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On AR Rahman’s Birthday, Sita Ramam composer Vishal Chandrasekhar Reveals What Makes The Music Legend A Great Mentor

3 min read
AR Rahman’s Birthday

AR Rahman’s Birthday

Despite being a well-known musician and singer, AR Rahman also has a reputation for being a mentor and a philanthropist. Vishal Chandrasekhar, the composer of Sita Ramam and a former pupil at Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, discusses the lesser-known aspects of the musical legend.

What is there to say about someone who already has everything written about them? What is there left to discover about a person whose career has already been thoroughly examined? Now that everyone knows all the previously unknown information about him, what should one do now? What more is there to say about AR Rahman that still needs to be said? It appears to be a lot. On his 56th birthday, we talked with Vishal Chandrasekhar, the outstanding record composer and KM Music Conservatory student responsible for such timeless albums as Sita Ramam and Jil Jung Juk. Vishal Chandrasekhar has been quietly giving back to society for years.

The conservatory, which was established in 2008, had a pilot batch that Vishal Chandrasekhar was a part of. Vishal had started writing songs even before he enrolled in AR Rahman’s one-year course, but he registered to deepen his knowledge of music. “AR Rahman was my principal. He provided a great environment and faculty for us to flourish… in terms of music theory and all that. KM is a kind of place where you find students with varying degrees of strengths. Though I had been composing music, my stint as a student there helped me become more refined.”

 One of the high points of his life is when he presented his research work to Rahman, says Vishal. “This was after I graduated from KM. As I was working on my research work, I realised how brilliantly Rahman had structured the course because it came in handy for what I was doing. So, when I mailed him explaining what I had done at 11.50 pm, he replied saying ‘it’s good’ at 11.55 pm… within five minutes. More than anything his gesture stood out because all of this is his way of giving back to society.”

Vishal Chandrasekhar says, “See, it is something not anyone can imagine doing. For example, I am recording with a lot of violin players. And all of them are above the age of 45. As musicians, we have realized that the new generation of string players is slowly vanishing. What he is doing with KM is that he is bringing in a lot of underprivileged students with a good musical sense and teaching them for free. Not many people know. I know because I was there.”

He adds, “We won’t feel the impact of all of this now. But down the line say after ten years… we will realise it. He is creating an orchestra that can give a fight to international ones like any Macedonian or Budapest orchestra. I had the experience of recording in Budapest and in Chennai for Sita Ramam. There’s a huge difference in the understanding of music between us and them. Rahman is bridging that gap by creating new talents who are well-adapted not just to Indian music but to Western music too. He has already created so many opportunities for musicians here, and after a decade, you can see a lot more of what he has been doing all these years.”

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