A R Rahman says using AI in music ‘has to serve a purpose’

The use of technology cannot be “gimmicky” and should be done with proper permissions, says music maestro AR Rahman, who has used Artificial Intelligence (AI) software to recreate the voices of late singers Bamba Bakya and Shahul Hameed for a new track.

Rahman is happy that artificial intelligence technology, which is a hot-button issue in the world with many looking at it with a mix of awe and fear, allowed him to bring back the voices of his friends and past collaborators of many songs.

“(You should do it) Only when you really need it and only when you can do it. It should not be half-baked. It is not a gimmick, it’s an effect and has to serve the purpose,” Rahman told PTI news agency. The Oscar-winning musician said when he and his team decided to use AI, they knew it was important to have the consent of the two singers’ families.

Bakya and Hameed are credited as playback singers for the track “Thimiri Yezhuda” in ‘Lal Salaam’, directed by Rajinikanth’s daughter Aishwarya Rajinikanth. The film is scheduled to be released in theatres on February 9.

“We went to the families, asked permission, and they were overwhelmed and the compensation was given. These are all personality assets that they’ve given to the family. It’s their right to say yes or no. In this case, they said yes and we used it. There’s nothing objectionable for me because we took the legit permission,” he added.

Bakya, who crooned popular numbers such as the latest “Ponni Nadhi” in Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan, died in September 2022 at the age of 42. He had also sung the tracks “Pullinangal” from Rajinikanth’s 2.0, “Kalame Kalame” from Vijay’s Bigil, and “Simtarangaran” from Sarkar.

He cautioned that people in leadership positions should be careful about the ethical use of technology. “Any technology should not harm humanity. It should only enhance or better our way of work. Even if it takes one job away, it’s not worth it. There will be good people and there will be bad people. Good people will do it in a legit way, the bad people would think, ‘How can I avoid all the stuff and take that money?’ So there is conscience involved.”

Image courtesy of AR Rahman/Facebook

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