‘Why not make beautiful jobs like these’

Jarshad NK | Updated on January 23, 2018


The Sunshine Orchestra creates music and jobs, one of the biggest challenges: AR Rahman

How did the idea to start the Sunshine Orchestra come up?

I think it’s a 40’s syndrome, where you feel you are going to die and before that you have to do something good (laughs). I had heard rumours about so many people starting a school but nothing really happened. Our session orchestra has really been amazing, but I never saw anybody who wanted their sons or daughters to become musicians. The children all became doctors or engineers… so they worked very hard to ensure that their kids didn’t take up music which I thought was a good thing but not good for music. When I started the KM Conservatory (his music school) most of the kids came in for piano or composition or voice courses. Not many people took up strings because it is a hard instrument and it needs commitment. And the decision of staying loyal to the art of strings playing - I never trusted that a kid from an upper middle class family would be in it. That’s when I thought like ‘what am I doing, we have a wealth of music’. People are people and in the eyes of God everybody is equal. We say that but we never see people believing in it. At that point of time, I really felt that this is the universal truth.

How was the initial experience?

We started and then stumbled on for two-three years. Nothing moved because there were lots of communication problems. We had a lovely lady from Scotland and we had some people from Czech Republic… all trying to teach the kids the basics but it went over their heads. They were poles apart. And one day I was hearing them (The Sunshine Orchestra) and I was so frustrated that I felt like I failed completely. Then something told me that there’s something lacking here… there was lack of proper communication. I felt that a committed person should mentor and then I was looking at Srinivasa Murthy because when he takes up something he is always very very committed and loyal to that job. And then from then there was a miraculous change happened. I could see the kids smiling. He almost adopted them as his own children and you can see the difference now. He made them play in recordings and in concerts. They have now come to a level where they can play in Chennai. Now we want them to go to the international level.

Why did you name it Sunshine Orchestra?

I was toying with many names like Marina, and then I thought what is so common in Chennai. All four seasons (in Chennai) have sunshine (laughs). So even if rains come, it is there for two days or three days, it’s a rarity. So Chennai means sunshine. So why not Sunshine Orchestra, because this is from Chennai.

What’s your vision for the Sunshine Orchestra?

It is to develop and spread. So we have one in every metro in the country. There is the joy of hearing the music that the orchestra makes and then it creates jobs, which is one of the biggest challenges in our country. So why not make beautiful jobs like these.

These days musicians can collaborate across geographies, so is there really a need to have such orchestra?

You are talking about India and India has 1.3 billion people living in it. Why should we go to some other country? I actually want musicians from other countries to come and record here. Of course, there are certain things we should share with the world. We should share our knowledge with the world just as we shared yoga with the world. Similarly they share their knowledge with us. We shouldn’t be dependent on them. We should not have anything against anybody. But we should be independent.

And what do you think are the challenges going forward?

There will be a lot of financial challenges. You know for giving them more expert training. I am strengthening my foundation now and I think that will help a lot to meet the financial challenges. It’s the AR Rahman Foundation that helped me in making this a reality. But you can’t only think of money. You can’t think like that… money, money, money. Money goes.

- Ja rshad NK

Published on May 11, 2015

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