Is A.R.Rehman that great?

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srramanujam

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Rehman is one of the music composers who i love listening to.

I had a conversation with my younger brother who is a lot into classical music. He felt that Rehman is not as great as it is made out to be. Unlike classical buffs who summarily dismiss film music, he had a logic. He feels that Rehman's music is in loops. There is a catchy tune to start with, but it repeats infinitely (remember Roja, Bombay etc).

He feels Rehman's music lacks the soul of say Ilayaraja (or) old hindi film music.

As i revisit his words, it looks like he has a point. It is quite synthetic (so is a tube amplifier) and catchy (so is Britney Spears). Does it lack a deeper soul (like Hame Tumse Pyar of KK) or a lilting melody?

In sum, i seem happy to listen to his music, but i cant get myself to pay for it like i do for Carpenters or Lalgudi Jayaraman or Jethro Tull (save for the two unbelievable melodious songs in Delhi 6).

Or, am i also slipping into the convetional bias of classical music lovers?

Any alternative views please.
 

gobble

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I agree with your brother. The arrangement and melodic beauty of Illyaraja compositions are in a different league.

Regards
 

subhash

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i too agree with you , rahmans music is like mix n match / lifts from here and there ,its more of synthesizers ----and off late most of his music sounds repeatative ,lacks soul

but no doubt for me dilse stands out to be a great composition , apart from the older Bombay, roja , pukar etc etc his recent releases is nothing great and the sound track of slum dog was totally hyped
 
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psychotropic

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i think that's an unfair criticism from your brother. When Ilayaraja came along he was to tamil film music what RD Burman was to hindi and AR Rahman was to tamil much later. An iconoclast who brought in a new style of composition, new approaches to instrumentation, a whole new musical language.

I absolutely love Ilayaraja and his early work, but Rahman is at least as talented a composer. TO criticise the music for being catchy I think is just a bias of classical music listeners. Lots of Ilayaraja's stuff is catchy, and I wouldn't dismiss his talents as a composer because of that.

Rahman's has fantastic variety from his dizzying debut in Roja to his work in Pudhiya Mugam to his collaboration with Kadri on Duet, the soundtracks for Bombay, Dil Se and innumerable other movies including Delhi 6, the sheer variety of styles and approaches he takes is incredible. If you want soulful melodies I think 'kannalanae' and 'uyirae' from Bombay, 'aye ajnabee' from dil se, 'anjali anjali pushpanjali' from Duet, 'kannukku mai azhagu' from pudhiya mugham, are all brilliant melodies.

One reason I can think of for people rooted in traditions of Indian classical music not liking Rahman is that his music is rooted in western musical traditions. The scales he uses, the melodies, the time signatures, the arrangements have all been more western than Indian. Less so of late, but still for for the most part, which would explain why Richard Corliss of Time magazine wrote this ecstatic description of his music which is a must-read - That Old Feeling: Isn't It Rahmantic? - TIME

Of course, at the end of the day all music is subjective and it's difficult to say one person is better than someone else or otherwise. But from the sheer quality and variety of Rahman's work, I think you can easily say that he's one of the best composers that Indian film music has ever seen...up there with Ilayaraja.
 

thevortex

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Rahman and Ilayaraja are products of their times, while also standing proudly against established traditions. They ushered in a new phase of film music and came about as a breath of fresh air as compared to their contemporaries - many of them illustrious and immensely talented too. To sum it up, one can say that both are pioneers.

Ilayaraja was a specialist. He immersed himself in the music of his native land - Tamil Nadu - and none else can compose music like he does when the subject of a movie involves a rustic, native setting. Of course in later years he also diversified with symphonies and even the Thiruvacagam. He can proudly say that he has successfully composed tunes in every genre! But Ilayaraja could not make a big splash outside South India. I think this is not a disadvantage. In the sense that his works carried so much of a South Indian flavour or tinge that they did not work that well even in other parts of India leave alone, globally. The discerning listener could of course appreciate his music. But for such listeners, geography has no meaning. When you talk of a music director's success thought, such people do not have a great big effect on it, in my opinion. It is the common man who makes or breaks the music directors as they do, movies.

Rahman worked for Ilayaraja. Then branched out on his own, composing jingles, waiting for his break and then grabbing it with both hands. He was a breath of fresh air after Ilayaraja. He still is fresh. In contrast to Ilayaraja, Rahman's music is capable of having various tinges to it. It cannot easily be categorized as being South Indian for example. That should explain to an extent why he has got the global market in his pocket.

Of course he cannot do justice to rustic subjects as Ilayaraja would have done. I guess that is where the great directors use the horses for courses policy.

Ramanujam, actually your brother Nikesh did mention the 'loops' that Rahman uses when we met the other day. I was not that convinced that day and still am not. There is one gimmick that Rahman does use that I dont quite like. Which is in changing the pitch of a song to increase its impact or dance value. He does this quite often and really is quite irritating to me personally.

Both these are geniuses in their own right and both can lay claim to some absolutely mesmeric original compositions. Ilayaraja far more so. But Rahman is not done yet and he has age on his side. Plus his market is bigger. I cannot help but seeing him grow bigger over time.

No matter what, Ilayaraja's songs are timeless. I have heard this said many times. That Rahman's songs are not timeless. I beg to disagree. There are a few gems among Rahman's compositions that are indeed timeless. The numbers as compared with Ilayaraja's is less. But that is as should be, considering the total number of movies both have to their name.

And Ramanujam, if you liked the 'Maula..Maula' song in Delhi 6, please listen to the song 'Noor-un-Allah' from the movie Meenakshi. Lovely, emotive composition and singing.
 

thevortex

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Psychotropic - after I finished submitting my message, I found a lot of what we have said is the same:).

And I read that review. I just wont praise the Bombay Dreams soundtrack so much. There are other pieces that are much, much better than this one.
 

subhash

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wariors of heaven and earth , ARR composed the music for this chinese movie , this composition is really good and i wud say the instrumental tracks in this are one of his very good compositions
 

thevortex

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Apart from the more famous ones that Psychotropic mentioned, I thought Rahman's music in the following movies was just outstanding:

1) Thiruda Thiruda (If you want to hear a soulful song then 'Rasaathi..' from this movie is a must listen)

2) Meenakshi (Even the instrumental soundtracks are a real treat. A veritable gem)

3) Pavithra

4) Puthiya Mannargal

5) Kabhi Na Kabhi (A rather obscure, failed movie, which nevertheless had brilliant music in it)

6) Lagaan is just a milestone.

7) Swades had a powerful emotional quotient to it. India called through these songs. This had a personal effect on me:)

8) Iruvar - A period movie which needed powerful and varied music. And got it in spades. Some of the songs here will appeal to even Jazz lovers. A must listen album

And oh yes, dont forget Rang De Basanti!

Apart from this I thought he also did sterling work on background music in films such as Deepa Mehta's 'Fire'.

Ilayaraja's gems are just too many to mention! He needs a thread to his own name!
 

moktan

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i like the music of Rehman for the freshness of his melodies and the eclectic catchment from which he sources his tunes...

my two pence is that to appreciate the man's music one needs to see him in the context of other contemporary hindi film music composers..and when you look at him in that relative sense i guess his music is way above what the others hash out....

of course the TS may have meant to put the man in the perspective of other South Indian greats, in which case i am a complete philistine....
 

longshanks

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cant compare both the composers as they belong to different time and are great in their own ways.

Both have made amazing and average compositions. Both have had their influences and inspirations.

When Illayaraja entered the field he was criticized by people who were fan's of KVM and MSV now the same is happening with Rehman. In a decade Rehman will take Illayaraja's place and some new composer who is on top at that time will be criticized for not making haunting and melodious tunes like Rehman.

My dad who is a fan of KVM does not like both Rehman and Illayaraja, he infact says only KVM has originality in his music and then MSV and Ramamurthi.This comparison will always happen between generations but we just cant deny all they are great legends who have created great music time to time and i feel blessed to be listening to the compositions of each of these legends.

One criticism that people speak abt rehman is that his background score is not that good but i cant understand they feel like that cause, Dilse,iruvar, meenakshi and fire are the some of the best background score ive heard in Indian cinema.

Was listening to CS Jeyaraman's songs the other day and just cant believe how much talented the man was.

Music is personal preference and each have their own likes and dislikes, so, one must just enjoy listening to the music they like and stop comparing artists and composers.
 
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psychotropic

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Spot on spot on......Iruvar is fabulous....Thiruda Thiruda as well.

Agree with Praveen as well. This is just a progression. AR Rahman is a fantastic pop musician. Of course he can't do jazz or classical, but then who says jazz or classical are in any way superior to pop music?



Apart from the more famous ones that Psychotropic mentioned, I thought Rahman's music in the following movies was just outstanding:

1) Thiruda Thiruda (If you want to hear a soulful song then 'Rasaathi..' from this movie is a must listen)

2) Meenakshi (Even the instrumental soundtracks are a real treat. A veritable gem)

3) Pavithra

4) Puthiya Mannargal

5) Kabhi Na Kabhi (A rather obscure, failed movie, which nevertheless had brilliant music in it)

6) Lagaan is just a milestone.

7) Swades had a powerful emotional quotient to it. India called through these songs. This had a personal effect on me:)

8) Iruvar - A period movie which needed powerful and varied music. And got it in spades. Some of the songs here will appeal to even Jazz lovers. A must listen album

And oh yes, dont forget Rang De Basanti!

Apart from this I thought he also did sterling work on background music in films such as Deepa Mehta's 'Fire'.

Ilayaraja's gems are just too many to mention! He needs a thread to his own name!
 

Jith77

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well, i havent come across a comtempory music director who is been compared to illayaraja and r.d. burman (as not upto their mark) other than rahman....which in itself says a lot....
artists of yesteryears are always considered supreme in their area, be it in any language of music (the usual 'they dont make music like that anymore'), while many new artists are considered temporary fad ....
r.d. burman was also an artist who had western influence and was considered not as great the other greats in the field....only time proved things to be different...
i still remember many people talking during early 90s that he wont last long and is a trash when compared to illayaraja (wasnt popular yet in hindi except for roja)....that was proved wrong and only time will tell whether he is as good as the others
 

longshanks

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AR Rahman is a fantastic pop musician. Of course he can't do jazz or classical, but then who says jazz or classical are in any way superior to pop music?

Rahman can compose Diff genre's of music but he has his own style of doing that.Cant forget that he is most technically sound composer in India who can record songs to international standards,can work with any kind of musical equipment and that is why Illayaraja hired him.
 
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