The tribute performance and honorary doctorate presentation to AR Rahman, India’s best film composer and songwriter, on October 24, 2014, sparked enthusiasm across the Berklee campus and beyond, with tickets selling out weeks in advance.
Tickets to a concert of Rahman’s music at Boston’s Symphony Hall to collect cash for a Berklee scholarship in his name sold out six weeks before the event.
Slumdog Millionaire, The Hundred-Foot Journey, 127 Hours, and other English-language films may be recognized by American viewers, but millions of moviegoers in India and other Asian countries are lovers of Rahman’s vast repertoire of songs and scores for more than 140 films . Rahman, known as “The Mozart of Madras,” has won two Academy Prizes and numerous honors and awards in India and abroad, as well as selling 150 million records.
Rahman’s visit was made possible thanks to faculty member Annette Philip ’09 and Berklee City Music staff member Clint Valladares ’98, both of whom grew up in India. The Berklee India Exchange, which develops mentorships and cultural ties between Berklee students and leading figures in the Indian entertainment business, was founded by Philip and Valladares. Philip also acted as the music director and pianist for a concert featuring Rahman’s music, which featured 90 Berklee students, staff, and dancers. The concert’s coproducers, Philip and Valladares, were part of a team that helped make the event a success.
The show included 16 vocal and instrumental performances, as well as five medleys from various movie soundtracks. From the first beat, the audience was mesmerized by Rahman’s unique melodies and instrumentation. The composer was featured on the opening track, the Bombay theme, performing the tune on the Continuum Fingerboard synthesizer controller with a breathy wooden flute patch. The instrument’s keyed, touch-sensitive surface allowed Rahman to add vibrato, swooping glissandi, and other important musical elements in between the pitches of the equal-tempered scale.
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