Mr. A. R. Rahman has earned praise both nationally and internationally for his pioneering achievements as a film music composer, both in extending the artistic scope of film music and in enhancing its critical status. According to the genre and the contents of each film, he has boldly mixed traditional South Asian, classical Western and contemporary American hip-hop and other popular music, to create beautiful melodies which are driven by a powerful beat. His scores have become synonymous with the films for which he created them, and continue to resonate in many hearts.
Mr. Rahman was born in Chennai (former Madras) in 1967. He was only nine years old when his father, who was also a musician, died. Then he became the breadwinner for the family as a keyboard player in various orchestras. He later won a scholarship to study Western music at Trinity College of Music, London. In 1987, he started his career as a composer in the advertising industry, and produced many commercial jingles. During this period, the then up-and-coming film director, Mani Ratnam, came to rate Mr. Rahman’s talent highly, and appointed him as musical director for Roja (1992). The film’s huge success ensured a sensational debut for Mr. Rahman. Then he went on work on Bombay (1995), Muthu (1995) and Lagaan (2001), which are also well-known in Japan, and has established himself as one of the leading creative forces in the new generation of Indian films.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Mr. Rahman increasingly worked for big foreign films, including the international blockbuster, Slumdog Millionaire. This film won a number of prestigious film prizes including Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Awards. Mr. Rahman himself became the first winner of the Oscar from India (for Best Original Score and Best Original Song), and his reputation was firmly established across the globe.
His work, however, was not confined to film-making. In 2002, he was commissioned by Andrew Lloyd Webber to compose music for the musical, Bombay Dreams. Following its great success in the UK, the show toured all over the world, including Japan in 2015. His energy in leading his orchestra on world tours has been matched by his philanthropical activity: he established a foundation to support people from deprived backgrounds, and also a music conservatory in Chennai to educate the next generation.
The great attraction of Mr. Rahman’s music lies in its effectiveness in bringing out the qualities of the film, while at the same time combining an unforgettably beautiful melody with a powerful beat as a musical composition in its own right. His upbringing in close proximity to the popular film and music scene of Chennai, and his devotion in his youth to Sufism, meant that he was much influenced by the great master of qawwali, Islamic mystical songs, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (the laureate of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Prize in 1996). This background is directly reflected in the fusion of Asian and Western, or traditional and contemporary, music on which his own unique creativity is based.
The unique musical compositions of Mr. A. R. Rahman have thus both widened the horizons of the film music world and raised its status, and have also won the highest acclaim both in India and beyond. For such a contribution, he is truly worthy of the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Prize.