Early life and influences
A. R. Rahman was born to R. K. Shekhar, a Hindu Tamilian Mudaliar who was a composer, and conductor for Malayalam-language films. His father was a famous music director in Kerala. But he did not get enough opportunities there. His father died when Rahman was nine years old, and his family rented out musical equipment as a source of income. His family converted to Islam from Hinduism in the late 1970s.
During these early years, Rahman served as a keyboard player and an arranger in bands such as "Roots" and "Nemesis Avenue" with friends including Sivamani, embracing numerous music genres. He played the keyboard and piano, in addition to, among others, the synthesizer, the harmonium and the guitar. His curiosity in the synthesizer in particular increased because, he says, it was the “ideal combination of music and technology".He began early training in music under Master Dhanraj. At the age of 11, he joined, as a keyboardist, the troupe of Ilaiyaraaja, one of many composers to whom musical instruments belonging to Rahman's father were rented to. Rahman later played in the orchestra of M. S. Viswanathan and Ramesh Naidu, accompanied Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship to Trinity College of Music in London, where he graduated with a degree in Western classical music.