Nothing much has been left to say about the genius called AR Rahman. I was 5 when Roja released, and in those days of no private TV channels, having an audio player (or ‘tape recorder’ as it was called) was the only continuous source of entertainment. After finishing my homework, my evenings were dedicated to playing with my kid sister, Crystal Maze and breaking windows (cricket). Dinner meant ‘tape recorder’ time and, playing Roja was the norm. Everyday. All was going fine, until one day (surprisingly) there was a power cut during dinner. This meant there was no ‘Roja’ that day.
And then my 9 month old sister started humming the ‘Aasai’ song. We were all shocked at what we heard. A kid who can’t talk just hummed a tune! It’s not as if Roja was the only album famous at that time. I think around the same time ‘Choli Ke Peeche’ was also a rage. But still, my kid sister chose to hum ‘Aasai’, and not ‘Choli Ke Peeche’, and I am proud of her for that. And, that was my first Rahman moment.
From then on, I was hooked to his music, and particularly the songs sung by AR Rahman himself. I believe that songs sung by ARR can be sung only by ARR. His rustic voice, his range, his pitching of the song is just magic. And boy! Can anyone sing a song with patriotic fervour better than ARR?
Three songs which come to the top of my mind are ‘Maa Tujhe Salaam’, ‘Aazadi’ and ‘Yeh Jo Des’.
Maa Tujhe Salaam: This is a song which held the youth of the nation by its collar, and shook it. Such was the popularity, that MTV played this song atleast 5 times a day. A feat, which in those days, no Indian artiste achieved (barring Baba Sehgal). Rahman’s voice, the energy of the song and the optimism in the lyric is so magical that you are left wanting for more. Rarely do you come across a song which encapsulates so much about India. This song literally propelled AR Rahman to the cult status which he rightfully adorns today.
Aazadi: It’s a pity that this song did not get its due. In my opinion, this is among the most powerful songs by AR Rahman. The song is a war-cry which beautifully encompasses the mood and the nature of the freedom struggle. The wonderful orchestration, progression of the chords, and the chorus provided by Western Choir Chennai give a feverish pitch to the song. You might not notice the Banjo at 3:46, or the strings which shadow Rahman at 1:40, but it’s it’s the finer detail like this that adds to the beauty of this song.
Yeh Jo Des: My all time favourite song of AR Rahman. This is a song which every friend of mine who went abroad for his/her masters, put up on his/her profile saying ‘I miss India…. :(‘ within a week of them landing there. The beauty of this song is, it appeals to everyone, irrespective of nationality. Javed Akhtar’s lyrical genius coupled with AR Rahman’s haunting voice takes the song to such heights, that without you realising, you have a lump in your throat. In my opinion, the best AR Rahman song till date.
Yeh Jo Des [Shehnai] by Madhu
It’s surprising that AR Rahman has never won an award as a singer despite having sung such wonderful songs. ARR has his fair share of critics, who suggest that he is not a conventional singer, and uses auto-tune. But, there are very few contemporary singers who can weave magic the way ARR does, so elegantly, so consistently.