'Rahman and I share a mutual respect'

Jan 23, 2012, 06:40 IST | Surekha S

Their association dates back to 12 years. Renowned conductor Matt Dunkley and iconic musician AR Rahman performed together in India for the first time last Saturday when the German Film Orchestra Bablesberg recreated the maestro's music on stage. Dunkley chats up with Surekha S about the performance, his experiences and the Indian music legend

As over 50 performers took to the stage for the preview of Classical Incantations at the NCPA, the atmosphere was overwhelming, almost mesmeric.

British conductor Matt Dunkley conducting the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg at the preview of Classical Incantations at the NCPA. Pics/ Nimesh Dave

Matt Dukley conducted a 15-minute performance with practiced ease, as members of the German Film Orchestra Bablesberg performed with students from the KM Music Conservatory, founded by Rahman.

Rahman, who was thrilled to watch his students perform said later, "It's for the first time that these students have performed on such a large stage." As he walked on stage and took a bow along with Matt, the rapport and chemistry was unmistakable.

The concert Classic Incantations: The German Film Orchestra Babelsberg performs AR Rahman, was held for a select audience on Saturday.

AR Rahman with Matt Dunkley

It was part of the Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities, a programme series that is celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations between India and Germany. Excerpts from an interview with Matt Dunkley on the eve of his first performance in India.

How did your first collaboration with Rahman happen?
It was about 12 years ago, when Rahman was in London for the Bombay Dreams project. He was also working on the film, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, and needed a conductor and an arranger. It was my first collaboration with Rahman; we worked on the underscores for the film.

Since then, did you decide to continue to collaborate with Rahman?
He decided to work with me. He contacted me for other projects and I was very happy to work with him. We have worked on many films together. Our initial relationship was due to music, but now we are friends. We have great respect for each other.

Having worked on numerous Bollywood projects, how is it that you have never been to India?
I'm a conductor and I never had an orchestra in India. Besides, Rahman is always on the road, travelling to different places. So, I didn't need to visit India to work with him.

You have been conducting a Western Classical orchestra. What sort of a challenge was it to work with Indian music and compositions?
Indian music is more complicated. The rhythms are a bit difficult. But, if you put good music in front of a good musician, he will do something wonderful with it. Many of the musicians in the orchestra have performed Indian music for the first time. But, it was great fun and they kept at it till they got perfect.

Has Indian music influenced your compositions?
Yes, it has. I have begun to understand Indian ragas and now, when I compose, I tend to use them in my work. I was working on a show in Europe, and when I felt I was stuck I started looking up Indian ragas (breaks into a laugh).

This being the first time, you are visiting India, what all do you want to see here?
I want to see everything. But, given the two weeks I have here, I guess that would be impossible. But, I surely want to get the flavour of the country.

This concert is part of a celebration of Indo-German ties. Do you think music can play a role in strengthening inter-country relations?
For sure. After all, any cultural exchange is great. Sharing music is simple and important.

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