(A post by Benly and a recording by Aishwarya)
It was one August evening in 1992. I was in 3rd grade. I was in my school bus on my way back home from school and I heard one of my seniors sing a song that I’ve never heard before. A few days later I heard my neighbours play the same song. I was hooked on to the song straight away. Must be the reggae beats. Few days later I heard the same song at my favourite cousin’s place; that song and all the other songs from the same album. It was so different from any Indian film song that I had listened to before. The “sound” was new.
Music has been an integral part of my growing up. Dad plays about 6 musical instruments and he was part of the local Church choir when he was young. Dad is a huge fan of country music and rock n’ roll and has a huge vinyl collection back home. By the time I was in middle school I knew almost all the songs of Cliff Richard, Neil Diamond, Jim Reeves, and The Beatles by heart. Music was our only entertainment at home back then. Music was in the air.
But the songs that I listened to from my cousin’s place changed my idea of music for me. I realized I could choose the kind of music I want to listen to. I no longer have to listen to Dad’s favourite songs. For me it was the beginning of something special; a special musical journey. I wanted to listen to all those songs again. And again. I didn’t have the courage to ask my parents to buy the cassette for me because I thought Mom didn’t like me listening to film music. So I borrowed the cassette from my cousin and recorded the songs on a devotional song cassette. And then I started hearing stories about the man who was behind these songs. I started reading about him in the newspapers. I started talking to my friends about this magician called A R Rahman. And for the next few years, I kept borrowing his music cassettes from my cousin and kept recording them on devotional cassettes we had at home. His music became a part of my growing up. It shaped my formative years in ways I have no clue about.
It was fun until one day when Dad decided to play one of those cassettes that was hidden in my closet. All hell broke loose. Suddenly I was the black sheep of the family. A lot of drama later, Dad promised to buy me all the cassettes that I wanted. This was because erasing gospel songs from the tape by recording film songs over them was a sin that guaranteed a place for me in hell.
This was when I started keeping track of all A R Rahman releases. The first cassette Dad bought for me was Rangeela. Dad was kind enough to buy me all the cassettes till I was in the tenth grade. After that I was asked to save up on my pocket money and buy cassettes on my own. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing till date. I had a giant poster of Rahman in my room alongside the posters of Sachin and Dravid. Mom hated me for that. ‘It’s okay to like someone’s body of work but it’s a sin to worship human beings’ has always been her philosophy. But in my defense, Rahman IS God.
Things were different once I was sent to college. I was on my own and I found a bunch of like-minded friends who liked A R Rahman’s music and a bunch that did not like his music. At first it was tough for me to learn that there are people who hate his music. I mean, like, what? I was also introduced to different kinds of music. I slowly graduated from Boy bands to Soft rock to all the other kinds of music that I don’t want to categorize under any genre.
This was exactly the time when I started sensing a change in Rahman’s music. He was preparing himself for greater things. But the way he timed it was so perfect. Along with him, he was also preparing fan boys like me for the musical journey that he was taking. Simple melodies slowly became complicated, multilayered tunes. Safe bets became experimental tracks. Familiar sounds slowly became “I have never heard anything like this before” sounds. What he also did was to find directors who let him experiment; who dared him to go beyond what he was doing all those years. There has been mixed reactions to his music ever since. But that’s a risk he was willing to take. And a risk he took. For me, a Delhi6 or a Rockstar is as important as a Roja. Different times, different movies, different situations but it’s how his music fits into the scheme of things like magic and how it transports me to a different world and leaves me in an eternal trance is all that matters.
It’s been more than 20 years now since the first time I heard my senior sing that song in the school van. That 26 years old magician is 47 years old now. Each phase of my life is connected to a Rahman song or album or a bunch of them. That’s how I sometimes remember the days gone by. Childhood was all about Rahman songs, just like how it was all about RK Narayan’s stories or Rahul Dravid’s batting. I have always been a fan boy, which is against Mom’s religious principles. But I think she doesn’t care anymore because deep inside she knows that the man I am today is mostly because of the people I’ve adored all my life.
Thank you Rahman. For the music and for what you mean to me. Happy Birthday! Here’s to another 30 years of Rahman-level music.
PS: Did you guys listen to Kadal songs? My Dad loved the songs. It has Country. It has blues. It has gospel. More importantly, it has soul.
PPS: Turned out to be a VerrSenti post. What is there.
And here Aishwarya attempts Tum Ho –
Happy Birthday, Rahman.