Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Ethereal Evening - A R Rahman Live in Concert at Bangalore

I was there for the A R Rahman Live in Concert, in Bengaluru Palace Grounds on 29th May 2011, Sunday. It was a wonderful event. Here are some thoughts from soon after. (Red links go to YouTube).

If you are one of those 'balanced', 'cat-on-the-wall' types, who wants to consider multiple perspectives in any discussion and arrive at a conclusion after many rounds of diplomacy, this post is too early for you. You should read my earlier post on Rahman's Top 10, follow each of those 30 text links to the music pieces, listen to all of them, attend the next Rahman Live event, and then come back and read this post. This is all about unabashed, extremely biased, praise of Rahman's music, so you may need to check if you are a worthy disciple of it. :) :) I have an eccentricity to overdo these things and I have no intention to correct course. :)

There is a generation who grew up with Rahman's music. If you were a teenager or a college-goer when one of the movies were released, Roja , Rangeela, Rhythm, Rang De Basanti or Robot, you can't miss the music's charm. Even though all those were released at different years in the last two decades, if you had listened to one of them, you would want to go back or forth and listen to the others. In the history of Indian filmy music, it is as if, there is a pre-Roja and a post-Roja era. Thank you Mani Ratnam for that path-breaking offer, for the risk you took with a then upcoming composer, it was well worth it and more. May be, it was a time that people were looking for a different kind of music, a type of music that wasn't entirely western and not entirely Carnatic or Hindustani either. May be, there was a segment of youth, who went to the Music Sabhas because their parents went, but, in addition to that taste, were ready to take to a different type of rich music, if it was given to them. And then Rahman came like a fragrant breeze into the musical scene. He took the music world by storm through his charm. Depending on what you were thinking, there was a music for the mood. It can be pleasant or peppy, fast-track or melodious, melancholic or romantic, patriotic, punjabi or pettai rap, you have all kinds in his discography of two decades. Wherever you were, one song looped endlessly, only to be interrupted with another which will then take over.

Rahman's music is global material. It's just that world took time to catch up. That's also why I like it when he collaborates with foreign artists. To be honest, I am not too fascinated by those collaborative numbers, I think Just The Rahman has got enough potential to take the entire cake, on his own, but from a different angle, thats the way to go. Rahman is excellent at bringing different types of music together to create a piece, that will keep it attractive to all those respective audiences and yet introduce to them something new. This cross-cultural symphony in music requires him to encounter different kinds of music from the different regions and he would get global, today, tomorrow or some day soon. Let's release him from the small boundaries of this Chennai and this Bollywood and this India, let him conquer the world. :) The world is his next stop and there is no stopping him. Which is one of the reasons I wanted to attend the concert in Bangalore. If he goes to Hollywood, I am not sure whether they will give him back to us. :) :)

At the Palace Grounds in Bangalore that day, the musical evening turned out to be ethereal. I have a sluggish tendency to go slow and take it cool on the show host's buildup intros. 'How are youuuu, Bengalurooo, Are y'all ready to rock the grounds... Put your hands together' and the 'Yaaaa-Hooooo' response from the audience n all, Hmmm. But, Dil Se, one of my favorites, which arrived second, changed all that, made me sit up and warm up to the treat that was to follow. I had loved 'Poraley Ponnuthayee' from Karuthamma and therefore, it's peppy sibling Chanda Sooraj Lakhon Taarey became familiar but equally lovable in due course. 'What are you waiting for, another sign, another call, someway we have to find a new way to peace', were my favorite looping lines from the 'Gurus of Peace' number from Vande Mataram.

Ye Jo Des He Tera can stop the traffic, wherever you hear it. Rahman's rendering was as fantastic and flawless as it was in Swades. When Jaaney Tu Ya Jaaney Na released, it was an instant heart-throb of the youth, so you could see the audience in the Palace Grounds, connect to it so quickly as soon the song started. Rahman's working together with Gautam Menon had to produce a masterpiece, there was no other way and so Hosanna from VTV, kept the entire crowd, gently swaying, right from the beginning to end, as the music filled the air through the loudspeakers. If you didn't sway for it, okay, grow up atleast now.

I also discovered, that I am not as full-fledged a fan of Rahman as I claim to be. There were real, hardcore, extraordinary fans who kept the Rahman's song lists in their fingertips and rolled out at the least hint or hum. I might have failed to keep track some of the recent pieces, and might have been sticking on to the old glory, I thought. I noticed that the Enthiran song threw the crowd to sheer raptures, the reason was the same as, why the Rangeela song had the same effect on me.

Every song had a different digital video backdrop, that was excellent, carefully chosen and of high quality. The songs,Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Maula Maula, had a very soothing rendition with Rahman, in a befitting costume playing the harmonium and a digital backdrop of a richly engraved mosque architecture. It was very thoughtfully and tastefully done.

There are some songs that are the solid defining runaway hits at these concerts. They are the real Oscar or even-higher award winners in the minds of the masses of listeners. The actual flag-hoisters of Rahman's success story. They are so impactful, they are welcomed even if someone else sings it at some other concert, and so much occupy your mindspace that the hum doesn't spare you whether you are in the bathroom or in the bedroom. When these songs began, or even before they began, when there was a buildup to it, the crowd begins to get into a frenzy. You know it is getting into a madness, a craze, (Okay, an Aware Madness, if you are also aware of it). It is as if a spirit has possessed the entire ground and wants to release itself by dancing, shouting and joining in the chorus and singing along. The Humma Song from Bombay, the Muqabla Song from Kadhalan, the Chikku Bukku Rayiley from Gentleman were chartbusters then and they are still the same now, after a decade. Oh, how they clapped and swayed and jumped and danced for those !! For the tamilians in the multicultural, metropolitan Bengaluru, the Pettai Rap song was alone enough to make their day, it sent them into a tizzy. They savoured every one of those words, whether or not the sentences had any meanings, who needed them anyway ? :) :)

We all know that Shivamani unleashed is difficult to contain, and apart from taking the blockbuster songs to their original glory, his musical mischief this time was the drums effect with two rods tapping on the ground combined with foot-tapping. It was good. It was entirely appropriate that they got Lataji to sing 'Lukka Chuppi' over a video recording in a digital background with Rahman chipping in for his part live. Their original partnership for the Rang De Basanti song is irreplaceable and it was an absolutely soulful rendering. The award-winning Jai Ho was there too.

Roobaroo was definitely a wonderful fitting finale for the event. The song that marked Naresh Iyer's hindi debut with Rahman, won him the National Award and shot him to fame. Of course, nowadays, it has become fashionable to mention youth and anti-corruption in the same sentence for every event, like pickle in any meal. So the buildup on 'will you raise your voice against corruption' was a bit ordinary. But, allowing that, what better movie than Rang De Basanti to catch the fervour, patriotism and dynamism of the youth ? Oh, How many times I have watched and re-watched the discussion scenes for the screenplay... The amazing rendition of the song, to the gentle sway of the audience, merged smoothly into a snippet of the Vande Mataram piece, with a tricolour digital background. What a way to end the day !! Ethereal, Enthralling and Extraordinary.

I had my little share of petty disappointments, though.
How-many-ever blockbuster songs they sing, and they can't sing all of them at every concert, you always look forward to your personal favorite list and want to hear them being sung. I badly wanted Vellai Pookal from Kannathil Muthamittal to be sung, really. What a calming effect the song has... I totally love the Rahman Live in Los Angeles DVD, so I should admit these observations are strongly influenced by that liking. I know there may be so many parameters involved in the selection, the dates etc, but then, we have our sighs, no ? I missed, Chaiya chaiya, Jiya jaley, Chinna chinna asai and Patchai niramey. I definitely missed Shankar Mahadevan ( for the energy in Kay Sera Sera and the turns in Sandhana Thendralai ) , SPB (for that fantastic delivery of Oruvan oruvan mudhalali ) , Sadhana Sargam, Sujatha and Kavitha Subramaniam. I would have really loved to listen to Maduraikku Pogatheydee, the recent looping favorite I have discovered. I wanted Barso Re by Shreya Ghoshal, only by her and by none else. Okay, let me admit this is too much greed, I can't want all the best of two decades of musical genius together in a 3-hour live programme, thats unfair about me.

Earlier in the afternoon, some of the Rahman fans got together at an orphanage in Bangalore, at Anatha Shishu Sevashrama, for some service activity, which I had joined in, too. Food Distribution was arranged. They had some games for the kids. Agam, a band from Bangalore, sang a few songs for the kids. Yes, they did begin very appropriately with Vellai Pookal, which I was waiting for. The orphanage visit was a very satisfying experience. "We like 'Jai Ho' and 'Kadhal Anukkal' from Rahman Sir's songs very much", they said. Kannada songs sprouted quickly during the Anthakshari. One boy rocked the stage with his dance moves as the band played. Another, rather unassuming boy, went on to win a concentration game that they played. It was nice to see their fascination for the cameras which some of the fans carried and it was so gracious of the fans to share them with the kids and teach them how to take the pictures. After they had had the meal, when they asked, 'When are you coming next again ?', I didn't have an answer. But then they said, 'Some akkas from the Rahman fans group have told us they will come again after few days and spend time with us again'. I am sure there will be some follow-up action.

Now this post has got me all excited, I have to watch Rang De Basanti, one last 976-th time. :)


  1. Hi Srinivasan, It was great reading through the post and you have almost brought the event live in front of the eyes..

  2. Dear brother,
    Fantastic article.. u ve brought the true Rahmaniac feel..

    "It is as if a spirit has possessed the entire ground and wants to release itself by dancing, shouting and joining in the chorus and singing along."

    Loved the above as i experienced the same durin last yr chennai's concert.! Temptd to read all ur blogs..! Thanks a lot bro...



Thank you for your comments....

THANK YOU: These reflections draw sometimes from readers and friends who initiate ideas, build up discussions, post comments and mention interesting links, some online and some over a cup of coffee or during a riverside walk. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this blog are the blogger's personal opinions and made in his individual capacity, sometimes have a story-type approach, mixing facts with imagination and should not be construed as arising from a professional position or a counselling intention.