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Rahman promises a musical therapy

Ramola Talwar Badam

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DUBAI // The Indian music maestro, AR Rahman, says music is therapeutic, and has promised his fans a celebration of songs at a concert scheduled for next month.

The famous music composer was at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa yesterday to promote the event, which will take place on December 9 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai Sports City.

"For me, music is therapy," Rahman said at a press conference during a day-long visit to the emirate. "People say they get a lot of peace when they listen to some of my songs. They always speak of the love songs from Roja."

The haunting melodies and score from Rahman's first movie Roja (Rose) in 1992 are still considered his all-time best by fans across the world. The Tamil-language film was a huge hit and was later dubbed in Hindi and three other Indian languages.

Rahman, 45, has composed the score for more than 100 Indian movies. He has won two Oscars, a Bafta and a Golden Globe two years ago for his soundtrack to the multi award-winning Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle.

He will be the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dubai International Film Festival next month.

Despite all the hoopla surrounding him, the soft-spoken musician said he tries to stay focused on his music.

"I'm honoured but I never bother about all this," he said. "I bother about the song, what do we have to do with the music, how it's got to be done. That is my priority."

He promised fans that his Dubai concert would include hit songs from down the years.

Rahman will be joined on stage by singers Mohit Chauhan, Javed Ali, a singer from the latest Bollywood film Rockstar, and well-known musicians such as Sivamani.

"It will be a concert of a celebration, it's a concert of love and the main language is the music," he said.

The songs will draw from a range of Rahman's songs in Indian languages including Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and English.

Yesterday, Rahman also spent the afternoon selecting a singer who would croon with him on the stage in December. Ten finalists were chosen from more than 400 entries of a competition encouraging participants to "Sing Like a Star with AR Rahman". They performed the song Phir Se Ud Chala or Up Again it Flew from the movie Rockstar before their idol.

The winner of the singing competition was Jibran Raheel, 23, who works with a Dubai-based courier company. He said it was a big jump from the singing competitions in which he had participated in Pakistan.

"He is a living legend," Raheel said. "This is beyond my wildest dream because I'm basically a bathroom singer. I never ever thought I would have the opportunity to sing before him."

Another contestant was Rashmi Vijayan, 24, a freelance media professional. "This is more than a dream come true for me," Vijayan said. "I've been picturing this day from the time I was a child; to sing before him is unbelievable. I'm just so excited to meet my musical god."

Rahman's popularity also stems from the fusion in his music that blends the classical with folk, hip hop and soul music.

He worked with the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2002 on the musical Bombay Dreams on London's West End.

Known for collaborations with international artists, Rahman recently released a song with Rolling Stone legend Mick Jagger called Satyameva Jayate or The Truth Triumphs. This was their second single together as part of a group called the SuperHeavy, which also features musicians such as Dave Stewart, Joss Stone and Damian Marley.

"SuperHeavy was a great experience," he recalled. "I had Mick Jagger singing Satayameva Jayate in Sanskrit, what more can I say."

He remembers a concert in Dubai in 1997-98 being one of his best.

"It was one of my first concerts," Rahman said. "People were holding up lights. It was the most memorable concert I ever had. I still have a vision of the whole thing."

The AR Rahman - Live concert will be held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City on December 9. Tickets are available online and at Virgin Megastores in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

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