One of India's most acclaimed composers, A R Rahman, has launched the country's first fully-fledged symphony orchestra.

While a name and structure for the orchestra have yet to be finalized, the set-up is to be fully operational over the next two years and will include both Indian and Western musicians.

Making the announcement in his hometown of Chennai in South India, Rahman said, "Whenever I want to compose for an orchestra, I have to go to London or Budapest. There is so much talent in India, but we have no symphony orchestra."

The orchestra, which Rahman hopes will introduce Indian music-lovers to "opera and concert as entertainment," was unveiled alongside the launch of Rahman's K M Conservatory, a professional music school which will open in June in the outskirts of Chennai.

The school is a collaboration with Chennai-based Audio Media Education, an Apple Computer-authorized training center, and will concentrate on instrumental and vocal music, both Indian and Western.

Rahman is one of India's most successful film composers, whose credits include Shekhar Kapur's "Elizabeth - The Golden Age" and the recent Bollywood epic production "Jodhaa Akbar" (UTV Music). The 1991 breakthrough South Indian soundtrack for "Roja" (Madras Talkies), on which he worked, was included in Time Magazine's 2005 listing of the Top 100 film soundtracks of all time.

Rahman has composed West End musicals "The Lord of the Rings" and "Bombay Dreams" (with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber). His international projects also include the "Raga's Dance" track on Vanessa Mae's 2004 album "Choreography" (Sony BMG).

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