By: Summer Yasmin
Multi award winning, world music icon A. R. Rahman and Academy award winning director Danny Boyle, of Slumdog Millionaire fame will be meeting once again on the “Isles of Wonder”, for the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony. An artist of Indian origin A. R. Rahman is a composer, singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Noted for his musical contributions to Indian Cinema as well as international film scores, Rahman has sold 300 million records worldwide over the span of two decades. Coming from one of the world’s most artistic and culturally diverse nations, A. R. Rahman has taken Eastern classical music and stretched it across several musical genres, including electronic, world music as well as orchestra to make a sound that is uniquely his and inclusively international.
On July 27th at the opening ceremony in London, the world will once again get a taste of the artistic wonder that is A. R. Rahman. Rahman has mastered a composition about which he says “It’s a track in Punjabi celebrating the Indian influence in the UK. It’s a part of a medley in the Olympics opening ceremony, according to Danny Boyle’s creative wishes!”
There is no question about Boyle’s choice of composer, as Rahman is the best, termed “the world’s most prominent and prolific film composer” – Time magazine. What is interesting is Rahman’s choice of music. With Bollywood working its way onto international music and cinema plat forms, one may assume this style to be an obvious contender for Rahman’s composition, especially given that this is his forte. But the artist does his task justice by in instead, selecting a Punjabi track to reflect the influence that Indian culture has had in the UK. Punjabi folk music and its counterpart “Bhangra” is more UK Asian then Bollywood could ever be. This is because the music of Punjab may have been born in India but it was literally brought up in the UK, by the hands of Punjabis, who carried it with them during the immigration flux of the 1970’s. Since then, Punjabi music has grown and developed, with artists sampling from almost every other musical genre present and yet maintaining its traditional flavor. With the integration of Bhangra folk songs and western music, the genre has become a permanent part of mainstream music and arts industry in the UK. Today Punjabi music finds its hub in Birmingham and London, also home to this year’s Summer Olympic Games. A. R. Rahman, is known for building his music upon historical and cultural premises as seen in ground breaking sound tracks like Slumdog Millionaire, Bombay, Taal, Laagan and Dil se. So it is not surprising that he drew upon the present music scene to design a song that spoke India in the UK.
Not only is Punjabi music representative of India upon the UK music scene, it is also impeccably suitable for this particular occasion. Punjabi folk and Bhangra has an up tempo, stomp your feet feel to it; originally devised to welcome the annual harvest, it is the perfect celebratory anthem. Given that Danny Boyle intends on turning London’s Olympic Stadium into a traditional English country side for the opening ceremonies, a Bhangra track will fit in with the atmosphere just right.
Whether Rahman’s song for the opening ceremonies will be more traditional Punjabi folk, or a modern, remixed version is yet to be seen. Aside from his initial statements about the project, very little else has been revealed about the composition. But given his proven talent and creative history, one can expect nothing short of excellence, a feat that will, in all likely hood be unique and memorable, as Rahman never does what has already been done. The beauty in Rahman’s choice is that he steps into the shoes of British Indians, using a global forefront like the Olympics to show off the new culture Indians have forged from their past and present; a true and precise depiction of India (and South Asia) in the UK.