Music maestro AR Rahman says AI just a tool, confident that creativity not getting replaced

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TNIE caught up with the legendary music composer in an exclusive interview after the album was released. We asked why he wanted to do this, Why now, and more…

Rahman said the album demanded voices like Bamba Bakya and Shahul Hameed. “I felt why don’t we bring them here (since) we have the technology. Some people texted me saying it made them emotional. It made some listeners nostalgic.” 

He explained the process involved the AI model learning the singer’s voice with a dry voice recording and mimicking the version sung by a source singer. “It learns multiple songs. (Also), we need to find a singer better suited for the AI model to replicate.” 

He stressed that they have used the technology in a fair and ethical manner. “It is important to check with the family. Is the song and lyrics okay? Do they agree with the lyrics?” he explained.  

Rahman said the families agreed and were given compensation. He believed that it would benefit their families and said the makers were very respectful of the process. 

Responding to a question about fears of job losses, the singer-songwriter said, “Everybody is threatened by technology. But, the families of the singers would also benefit from it. Even if a song writer passes away, the royalty goes to the family. Like that, this gives another avenue for the families. We can say this is a good aspect about technology.”

The two singers whose voice has been revived have had a long association with the composer, and it is believed to have close personal relation with their family. 

Bamba Bakya, was introduced by AR Rahman in film music through ‘Kedakari’ song in the film Raavanan in 2010 and ‘Ponni Nadhi’ song in Ponniyin Selvan was his last work before his demise in September 2022. Known for his deep and rich voice, Bamba Bakya has a long personal association with Rahman. 

Likewise, Shahul Hameed too has worked with the musician for almost a decade and has close personal ties. It began in 1989 when both worked on a devotional album ‘Deen Isaimaalai’ even before Rahman started working in the film industry. Shahul Hameed’s famous songs include ‘Usilampatti Penkutti’ in Gentleman album, ‘Rasathi en usuru’ in Thiruda Thiruda. He died in a car crash in 1997. 

Rahman felt that AI voice models should improve more and currently it is around 60% perfect. “We should do it when it is really really right.”

The composer stressed the need for a framework for the use of artificial intelligence technology and it will evolve as it matures. “The human element and conversations in music production is important and is what makes creativity amazing. I don’t think that will go away. AI is just a tool; it has been there for a long time, even Auto-Tune has AI,” he asserted.

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