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AR Rahman, Jai Ho

As a beginning conductor working with this piece, the a capella Jai Ho by AR Rahman, and as one unfamiliar with any specifically Indian style of music, are there any broad concepts that apply to most music of the sobcontinent that I should be aware of?
Replies (4): Threaded | Chronological
on April 15, 2013 4:07pm
Having worked closely with several of Rahman's singers, my best suggestion is to scour YouTube and your local video store for his movie scores. The main thing to realize is that Indian music is codified, but normally transmitted aurally. Even then, a western transcription of Indian music is difficult.  Ethan Sperry is the master, and is my recommendation for consultation. If you'd like recommendations for diction help, etc, I'd be happy to provide them.  
(I'm writing this as I'm about to have dinner with Juhi Chawla's uncle... A major actress in Rahman's films...)
on April 24, 2013 11:00am
Thanks so much. The diction isn't such a big problem, overall. The arrangement I'm working with is by Ethan Sperry, actually, and his guide to pronunciation covers most of my questions there. Unexpectedly, the university where I'm taking the beginning conducting class that assigned me Jai Ho was just visited by Srinivas Krishnan, an Indian master percussionist. I spent a good part of a week (between when this was originally posted and now) working as a singer in a concert he was preparing and got a very bare-bones sort of feel for how music plays a role in Indian culture. My professor said something to the effect of "Western music has strength in harmony and counterpoint. But Indian music has its strength in melody." I wonder if that's a sentiment you'd agree with—?
on April 26, 2013 9:16am
I'd be very interested in hearing others' comments about the pronunciation of "Jai Ho." The Hindi speakers in my choir insisted that 'jai' should be pronounced 'jay,' despite what we hear in most performances. Thoughts?
on April 27, 2013 9:31am
There are lots of versions of this on YouTube, including from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, as well as performances with A. R. Rahman singing it at various awards shows, and to my ear, "Jai" is clearly heard in all of those as a diphthong with an [a] followed by a brief [i], so not "jay." There is another "ai" combination in the text that singers in the recordings (incluidng Rahman himself) do *not* pronounce as per the pronunciation guide on the back of Sperry's arrangement--specifically, in the word "maine" which again, I hear as the same diphthong Rahman uses for "jai" (not "ay" as in "say" or "hey"). There are, however, several occurences of the word/syllable "hai" which I think I'm hearing as "hey" so that one agrees with your Hindi speakers' suggestion.
There are other possibly problematic things in the pronunciation guide, if taken literally, such as the suggestion that a single "a" be pronounced "uh" as in bug--I certainly am not hearing Rahman or other singers from India doing that. Earthsongs sells a diction CD with a native Hindi speaker, but a question would be: did he or she first carefully listen to A. R. Rahman singing his own song? I think that's the best "guide" for how to form the words. I'm performing this today with the Phoenix Chorale, and we're going with what we hear from Rahman. Here are some YouTube links:

A R Rahman singing Jai Ho at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert

Jai Ho (audio only) from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack:
another version of the soundtrack song:
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