Slumdog Millionaire score composer A.R. Rahman says he listens to Umm Kulthum

Slumdog Millionaire score composer A.R. Rahman says he listens to Umm Kulthum
Renowned Indian composer A.R. Rahman told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site that he is a fan of traditional Arab music
2 min read
15 December, 2021
Indian composer A.R. Rahman has received accolades from all over the world for his work [Getty]

Oscar-winning Indian composer A.R. Rahman, best known for writing the musical score of Slumdog Millionaire, has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site that he listens to Egyptian musical legend Umm Kulthum.

Rahman told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that he was "not very familiar" with Arab music, but that he listens to "Umm Kulthum, music from old Arab movies, and some works rich in maqam", referring to the melodic modes of classical Arabic music.

Arab friends introduced him to the work of "amazing" Egyptian composer and pianist Omar Khairat, he said.

Rahman was heavily influenced by Sufism and converted to Islam when he was in his early twenties. He said Sufi music "stimulates his imagination".

Rahman, from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, has been composing music since the 1980s.

He shot to international fame by writing the score for the film Slumdog Millionaire, which won him a plethora of awards in 2009, including two Oscars, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA.

He was nominated for similar awards in 2011, this time for writing the score to 127 Hours, which starred James Franco.

Rahman was in Egypt earlier this month for the Cairo Film Festival, where he was given an award for his achievements in cinema and music.

But the celebrated composer told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that awards are not the most important reward for his work.

"When I work on my music, I don’t think about what award I will get," he said. "All that matters to me is being able to deliver an amazing piece of music.”

Egyptian musician Umm Kulthum is widely regarded to be one of the greatest Arab singers in modern history. Musical greats worldwide have cited her as an inspiration and her funeral procession in Cairo attracted a reported 4 million people.