KEXP Documentaries: The New World – A. R. Rahman

A R Rahman

Each week at KEXP it’s my job to produce a short radio documentary. We do ten episodes in each series, and this current bunch is called The New World. Designed to bring you the latest and most extraordinary artists in the international music scene.

This past week we profiled A. R. Rahman. He’s an Indian soundtrack composer who is a celebrity all through Asia, and he’s sold more than 200 million records (that’s more than the Beatles ever sold). This past year Rahman was the first Indian musician to win two Oscars for his soundtrack to the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire. This got him lots of attention in the indie music scene too, since he worked with M.I.A and the folks from DFA (the collective who bring us LCD Soundsystem) on the soundtrack, and because he mixed beats with orchestral arrangements, strong melodies and traditional Indian sounds.

When he was starting out, Rahman originally didn’t want to become a soundtrack composer, because in India, the music part of a movie is when audiences go to the restroom or to get food. Like a kind of unofficial intermission. But his first film soundtrack to Roja changed all that. Rahman riveted the audience to their seats by using cinematic, symphonic tracks and catchy melodies. This made him an overnight sensation.

Rahman considers his mission in life to use music to “elevate and liberate” the listener. Not only with the sound of the music, Rahman also uses his profits from films to fight poverty, disease and unemployment in his homeland.

Listen to the documentary now:

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Michele Myers hosts “Nite Life” Friday Nights at 9 on KEXP. She also produces KEXP Documentaries and DJs on “Wake Up” on 91.5FM Radio New York.

On July 23rd the next KEXP Documentaries series starts — “Psychedelics” will include profiles on The Byrds, The Beatles (Revolver album), Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, Sly and The Family Stone, Spiritualized, The Flaming Lips and more. You can listen to all past KEXP Documentaries here.

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One Comment

  1. Venkat
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink


    Its great to hear this documentory on A R Rahman. And this “coming together” of World Music. Indian Music, as Mr A R Rahman said in his Oscar interviews, is an ocean and he is just showicasing 0.1 % of that. And moreover, Bollywood perception by the world is wrong. Its only 25% of Indian FIlm industrly. Mani rathnam, the Steven Speilberg of India does not origin from Bolly wood. He comes from Mollywood, the tamil cinema from south. And there’s Tollywood, elugu cinema. And there’s Malayalam cinema.

    So, Indian cinema is just not Bollywood.

    Indian movie music has also golden contribtions from Illayaaja. The Man who is so inevitable that even A R Rahman was insipired in the young agaes. I would kindly request & discover this Man, Illayaarja. Pls find out about him and what his music is all about. We will realize that India MUSIC has the whole of EARTH into it.

    And then we have Yuvan Shankar Raaja. Pop and western musician of India.

    And then we have Carnatic Music. This is classical music. We have geniuses here.

    Maestros in more than 20 international instruments….and they are all here !!!!!!!!!!!In south India….

    Pls help to uncover, unveil this great land of Music, INDIA.

    Thanks a lot.


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