Kohima: World-renowned musician AR Rahman, on the eve of gracing the closing ceremony of the Hornbill Festival as guest of honour, visited the Kohima Orphanage and Destitute Home at Bypass, Kohima in Nagaland on Monday. A room full of children sang the song, ‘Welcome to the family’, as he entered the hall.
Welcoming Rahman and his team, Theja Meru, adviser, Task force for Music and Arts (TaFMA), briefed him about the orphanage and how it has been in existence for over 50 years. He also announced that 20 children were selected to be part of Rahman’s Sunshine Orchestra.
Children from the orphanage also took the opportunity to perform in front of the maestro, and even presented a group mashup song.
Excerpts from an interview:
EastMojo: How has the experience been so far in Nagaland?
AR Rahman: It’s a place which I wanted to come for a long time. When I got the invitation by the honourable chief minister, I was very moved and I was very excited. We also wanted to tie up with the children of Nagaland and exchange musical ideas. We wanted to teach whatever knowledge we have and exchange those knowledge. So I come here as a first step to see these amazing children. They all look so talented, already they are singing in pitch and I was really moved watching their performance.
EM: What is your purpose of visiting the orphanage?
ARR: Actually, I don’t want to reveal but I’ll reveal. I have started a conservatory back in Chennai, also educate the underprivileged. We have something called the Sunshine Orchestra where we educate children from low-income families and they are part of my troupe now. They have played in the UN, played in Singapore and all of these places with us and they are part of my recording soundtrack. So I wanted to extend that family with these children, five to six years, hopefully they will be part of my… you know…
For India to have a musical heritage, we need to do this and bring them to mainstream and show the rest of the world how amazing the Naga kids are.
EM: You have a very soft side for children, any special reason?
ARR: I think they are the future. You know in this cycle of life, children become the future leaders and if we give them the right nurturing, knowledge and support, they could help this country to become the very best. My very small way, I started the foundation, for the past 15 years it’s been running and we feel like empowering children with knowledge and other facilities. By the grace of God we also proved that we brought a whole young generation in music. One of our piano players has won the world’s best CBS one million dollars and all that is happening but the real happiness is to come to a place like this and bring them up because everybody needs somebody, as an inspiration to the rest.
EM: You will be gracing the closing ceremony as the special guest tomorrow. What are your expectations?
ARR: I am actually very open. I don’t know much about it. I just saw a book today, because I have been busy. I’ve been travelling to LA. I just landed from LA. I took the flight this morning and came here.
But my main purpose was to see these kids and rest of the stuff, of course [it’s] exciting, but this [visit] was my main purpose.
EM. Will you be performing at the Hornbill Festival?
ARR: No, I am just a guest. I will probably come back again, and with them [children] maybe — in a few years.
EM. What message will you give to music enthusiasts?
ARR: I think everybody should keep their culture. And then move forward too… in technology, in knowledge and also inclusiveness. I’ve been seeing the folk dances, tribal dances of Nagaland on Doordarshan for many years. And now I’ve come to this place. It’s amazing to see all of you in real, and especially these kids.
My thing is, don’t be limited by the walls created. Knowledge is sky high and there’s no end to the knowledge in this domain. So just seek it always. Knowledge is the best.
Rahman later headed to the Chief Minister’s new residence at Secretariat. Upon his arrival to the state in Dimapur, he broadcasted a live footage of his journey from Dimapur enroute Kohima with the caption “Welcome to Nagaland #”.
Meanwhile taking to twitter, chief minister Neiphiu Rio wrote: “Welcome to #Nagaland, Dr. A.R. Rahman @arrahman. I hope you have a memorable experience at the #HornbillFestival2019. #FestivalOfFestivals. #ekbharatshreshthabharat”.