On Modi’s Band­wagon?

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Mu­sic mae­stro AR Rah­man un­veiled a 19-minute mu­sic piece ti­tled “The Fly­ing Lo­tus”, based on Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment’s move to de­mon­e­tize high value cur­rency notes. The Os­car Awardee, who had ear­lier made a ref­er­ence to de­mon­e­ti­za­tion in his new ver­sion of the pop­u­lar 1994 track “Ur­vasi Ur­vasi”, has taken in­spi­ra­tion from it for his lat­est mu­sic piece in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Seat­tle Sym­phony, one of Amer­ica’s lead­ing sym­phony or­ches­tras. How­ever, know­ing the mes­sage that may come out from this act, the mu­sic mae­stro makes it clear that he is not mak­ing any judg­men­ton Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi with the piece.

On this oc­ca­sion Natalia Ningth­ou­jam talks to AR Rah­man and fishes out some in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion for our read­ers. Edited ex­cerpts:

What in­spired you to as­so­ciate with The Fly­ing Lo­tus?

The Fly­ing Lo­tus is an im­pres­sion of the rise of In­dia... the whole jour­ney of In­dia. I wanted to do some­thing on what was go­ing on in In­dia dur­ing de­mon­e­ti­za­tion and what will hap­pen in the fu­ture. It’s open to in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

What prompted you to col­lab­o­rate with Seat­tle Sym­phony for The Fly­ing Lo­tus?

They wanted some­thing... maybe sim­ple. Since I had an in­spi­ra­tion to do this, they were very re­cep­tive and en­cour­ag­ing. They loved the idea and found it very in­no­va­tive. It was a great team for a com­poser to get an orches­tra like that, is al­ways a dream.

The Fly­ing Lo­tus was pre­miered by the Seat­tle Sym­phony with con­duc­tor Ri­cardo Aver­bach at Cel­e­brate Asia, an an­nual con­cert that fea­tures mu­sic by fa­mous Ja­panese, Chi­nese, Korean and In­dian com­posers, in May.

What was the rea­son for us­ing Modi’s speech in your track?

I wanted to make an emotionally charged track for my lis­ten­ers. The emotionally charged track is in­ter­spersed with a few lines from Modi’s speech on de­mon­e­ti­za­tion along with oth­ers stress­ing on dig­i­tal econ­omy, the coun­try go­ing cash­less and dhan dhana dhan.

Since you have talked about var­i­ous Modi’s ini­tia­tives which are now crat­ing lot of head­lines these days, please let us know what’s your take on de­mon­e­ti­za­tion?

I think the in­ten­tion was right. This (the track) is not about me mak­ing a judg­ment. How would I know about some­thing so big? But I know what peo­ple are talk­ing about, the Chi­nese whis­pers, the good and the bad. That’s what I have put in my piece. It is in­ter­est­ing to have an orches­tra and ex­pres­sion like that. The sub­ject is very rel­e­vant to ev­ery In­dian.

Is there any mes­sage that you think this track would con­vey to the lis­ten­ers?

The mu­sic is an op­ti­mistic ap­proach and also a jour­ney of what we have been through. I think that’s what it should be. It is not about per­sonal agenda or re­li­gion. It is about up­lift­ing the poor. It’s about mak­ing our na­tion the best in the world.

Though, you are global am­bas­sador of the In­dian mu­sic in­dus­try, you have al­ways main­tained a low pro­file im­age. Would this be bro­ken when The Fly­ing Lo­tus will be re­leased?

It will be re­leased like a nor­mal re­lease by Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic In­dia, but I will send a copy to our PM and im­por­tant peo­ple. I would love to share my work with them.

Go­ing by the ti­tle of track, it seems like you are happy with the Bharatiya Janata Party as the rul­ing party in In­dia.

I am happy with In­dia...al­ways. I am an In­dian.

Af­ter cre­at­ing a piece on a sub­ject, which is con­sid­ered to be Modi’s big­gest move, would you like to com­pose for any of the gov­ern­ment’s cam­paigns?

If I have time, then yes.

Are you inch­ing closer to join­ing pol­i­tics?

No. I don’t have time for it. I want to be in mu­sic and movies.

Okay! Let’s come back to mu­sic. In­dian mu­sic is get­ting pop­u­lar across the day and you are one of the ma­jor wit­nesses to this. How do you feel to see this jour­ney of In­dian mu­sic?

It is great. We just need things to hap­pen and ev­ery­thing will come to­gether. The mar­ket­ing will come to­gether and things will sell. For in­stance MC Pun­jabi has done very well. I was in Prague and I heard Pun­jabi mu­sic be­ing played there. As hu­mans we like dif­fer­ent things. There is a big space for us.

You are also in­volved with Sufi Route, the first folk, po­etry and Sufi mu­sic project of In­dia, which is head­lined by you. What was your aim be­hind such huge global Sufi project?

We have this es­o­teric au­di­ence and they seem to be re­spond­ing ir­re­spec­tive of the re­li­gion they be­long to. It is sur­pris­ing. Some­times you go to a col­lege like Berke­ley Col­lege of Mu­sic and there are peo­ple singing Kun Faya Kuna or Kh­waja Mere Kh­waja. So there are Chris­tians singing it or Mus­lims or Hin­dus then I felt like it is not about the words rather it is about the soul.

Do you think Sufi is the route to take con­sid­er­ing the strife in the world these days?

I think the world is very com­pli­cated and to say that this is the way to go or that is the way is not pos­si­ble. First of all, I need so much cleans­ing my­self. I am just go­ing with what I have to do, what my fam­ily has to do and what about my peo­ple. I just see my world and my role in it.

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