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A.R. Rahman Rises With M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” Outta “Slumdog”

The New Now

One of my favorite pop music stories of 2008 was how M.I.A. 's "Paper Planes" flew into the top 10 after its inclusion in the trailer and TV advertisement for Pineapple Express. The Clash-sampling jam was acclaimed by critics in the summer of 2007, when it was released on M.I.A.'s second album, Kala, but it took the TV commercial for the Seth Rogan vehicle to drive it into the mainstream consciousness.

"Paper Planes" is also heard in this year's acclaimed "raga to riches" story (thanks Bill Bentley via Roy Trakin) Slumdog Millionaire along with the score by A.R. Rahman, who is well known in his native India, but is a relatively new discovery in the U.S. (outside of foreign-film buffs, who are likely familiar with his work).

Slumdog Millionaire is not only an amazing film, it features some great music. The movie's music has already been lauded by the Foreign Press Association, which recently awarded Rahman a Golden Globe for best original score, and also by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, whose members nominated it for best score and gave it two nods for best song. "Jai Ho" features lyrics by single-named Gulzar, while "O… Saya" is Rahman's collaboration with M.I.A., who's credited as a co-writer under her full name, Maya Arulpragasam. Her N.E.E.T label released the Slumdog soundtrack in conjunction with Interscope, Celador, and Film 4. (For the record, M.I.A. was born in London, but later resided in Sri Lanka and Madras, India, the same city where Rahman was born.)

Jai Ho featuring Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah, Mahalaxmi Iyer


O... Saya featuring A.R. Rahman

The accolades for the music in Slumdog Millionaire are satisfying not only because it's an incredibly film, but because it may help Indian-influenced music receive wider recognition in the U.S.

Through the years, Indian-influenced music has occasionally seeped into the pop consciousness in the U.S. The Beatles may have been the first to utilize them way back in 1965 when George Harrison, under the influence of Ravi Shankar, played a sitar on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)." The Beatles association helped Shankar gain greater recognition in the U.S.

More than three decades later, multi-racial, London-based group Cornershop released a version of "Norwegian Wood" sung in Punjabi on its 1997 album, When I Was Born For the 7th Time. The same album also featured "Brimful Of Asha," which became a modern rock hit.

Norwegian Wood

Brimful Of Asha

Fast-forward 11 years and Indian-influenced music is once again in the spotlight, thanks to M.I.A., A.R. Rahman and Slumdog Millionaire. Here's hoping these wonderful sounds continue to gain traction in the U.S.


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