The successful Indian singer and musician, Rashid Ali, visited College on 20th June to deliver a lecture and concert. The visit had been the suggestion of Qayum Baig (‘Q’, the School’s specialist graphics media technician), who is the uncle of Rashid’s wife. 'Q' thought that students would benefit from hearing about Rashid’s experience in the Bollywood music and film industry, and within the music industry internationally. Rashid spent the morning with students, showing videos and explaining how he put particular songs together and the technicalities of music production. John Dey, Music Course Tutor, said, “It was great for the students to learn from someone from such a diverse musical background.”
Rashid then invited students and staff throughout the School of Arts & Media to enjoy a lunchtime concert in the Henry Mitchell Hall, where he played hits and new material, in Indian and in English. Those in the audience who were new to his music felt just as enthusiastic as his most ardent fans by the end, as his voice, guitar playing, song writing and unassuming charm delighted everyone. Lecturer Suzie Griffiths spoke for many when she commented, “He was absolutely fabulous. His music and his voice really touched me and I found his performance very emotional. I was watching the students’ faces and they were mesmerised. I will buy his album as soon as it comes out here.”
After the concert, Rashid spoke of his new album and mentor. He said, “I have made my first album Call Me Rashid, which is out in India and will be released in the UK soon. It was produced by A R Rahman, the Indian music legend, who discovered me. I met him in London at a charity concert in 2001 when he was doing Bombay Dreams with Andrew Lloyd Webber. We spoke about how my mother was an Asian singer under the tutelage of a master of Indian classical music, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan, and that he had also been his pupil. When he asked what kind of music I was interested in, and I told him jazz and fusion, it was not what he expected, so he was interested to hear my stuff. I started working with him and toured with him from 2001 until 2008. I did a couple of Bollywood movies which were huge in India and I have written lots of things."
He continued, "I was born in India but only lived there for a few months before my mother moved to the UK, so I was brought up in Reading. I never thought that I would be singing for Bollywood movies! My music was not the typical bhangra or Indian classical but was a mix of flamenco, jazz, Arabic and Indian music. Another unusual aspect is that I am totally self-taught. I think that I brought something new to Bollywood music because I wasn’t typical but brought lots of world music influences. I have just finished a project with Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and I have also been working with an Egyptian musician.”
Another delightful aspect with the visit was the connection with A R Rahman, who is on the academic advisory board of Whistling Woods International, and recently performed at their prestigious festival Cinema 100, celebrating the centenary of Indian cinema. Following the successful collaboration between the Photography students at the School of Arts & Media and animation students from WWI, which produced the multi award winning short film, The Music of Life, additional curriculum areas in the two institutions are now working together on exciting new projects. Trevor Griffiths, Head of Photography and Associate Director of Projects & Innovation, has been leading this initiative, and he has recently been made an Honorary Professor at Whistling Woods and joined their advisory board.