Right now, in India, jobs that pay musicians well are all in cinema, cinema and more cinema! I want to change this. I want musicians to discover new ways to entertain audiences, says A. R. Rahman
It is an overcast late afternoon, thankfully. A.R. Rahman arrives late for his date with the press ahead of the launch of The KM College of Music and Technology by the Ambanis (Mukesh and Nita). But once the question and answer session begins Rahman manages to win us over with his politeness. “Get a chair for her please,” he says, striking a pose for the camera, sitting in front of a piano. Once we are seated comfortably, Rahman gears up to talk about the setting up of this new college in Arumbakkam in Chennai and why musicians need opportunities outside the realm of cinema.
Why did you decide to set up a college now?
KM Music Conservatory was a result of quizzing my own self for over 20 years about what I can do. It was a great success. But in a conservatory you can’t do certain things — like digital music or teach DJ-ing for instance. I wanted to create a bigger platform from which more musicians can benefit.
First Conservatory, then the Sunshine Orchestra and now a full-fledged college. Why this need to ‘give’ back?
I guess that’s what old age does to you! (Laughs) But I am at a place now where I have my other earnings and so I wanted to do this. Even if I fail, it is fine. It’s also a way to create things that help me connect. With the Sunshine Orchestra we picked children from the school right opposite our office (MGR School). They are underprivileged children who didn’t have access to music lessons. Now, you can see the video clips about the project online. Some 70 such children play cellos and violins. After its success, I feel even more motivated
Do you teach at these classes?
I do sometimes. I join them for a session once in a while.
What will the college do?
It is only in our country that musicians’ children take up other professions. Most often the musician parent advises the kid to take up something else. Everywhere else in the world I hear people say things like ‘My son performs as part of a symphony orchestra, or is a cello player…’ Right now, in India, jobs that pay musicians well are all in cinema, cinema and more cinema! I want to change this. I want musicians to discover new ways to entertain audiences. Develop their own style and create something, instead of waiting around for someone to call them and give them a chance, which is what happens in the cinema industry. A lot has changed now. Three people can get together, make a video and put it up on YouTube and end up getting discovered. Or not. But the thing is there are more options that need to be explored. KM College will not be comparable to any other educational institution. We are creating our own DNA.
About opportunities for students who will study at KM…
Even a student from our preparatory class was offered a job and we don’t have a problem with these things. In the middle of a course, if a student finds work, we will be supportive. We have to facilitate more industry interface, however, at this college. It’s happening. But more needs to be done. We have world-class studios in the college which we plan to rent out to professionals. We are hopeful that our students will get to intern in these studios too.