting. That’s the primary emotion. But it is very easy to pump it up and go. We thinned it out to get the right temperature. Instead of going more, the music takes a back seat. That’s unusual. Usually you go high, higher, highest. But not here.

A.R. Rahman (Interview for variety.com, 17 Nov 2010)

India… The people make it work again and again. Everything comes together in the last minute. What a great feeling being a part of it (Commonwealth Games 2010 Opening Ceremony). When I was with folk, classical dancers and musicians in the waiting passage that led the artists to the stage, it felt like I was in a mini Noah’s Ark containing all of India’s arts and culture. True bliss watching it and being a part of the performance. Thank you.

A.R. Rahman after the Commonwealth Games 2010 Opening Ceremony

If you understand the essence of religion, it’s about love. Though it’s a cliché, it’s the truth, and it’s what I’m trying to do with my music.

A.R. Rahman (Here & Now, Sept. 2010)

In life, the journey is what’s interesting. Everyone has their struggles. Each person gets led into a path. We had some trouble and we got redemption through this path (of religion). Religion is a personal thing and I think people respect that.

A.R. Rahman (June 7, 2007, The Star)

I want to include all styles and music like folk, carnatic and western because Tamil is a universal language and we should not restrict it with a circle. We should think Tamil language is bigger and use more of it.

OneIndia, May 16, 2010

I like to see a film and then start scoring it in my mind, while doing something unrelated. The mind, the more active it is, the more productive it is.

Outlook India, Feb. 22, 2009

My favourite musical instrument changes from time to time. Eighteen years of composing and finally it comes to vocals because it is a God-given instrument. Of course, any instrument player who connects his soul to his instrument is great and that instrument becomes great. The instrument itself is ordinary, but the people who play it make it special.

The Journey Home Concert Interview for Darshan TV, June 2010

I am for everyone, my music is for everyone, because films (and film music) cater to everyone.

The Journey Home Concert Interview for Darshan TV, June 2010


I respect people’s tastes. I don’t say that I’ll only do high society music, because that would be condescending of people who want something simple. You can make music that appeals even to a child or an infant.

The Journey Home Concert Interview for Darshan TV, June 2010

In my opinion, everybody has the same soul from God and we are united by that. Outside, our bodies are different, our faces are different, but inside we are all the same, we share the same feelings of sadness, love, pain… My music comes out of these feelings. Whether it is Japanese music, African, Qawalli, or any other form of music, if it touches your heart it becomes important for me.

The Journey Home Concert Interview for Darshan TV, June 2010

You learn to compartmentalise:
When I work there (in the west), I feel excited. When I work here (in India), I feel excited. After a while, you learn to compartmentalise and use all the inputs to create a new kind of product. As long as I create music anywhere, I am in great spirits.

Times of India, May 3, 2010

It is important to play music that will be accepted by an international audience but which retains an essential Indian quality.

Interviewed by The Guardian for his London Concert. April 2010.

What appealed to me about Islam was that this is a religion based on unconditional love and a belief in one god and one love. I was especially drawn to Sufism which has a rich musical tradition. Why is the Azan [the call to prayer] in tune? Why is it musical? Islam has been hijacked by extremists, and what drives me in my own work is to create music that will bring people together.

Interviewed by The Guardian, April 2010

In India we love melodies in the background of scenes. In the west there is a sense that soundtracks should not distract, and hence there is a greater preference for ambient sounds and plain chords.

Interviewed by The Guardian, April 2010

If music wakes you up, makes you think, heals you…then, I guess the music is working.

Jai Ho Concert Tour, 2010

If a music artist wants to blossom into a full-pledged person, it’s not enough if he knows classical music; nor is it enough if he’s well-versed in raagas and techniques. Instead, he should be a knowledgeable person interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be, at least in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow.

Citation pending.

I want to go beyond the restrictions of language, religion and caste, and music is the only thing that allows me to do that.

Citation pending.

Attempts to create a synthesis of the music of West and the East were made in the past but did not last because that form wasn’t institutionalised. I want to do that (through KM Music Conservatory).

A.R. Rahman (Jan 7, 2010 News Center)

Be original and find your inner voice. The rest will follow.

A.R. Rahman (Press Trust of India, Oct 13, 2009)

My journey as a musician started at the age of nine and I see music as a way to connect to spirituality and embrace it. Music touches people and breaks down barriers, creating harmony in troubled times. This has always been my philosophy.

A.R. Rahman (July 17, 2009, The Statesman)

I’m not South Indian or North Indian, I’m just an Indian.

Abid, June 16, 2009

The burden of expectations has always been upon me, whether at the regional, national or international front. For me, everybody are important.

Times of India, May 2009

This is an award for Indian artistes and their aspirations. I am their representative.

On winning his first Academy Award. The Hindu, Feb 26, 2009


All my life I’ve had a choice between hate and love. I chose love, and I’m here.

The Academy Awards, 2009

I can’t talk about piracy and I don’t want to. It’s a moral thing within you, I can’t teach morals to you. It’s a conscience thing — if you want to support a musician, buy the music.

A.R. Rahman (CNN IBN, Jan 7, 2009)

No regrets. There is no time for that. Regret is boring.

A.R. Rahman on Lajjo’s shelving ( OneIndia, Dec 4, 2008)

Art has no parameters.

DnaIndia, Dec. 5, 2007

In these hard times, music is really an uplifting shrine where all communities can come together. There’s so much turmoil happening in life whether it’s religious, political or racial. Music is all about love. It’s a unifying force.

A.R. Rahman (June 7, 2007, The Star)

As a composer, I have often felt that life’s experiences — both good and bad — have greatly added to my compositions.

ITIMES, Dec. 30, 2006

When I was composing for my first film, Roja, I often went into a spiritual vacuum where nothing else mattered except the music. That is why I credit whatever success has come my way to the Almighty.

ITIMES, Dec. 30, 2006

What cannot be put into words can be expressed through music.

ITIMES, Dec. 30, 2006

Music is language itself. It should not have any barriers of caste, creed, language or anything. Music is one, only cultures are different. Music is the language of languages. It is the ultimate mother of languages.

Citation pending.

Trusting in God never makes the mountain smaller, it just makes the climbing easier. I never ask Him for a lighter load, but only for a stronger back.

Citation pending.

To make music, you must have a stable mind, and to have a stable mind, you need practice, you need a way of life.

 Interview by Matthew Islam, March 2005

I have realised that music can change our society.

The Hindu, Dec. 25, 2004

I like music that is able to stir my soul. My music is a spiritual exercise.

The Hindu. Dec. 25, 2004

‘Swades’ is right from my heart. It is simple and sweet music.

The Hindu, Dec. 25, 2004

Singing requires a totally different energy. I’m more interested in composing than singing. I used to have a complex about my voice, until I heard the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I felt that if he could create wonders with his voice, I could also try.

Bollyvista.com Interview by Jyothi Venkatesh, 2004


The search is more important than the destination.

Bollyvista.com Interview by Jyothi Venkatesh, 2004

Music is not just entertainment. Music is a remedy.

A.R. Rahman (March 24, 2004 The Hindu)

The melody remains the core of the song. No melody, no song. I don’t think rap can sustain a two-hour musical.

BBC South Asia, Feb. 4, 2004

I feel at home with my food and my people.

Star Plus Interview (‘Is Duniya Ke Sitaare.’), Feb. 2, 2004

Historicals give me the opportunity to compose melodies. It’s almost like an escapism to the earlier days of film music, when music had a poetic quality to it rather than the mostly dance-oriented pieces we compose now.

New India Express, Aug. 2003

I have felt the need to reinvent myself after every film. Because, the moment a musician shows signs of favouritism for a particular raag or instrument, his compositions begin to sound repetitive. It also irritates the ears to hear the same thing again. But sometimes it’s inevitable, we have to use a particular raag to get a particular feel, even if it has been used before.

Fame is a momentary thing: New India Express, March 2003

Roja changed my career. I had been doing the same kind of stuff for 15-16 years and was desperately seeking a change. But there was no opportunity to reinterpret Indian music. With Roja, we wanted to strike a new note. Mani’s amazing visuals, Mutthu’s romantic lyrics, relatively unknown singers… we wanted to impart to Roja an international flavour — and we succeeded.

In Tune With Life: Times of India, Sept. 2002

In my case, dust has become gold. Today, I work with people I grew up admiring. But, internally, I am the same person I always was. Ever since I embraced Sufism, I have learnt to separate myself from my desires and my success. Now, I can distance myself from all the adulation showered on me.

In Tune With Life: Times of India, Sept. 2002

You can’t have everything in life. What one thinks is possible might not always be so. I try to do my best but, finally, everything lies in God’s hands. I consider my skills as a musician to be a blessing from God. Even today, before I perform, I am unsure of whether I will be able to move my audience. I leave everything to Him… He pulls the strings in my life.

In Tune With Life: Times of India, Sept. 2002

I take criticism in my stride. What I feel is great music is sometimes rejected by the public. Till three weeks after Lagaan was released, I was told I had failed miserably. The industry feedback for Taal wasn’t encouraging. Criticism is fine — at the end of the day, my music speaks for itself.

In Tune With Life: Times of India, Sept. 2002

I am trying my best to combine traditional and contemporary styles. But sometimes the result isn’t in my hands at all. It depends on the film and the director. Trends come and go but I have to keep doing my own thing. You have to learn from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is only teacher and that is your soul.

Citation pending.

When I did my first film, Roja, my main intention was that the music should go beyond the walls of India and should be heard all over. Indian culture should be accessible to everyone, even for young people.

India Abroad News, July 2000

Music is spiritual. It’s not a formula.

The Week. April, 2000

When asked how he converted to Sufism:
My father went through a lot of health problems. He was sick, my childhood was a disaster. I spent most of my childhood in hospitals. There came a stage when the family was almost down. We met a pir sahab (Saint) at that time. It is inexplicable. It just happened. My idea of God coincided with all this. I thought, ‘Okay, this was something that was bound to happen.God and religion are very personal. The mosque or temple should be within oneself. But now it has become politics. I don’t think I want to talk any more about it.

The Week, April 2000

I hate the discrimination between South and North India, Tamil and Hindi. If I represent India, that is good enough for me.

The Week, April 2000


I always live with a song, sometimes for a week, sometimes for six months, to try and fix whatever is wrong with it. Because, if I don’t like something, people will not like it either.

Rediff, March 2000

When asked why he uses many singers/voices in a single song:
Times have changed. The attention span of and average listener has decreased and his geographical purview has broadened. He wants to see Switzerland and New York, and at the same time experience the rural landscape of India. The scope of songs is expanding to include every part of the planet maybe even the moon. Movies no longer move through one time-frame and mood. If they did, then one could stick to one voice.

Zee Premiere, 2000

Any great love song, when attributed to a divine source, gets an extra dimension. People say any love which is immortal is divine love.

Rediff, March 2000

I’m inspired any time I watch a good musician playing. When I’m programming my music on my own, I always think of some great drummer or some great bass guitarist. When I’m playing on the keyboards, I think of how beautifully another musician plays the instrument. And that inspires me to play. Otherwise I may end up playing like a cheesy upstart.

Times of India, Jan. 22, 2000

I find myself stuck between the traditional and modern styles of music. From the age of 11, I was working with musicians of the earlier eras. So I’ve imbibed their influences. Until my late teens, I was meeting the maturer generation of musicians. Then I came into jingles composition and eventually film composition with Roja I was suddenly exposed to the `in’ scene and the hip-crowds.

Times of India, Jan. 22, 2000

I don’t think growing as a composer has anything to do with making your compositions more complicated. At the same time, I don’t believe in not learning while composing. There should be a balance between the composer’s intrinsic knowledge and the requirements of the specific score.I simply move on after completing a score. Now I’ve forgotten Taal, Takhshak and Dil Hi Dil Mein. Now I’m thinking about what I can do in this millennium. Once I’m finished with a score there’s nothing more I can do with or about it — good bad or ugly. Maybe I’ll return to my scores ten years from now. Right now I’ve new challenges to face, so my priority is the next score, not the last one.

Times of India, Jan. 22, 2000

My father too was a composer. He died at the threshold of success. He passed away the same day his first film as a composer was released. I was nine then, and his only son. I started working (in music) at the age of 11.

Zee Premiere, 2000

I am like a boat without an oar. I let life take its own course.I know only my work and God. I pray a lot. You get dejected if you plan something and it does not happen. 

Kumudam, Nov. 1999

When asked how it felt winning the National Award for Roja: “I don’t have time to cherish the joys and repent the failures in life. I go on with my work not caring about the response I’ve got for my previous works.”

Asianet Interview, June 23, 1999

Everything depends on your attitude. If you treat a jingle composition as joke, it is going to sound like one. But if you take it seriously and work on it, concentrating on every second of the 60 seconds, it is going to last.I take the same attitude when composing a song. I concentrate on each section of the song. It can be a burden, but it also brings joy when people notice the little surprises in each song. They may hear it 10 times over and yet discover new things in it.

Star Plus (‘Is Duniya ke Sitaare’), Jan. 26, 1999

If an album is to please all age groups. it has to go beyond current fads.

India Today, 1999

The primary objective of Vande Mataram (the album) is to inspire a feeling for the country. And the sentiments so aroused go beyond caste, creed and colour. The feelings which inspired the album come from the heart. If people look beyond religion and caste barriers, and think only of the country, that’s enough. I personally think Vande Mataram is an ongoing movement, and people will feel good about it for the next 50 years.

Vande Mataram Album launch, 1998

I owe my success to Mani Ratnam’s Roja. He had asked me to create music that would appeal to the nation, which is exactly what I did. And it worked.

Rediff, 1998

My music comes from somewhere deep within me. I am a within man more than without. It is the language of the heart and the soul together that makes my music.

Citation pending.

I don’t endorse remix music because I believe in pure music. Nobody has the right to meddle with any other person’s music.

Times of India, 1997


When asked how it feels to be on top:
I don’t really think I’m at the top. Basically, I came into this field not to intrude on anybody else’s success.

Screen, 1996

When asked about the state of Indian Film Music:
Its going through a cyclical process. The techno stuff has reached a saturation point. Soon we’ll be back to simple and soulful melodies.

Screen, 1996

Composing a peppy number like ‘Muqabla’ is easy. I just have to be spontaneous, let myself go. It’s like gorging on Chinese food once a month. But melodies, like ‘Chhotisi asha’, ‘Chandralekha’ and ‘Ennavale’ [‘Sun ri sakhi’ from ‘Humse hai Muqabla’] were more difficult… ‘Ennavale’ was inspired by a song which is 2000 years old. For the songs of ‘Yodha (1992)’ [his sole malayalam effort], I did a lot of research in Nepali and Chinese music. I know ‘Ennavale’ and the songs from ‘Roja’ and ‘Puthiya Mugam’ will be hummed for decades.

Filmfare, 1996

Who do you consider your closest rival?: “The man who is inside me and constantly trying to distract me from doing good work.”

Filmfare, 1996

When quizzed about originality in his music: Nobody can be completely original, because the notes are already there. From notes we form a raag, and from the raag a tune…it is a process. As far as possible, to my conscience, I try to be original.

TV Interview, 1995

If it’s a dance number, you have to dance to it. If it’s a soft tune, you have to cry. That deepness should be there in music.

First Interview after winning the National Award for Roja (1992)

When you ask a traditional player to play a note, he plays it in a very traditional way. To break this off, I play it myself (on the keyboard) and he interprets this in a very different way. That is how each instrument is done, and when it’s mixed together, it sounds like…like what you hear (in my music).

First Interview after winning the National Award for Roja (1992

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