The success of Rahman’s hindi debut, “Rangeela” opened new doors for him, which he even hadn’t expected. Bollywood offers started flowing in, including offers from big names like Shekar Kapoor, Meera Nair, Subhash Ghai, Rajkumar Santoshi, Govind Nihlani, Deepa Mehta and Ashutosh Gowariker. Rahman had too many offers to choose from! The Hindi media praised him by saying he’s the true heir of RD Burman. Down South, in his hometown, he was being praised as “Isai Puyal” and “Isai Arasan” (King of Music).
He was surprised and happy that, world-renowned directors came down to his house to work with him. He was elated about the wide range of music that he could create for the different situations in the innovative screenplays by these directors.
Though he got enough Bollywood opportunities to settle down there, he continued composing for lot of tamil films as well. Movies like ‘Indira’, ‘Mr. Romeo’, ‘Love Birds’ and ‘Sangamam’ released during that time. Though these movies didn’t fare well at the box office, the songs became tremendous hits. The lilting melodies of ‘Thoda Thoda Malarndhadhenna’ and ‘Nila Kaaigiradhu’ from Indira captured everyone’s hearts. For ‘Varagga Nadhikkarai Oram’ (Sangamam) rendered by Shankar Mahadevan, Rahman had used the Bengali folk style of music. ‘Mudhal Murai’ from the same movie won the National award. For the song ‘No Problem’ from Love Birds, RAP music star Apache Indian had sung for Rahman.
Music fans noticed all the new stuff Rahman kept introducing in this music, and were eagerly waiting for more from him.
Post-modernism in music had brought about another change then – it no longer became necessary for singers to have a sweet voice. The new view was that every voice has its own beauty. In the west, singers like Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Richard Marcus, Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi were giving super-hit numbers, though they didn’t have a “sweet” voice. Singer Boy George was rocking musical shows with his androgynic voice and appearance. To top it all, king of pop Michael Jackson also had a very different voice, which wasn’t the usual “sweet” voice.
Michael Jackson’s voice, which can be classified as ‘Soprano Falseto’ in western music terminology, is one which sounds like a blend of male and female voices. The truth is that no other voice can match this unique blend! Rahman who was a fan of MJ, also had revolutionary ideas about voices of singers.
Rahman believes that a sweet voice is not a necessity for good music, and any different voice will give its own touch to the song and elevate it. Which is why, he keeps introducing new voices. The iron gates of film music fortress opened up for fresh, young voices.
Rahman started using the voices of variety of singers like Unni Krishnan, Sujatha, Suresh Peters, Shankar Mahadevan, Swarnalatha, Hariharan, Mahalakshmi Iyer, Chinmayee for many songs. Had the regular and familiar singers sung these songs, they wouldn’t have sounded so different!
Hindi composer Sandeep Chowta was at one point of time, working with Rahman. He was being referred to as poor man’s Rahman, as he composes similar to Rahman’s style of music. As Rahman became too busy to accept more projects, directors and producers started queueing up in front of Sandeep Chowta’s studio, with many of them requesting for music just like Rahman’s. He acceded to those requests, and for a few films he did follow Rahman’s style. But he couldn’t last long by imitating Rahman’s style, and stopped doing that!
“Rahman is Rahman. I tend to follow his style as I worked with him for sometime. But, the fact is that the soul which is there in Rahman’s music is definitely missing in mine. He’s a revolutionary in music. His chord progressions are mind blowing. He doesn’t stop with plain traditional aalaps, and keeps working on what more can be done. Comparing me with him is not right!”, says Chowta.
The way Rahman “weaves” his music was new, it was puzzling for the bollywood composers. The usual process followed was this – composer composes the tune, lyricists listens to it and writes the tune. Singers and musicians perform at the recording studio and the song gets recorded. Rahman changed everything!
After the tune is ready, he creates a basic rhythm track for it, and makes the singer sing several times over the rhythm track. Singer finishes his work and leaves. The “concert” begins only after that! Just consider the amount of hard work that goes in to creating the song after this. With just two basic tracks – rhythm and voice – he needs to add layers, beautifying it. He needs to adorn it with background pieces by instrumentalists, recording them in pieces and adding them. He also needs to add effects using the electronic synthesizers. Then comes the final mixing.
When the final product comes out, even the singer can’t believe how he has created magic out starting with the simple voice and rhythm tracks. All singers working with Rahman would have surely had this great experience. This is Rahman’s music style!
Article Credits to Vikatan Magazine. Original article was published in Tamil and was exclusively translated to english by Aravind AM.