Monday, February 23, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire's best original song

It seems we have finally passed that era when the Academy Awards would hand out Oscars for Best Original Song to such sweeping and sentimental ballads as CAN YOU FEEL THE LOVE TONIGHT, YOU MUST LOVE ME, and MY HEART WILL GO ON. In more recent years, the statuettes have been given to less predictable but more cut through pieces of music. Consider these: Eminem's LOSE YOURSELF (8 Mile), Jorge Drexler's AL OTRO LADO DEL RIO (Motorcycle Diaries), Melissa Etheridge's I NEED TO WAKE UP (An Inconvenient Truth), and most recently A.R. Rahman's JAI HO (Slumdog Millionaire). How refreshing.

While Rahman has become wildly popular in his native India, he has managed to stay relatively under the radar in the international scene, but breaking through in the 2001 flick LAGAAN (a lavish musical epic which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars). He has since scored such diverse works as WARRIORS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH (a Mandarin language film), ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE, and the stage productions of BOMBAY DREAMS (as commissioned by Andrew Lloyd Weber), and THE LORD OF THE RINGS (with Finnish folk music band Varttina).

Rahman's success can perhaps be attributed to his wide range and versatility. Although he has a degree in Western classical music, he is exceptionally skilled in Carnatic and Hindustani music, and entertains a natural affection for rock, jazz and reggae. Through all these musical genres, he has developed a curiosity for the synthesizer, which he believes imbibes the perfect combination of music and technology--an interest Rahman pursued in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

The movie's Oscar-winning song, JAI HO, is an inventive blend of Bollywood pop and European dance, making it both local and universal, with world music charm and mainstream appeal. Ironically, the tune was written for another movie but was rejected for that production. Fortunate for us, it received a second lease in life through SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, and so now we can all bob our heads as the Indians do while we listen.

Here, from the Mozart of Madras A.R. Rahman, is JAI HO:

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