A Rahmanesque World: A Westerner’s Guide to A. R. Rahman

So, I heard about all this Rah­man stuff, you know, with the Oscars and all. But who’s this guy? He crooned into the micro­phone at the Acad­e­my Awards cer­e­mo­ny, but to be hon­est, I couldn’t make out what he was pour­ing his heart into, what­ev­er it was. Was it some kind of char­i­ty-rais­ing cry; an attempt to enthuse dol­lar-wield­ing West­ern­ers to donate to Asian slum devel­op­ment? (You can be sure, I haven’t seen Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire yet. What­ev­er does “Jai Ho” mean?).

Nev­er­the­less, I decid­ed to give it a try. I Google for “a. r. rah­man guide” and the first search hit is some­thing called “Paisa Vasool – Or Not: The Newbie’s Guide to A. R. Rah­man”. Guess what? It’s writ­ten by a West­ern­er who loves Bol­ly­wood and is doing her best to bridge the cul­tur­al gap between it and Hol­ly­wood. Oh no, I don’t want that. I’m look­ing for an authen­tic source.

So I Google sim­ply for “A. R. Rah­man” and the offi­cial web­site turns up. Is it just me or does this look like some poor­ly designed web­site? There’s no “Who is” or “About”, no FAQ, no First Time Here? The site assumes you already know who this dude is, so this is not for me. A Google search sim­ply for “Rah­man guide” is worse – it turns up a Female Gen­i­tal Muti­la­tion Guide in the first page of results. Oops!

Final­ly, I real­ize there’s no bet­ter way than to search this guy on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia entry is – to say the least – intim­i­dat­ing. There seems to be more blue link text than nor­mal text! The Answers.com entry doesn’t seem to help either! This Rah­man, or what­ev­er, was sup­posed to have com­posed the sound­track for one of TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Sound­tracks for all time! Help – isn’t there a decent site to help me get start­ed?

Yeah, by this time I know this guy is sup­posed to be a genius and all, but help me god, where do I start? What do I lis­ten to? I’m a dis­cern­ing music afi­ciona­do, with my own favorites in var­i­ous gen­res, and I’d like to quick­ly and eas­i­ly learn and dis­cov­er this Rah­man. I’m a music-addict­ed, open-mind­ed West­ern­er, who’s try­ing to learn about that Indi­an musi­cal dude who just won all the music Oscars. How are you Indi­ans help­ing me find and learn more about him?

Isn’t it the Indi­ans who were usurp­ing our IT jobs? Where are these guys when it comes to help­ing the world appre­ci­ate its cul­ture?

You know what? It was a for­eign­er who brought Gand­hi to the world and it was a for­eign­er who brought Dhar­avi to the world. Is it sur­pris­ing that it is a for­eign­er from TIME Mag­a­zine, who brings the best Westerner’s Guide to A. R. Rah­man to the world?

And you know what? There’ll be lots and lots of arti­cles, news­pa­per reviews, blog posts, etc. in the Indi­an media after Rah­man won the Oscars, but this TIME arti­cle, exhort­ing Amer­i­cans to lis­ten to him, was writ­ten way back in 2005.

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  • ananth

    I’m a Rah­man fan since my child­hood, and I do ful­ly agree with you. There is no where you can get full info abt him.

    My 2 rupees:

    http://www.raaga.com/channels/tamil/music/AR%2E%5FRahman.html

    link to rah­man songs. Have a good time.

  • Mahen­dra:

    You are back! 🙂

    As for the post, well, don’t they say ‘no man is a prophet in his own vil­lage’? More accu­rate­ly in Hin­di: ‘ghar ka jogi jog­da, aan gaanv ka sid­dh’. Such is life.

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  • Amit

    Good to have you back, Mahen­dra.

    The issue is when an Indi­an makes a film on Dhar­avi (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0104098/), the world doesn’t notice (assum­ing that the world notic­ing a film on slums means some­thing). Leave alone the world, even Indi­ans (includ­ing the writer of this post 😉 ) don’t men­tion Sud­hir Mishra but Dan­ny Boyle.

    We are pro­grammed to learn about our­selves from out­siders, rather than learn­ing from fel­low-Indi­ans and valu­ing their work. That says a lot about our think­ing and what val­ue we place on our­selves and our cul­ture.