A visit from an Indian superstar brought Middlesex University and its students to a standstill yesterday. AR Rahman is an Indian composer, record producer, musician and singer and is probably best known as the winner of two Academy Awards for the music he wrote for the smash hit film Slumdog Millionaire.
His visit to Middlesex University in Hendon, London had two purposes. Along with Middlesex’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Driscoll, he signed a Memorandum of Understanding between his KM Music conservatory in Chennai, India and the University. AR, as he is known, was also awarded an Honorary Degree, making him a Doctor of Middlesex University, the highest honor the University can bestow.
Middlesex is an extremely popular British university throughout India and hundreds of Indian students come to study on its London campuses. When the word got out that their musical hero, AR Rahman, was coming to receive his honorary degree, excitement started to mount. When he arrived on campus, there were scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania; women screamed and men mobbed him for an autograph or just a glance in their direction!
In his speech to the University’s academics and students, AR Rahman thanked the University and said: “It is an enormous honour to belong to this great seat of learning. My journey as a musician started at the age of nine and I see music as a way to connect to spirituality and embrace it. Music touches people and breaks down barriers, creating harmony in troubled times.This has always been my philosophy”.
The Memorandum of Understanding between AR Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory and Middlesex university focuses on educational collaboration between India and the UK. The two organizations have agreed to explore the possibilities for collaboration in music and education and to support one of AR Rahman’s ‘pet projects’, that of the blending of Asian and Western musical styles.
Dr Terry Butland is Deputy Vice-Chancellor International at Middlesex University. He commented on the Memorandum of Understanding: “I can’t think of a more suitable and well placed partner for the University than AR Rahman. We are delighted to sign this Memorandum of Understanding which paves the way for what will undoubtedly be some interesting and innovative projects delivered jointly between Middlesex University and the KM Music Conservatory”. AR Rahman explained the background to the Memorandum of Understanding: “We looked at lots of universities but felt Middlesex had the right, friendly, vibe as well as its great history”
During his visit to Middlesex University, AR Rahman revealed the current projects heis working on. He is scoring a comedy film and also writing and performing on a pop album, working with a well known hip hop label, Inderscope.His KM Music Conservatory has only been open a year, but already has 200 students. When asked about what he considers to be his biggest achievement, AR says it is in film music. “As a human being I have so many interests. The Academy Awards for Slumdog Millionaire opened doors worldwide and legitimized Indian musicians”