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No need to fear AI, says Indian music legend

Indian composer A.R. Rahman at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah Red Sea Film Festival
Indian composer A.R. Rahman at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah
  • Red Sea Film Festival appearance
  • Human input ‘invaluable’
  • New tech always evolving

New technologies such as artificial intelligence should be embraced, famed Indian composer A.R. Rahman said at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah this week. 

“It’s not new… human beings are constantly evolving, they will rise up to something that they can do.”

AI has become something of a bogeyman in people’s minds, but the award-winning musician believes it is no different to the rise of Midi piano-style keyboards in the 1980s, which allowed people to create music at home.

“They’re saying it’ll scare musicians, that they’ll lose their jobs, but I think taste has improved, the way they record things has improved, the way the sound is heard has improved, the atmosphere, so the demands of human input are invaluable.” 

The Tamil-origin musician from Madras won the 2008 Oscar for best original score for the movie Slumdog Millionaire and best original song for Jai Ho and is known for being at the forefront of developing new sounds in popular Indian music, which he has merged with other genres. 

Creative industries have been struggling with how rapid advances in AI could impact issues from copyright to plagiarism and innovation and this was one of the contentious issues during the recent Hollywood strikes. 

Allah Rakha Rahman made his directorial debut with Le Musk, which debuted at Cannes last year as a virtual reality film whose sights and sounds can be experienced using an immersive chair created by US firm Positron. 

“There are many stories that have not been told, there are many ways of filmmaking that have not been explored,” he said, speaking on the red carpet on December 5. 

Rahman – who converted to Sufi Islam at a young age – was in Jeddah with Emirati director Nayla Al Khaja for the screening of her film Three. Al Khaja’s next film, Bab, is set to feature Rahman’s music, using an all-women orchestra he has mentored in Dubai called Firdaus. 

“It’s important that each culture supports movies because when people understand the culture they respect the culture, then all the divisiveness that happens in the world will disappear because people see us as humans,” he said. 

In 2022 Rahman was also the third most streamed artist on Spotify in India, with hits from Bollywood films going back three decades. 

“Things are going the TikTok way,” he joked, when asked about current trends in music, adding there was no reason to fear new technologies. He praised Western electronic dance music (EDM) and the use of autotune in the Egyptian pop style known as ‘mahraganat’. 

“People are very creative and they find their own space. When I started 32 years back we had to programme the drums, the bass and the guitar, loops were available and companies were putting out combinations of stuff,” he said. “Nothing is wrong as long as you create something good.”

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