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the people who made a difference

India Today featured "1994: the people who made a difference." Rahman was the featured one in the music department. Here is the article on him... ( Rahman watchers note the Govind Nihalani part)

For close to two decades, Tamil Pop and film scores meant mostly Ilaiyaraaja. It was easy, he never really had any competition. Till a 25-year old who prefers untrained voices to silky smooth renditions and breathing space between beats to typical many-layered, cramped orchestration came along. Now, two years later, A.R.Rahman looks like he is here to stay, with his digitalised sound based on pop-rock and reggae and fused with traditional Indian-mainly Carnatic-folk idioms. The supreme irony: he used to play keyboards in Ilaiyaraja's orchestra. Says Gangai Amaran, a music director and Ilaiyaraja's brother:"Rahman's music is of the computer age. It is digital, but intelligent, not just noise. He concentrates on his melody and has not deviated totally from Carnatic traditions." What he has done, though, is deviated totally from the norm and rung up hit score after hit track, moving near effortlessly from the Tamil scene to take over Hindi film music. And spawned on the way a whole new approach that is finding imitators countrywide. Even before the Hindi version of director Mani Ratnam's Tamil film Roja hit the screens last year - in a way, Rahman can be a called a Ratnam discovery, spotted by him as a promising composer even against the backdrop of Ilaiyaraja's elaborate orchestration - the sound track and songs were churning cash registers. They helped sell over 25 lakh tapes. Bollywood director Subhash Ghai has replaced Laxmikant-Pyarelal with Rahman for his next project, and pre-release has sold the sound track for a figure of Rs.1 crore, very respectable by industry standards. Art film maestro Govind Nihalani has also signed him on. And Ratnam has banked on Rahman's earlier magic with Roja to sell the sound track for his soon to be released Bombay for Rs.80 lakh. Rahman, a former jingle composer, works to exacting standards of quality, but is also an inveterate risk-taker. For Roja, he used the quavering voices of old women to great effect, and for the now famous title track, the non-filmi, pop voices of Baba Sehgal and Shweta Shetty. For Chikkubukku raile, a Tamil hit song, he banked on an unknown voice, its lisp and anglicised delivery. Rahman likes working with untrained voices, saying a slight "defect in the singing adds a human touch." A workable quirk? Typically, critics say that like other music trends, Rahman and his mood music will also fade away. He hopes to delay that by changing and offering new sounds, and staying relatively exclusive by accepting no more than five film projects a year. The fact is that it could take a Rahman to replace a Rahman. Few are likely to complain.

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