A. R. Rahman (born on January 6, 1966 as A. S. Dileep Kumar in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India),Tamilian by birth is an award-winning composer, record producer and musician. He is a musical legend who revolutionized the music standards in India. He was the only musician from India to take Indian music to the world standards and was successful in composing music at the age of 12. Today music buffs in India and not only in India, but also all parts of the world recognizes his music and his music has satisfied all types of music attenders. This magnificent man is one who redefined contemporary Indian music and is the pride of the entire nation and an idol for millions all over the world needs no preamble.
In a career spanning over a decade, Rahman, by 2003, had sold more than one hundred million records of his film scores and soundtracks world-wide,and sold over 200 million cassettes making him one of the world's top 25 all-time top selling recording artists.
A. R. Rahman was born to R. K. Shekhar, a composer, arranger and conductor for Malayalam-language films. His father died when Rahman was nine years old, and his family rented out musical equipment as a source of income.
During these early years, Rahman served as a keyboard player and an arranger in bands such as "Roots" and "Nemesis Avenue" with friends including Sivamani, embracing numerous music genres. He played the keyboard and piano, in addition to, among others, the synthesizer, the harmonium and the guitar. His curiosity in the synthesizer in particular increased because, he says, it was the 'ideal combination of music and technology.'' He began early training in music under Master Dhanraj. At the age of 11, he joined, as a keyboardist, the troupe of Ilaiyaraaja ,a great composer of all times and one of many composers to whom musical instruments belonging to Rahman's father were rented to. Rahman later played in the orchestra of M. S. Viswanathan and Ramesh Naidu, accompanied Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship to Trinity College of Music, where he graduated with a degree in Western classical music.
In 1991, Rahman began his own music recording and mixing studio, attached to backyard of his house, called the Panchathan Record Inn. He initially composed music jingles for advertisements, Indian Television channels and music scores in documentaries, among other projects. In 1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam's Tamil film Roja. The debut led Rahman to receive the Rajat Kamal award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards, the first time ever by a first-time film composer. Rahman has since then gone on to win the award three more times (for his scores for Minsaara Kanavu (Electric Dreams, Tamil) in 1997, Lagaan (Tax, Hindi) in 2002, Kannathil Muthamittal (A Kiss on the Cheek, Tamil) in 2003), the most ever by any composer.
Roja's score met with high sales and acclaim, in its original and dubbed versions, bringing about an effective transformation in film music at the time, and Rahman followed this with scores for films including, among others, Bombay, Kadhalan, Indira, Minsaara Kanavu, Muthu and Love Birds, which gained him notice. His soundtracks gained him recognition in the Tamil film industry and across the country for his versatality in classical, folk, jazz, reggae, soft rock and other styles in his pieces. Rangeela, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, marked Rahman's debut in Hindi films. Many popular and superhit scores for films including Dil Se and Taal followed. The sales of these albums prompted several film producers to take film music more seriously.
Rahman's work is also unique in the fact that his collaborations with some film directors have always resulted in successful soundtracks. In particular, he has worked with Mani Ratnam on ten films until 2006, all of which have been musical hits. Also notable is his collaboration with the director S. Shankar in the films Gentleman, Kadhalan, Indian, Jeans, Mudhalvan, Nayak, Boys and Sivaji.
His first movie album Roja was listed in TIME's "Top 10 Movie Soundtracks of All Time" in 2005. Rahman continued to record frequently in his studio, the Panchathan Record Inn, which was then further developed and renamed A.M. Studios in 2005. It is considered to be the most developed, equipped and high tech studio of Asia. In 2006, Rahman launched his own music label, KM Musiq. It's first release was his soundtrack to the film Sillunu Oru Kaadhal which it released worldwide, in August 2006. His latest work includes Rang De Basanti, Sillunu Oru Kaadhal, Guru, Varalaru - The History of the Godfather, Sivaji: The Boss, Azhagiya Tamil Magan, and Jodhaa Akbar . Rahman has scored the movie Provoked, co-scored Elizabeth: The Golden Age,and is working on Chamki Chameli to be released in 2008 and Hindi version of Tamil blockbuster Ghajini. He is a recipient of the Padma Shri.
Rahman has been involved in several projects aside from film. He made an album Vande Mataram (1997) on India's 50th anniversary of independence to immense success. He followed it up with an album called Jana gana mana, a conglomeration of performances by many leading exponents/artists of Indian classical music. In addition to writing jingles for ads, he has composed several orchestrations for athletic events and T.V. and internet media publications, documentaries and short films.
In 2002, he composed his maiden stage production Bombay Dreams (2002) following a commission from famous musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Furthermore, Rahman, along with the Finnish folk music band Varttina, composed the music for The Lord of the Rings theatre production. He composed the piece "Raga's Dance" for Vanessa Mae's album Choreography (2004).
In the last six years, he has performed in three successful world tours of his concerts to audiences in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Dubai, UK, Canada, the US (Hollywood Bowl and 3d tour) and India. A two-disc soundtrack, Introducing A. R. Rahman, (2006) featuring 25 pieces he composed from his Tamil film scores was released in May 2006.
Rahman's interest in the works of Classical and Romantic period composers, Carnatic composers, early film composers and predecessors K. V. Mahadevan and Vishwanathan-Ramamoorthy of the film industry of Tamil Nadu and others continued through his late teens. He further explored and trained in Carnatic music, Western classical, Hindustani music and the Qawwali style of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, in addition to numerous other styles. His interest and outlook in music is said to stem from his love of experimentation. As a result, his scores have alternated from songs and themes composed covering a variety of genres, with unconventionally-grouped instruments, and different vocal styles being used and combined together in some of his film soundtracks, to more traditional orchestral themes with leitmotif techniques composed in others. Rahman's works often feature a mix of minimalist songs and evocative, thematic pieces, building on his differing chord progressions and rhythms. He has written scores and songs with new and varied melodic and percussive sounds from instruments of different music systems.
In addition to composing themes for charity media features and events, Rahman has set up the "A. R. Rahman Foundation" with a goal to eradicate poverty globally. This includes setting up and partnering with educational institutions across India to provide education to children who do not have easy access to schools or funds. In 2004, he was appointed as the Global Ambassador of the Stop TB Partnership, a project by WHO. He has shown support to charities including Save the Children, India, and worked with Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam for his song "Indian Ocean" . The song featured a-ha keyboard player Magne Furuholmen and Travis drummer, Neil Primrose. The proceeds of the song went towards helping orphans in Banda Aceh, one of the areas worst affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Rahman (born Dileep Kumar) is the second of four children born to R. K. Shekhar and Kareema Begum (Kasthuri). He has three sisters, Raihanah (Kanchana), Fatima Talat (Bala) and Mohamed Shafiq. He is married to Saira and has three children - Khadija, Rahima and Amin. Rahman is an alumni of the PSBB Lake Area School, Nungambakkam, Chennai and also studied at Madras Christian College for a while. His nephew G. V. Prakash Kumar, son of sister Raihanah, is a composer in the Tamil film industry.