Sunday, November 18, 2007

AR Rahman - Yeh Dil Maange More

What would you need to do if you wanted to listen to AR Rahman, Hariharan, Chitra, Kailash Kher and Rapper Blaze in Delhi. You had to go to the mega concert that was held last evening in Delhi. I was there rubbing shoulders withthe 25,000 fans who ranged from six year olds to their grandparents - children below five years old were not allowed in. I don't know why since the adults around were making enough racket anyway.

The show raises the basic question as to why one should go to see a live concert when you could listen to the same tracks in the quiet confines of your home on the stereo. Why jostle through crowds and listen to the same stuff. Just so that you see the show live. So the shows need to be lively to make it worth the fans time and money. It is rather difficult to have quality acoustics in an open air stadium to match what you can hear in your own living room's music system.

I used to always have this question when I used to see Lata Mangeshkar perform on stage. She is a great singer but a terrible entertainer. AR Rahman came across as an immensely talented composer who has yet to make the transition to being a huge entertainer. He is an artiste who just focuses on creating great music and leaves the flash and glitz to others. I love the way he has transformed the face of Bollywood music by bringing in new sounds and singers with each venture.

When the concert started with Rahman singing the operatic overture from the film Guru
"Jage hain der tak hamein kuchh der soney do
Thodi si raat aur hai subah to hone do.
Adhe adhure khwab jo pure na ho sake
Ek bar phir se neend mein woh khwab boney do".

Translated that would mean
"I have been up till late, let me sleep till the morning
Let me start dream again and complete those incomplete plans"

As Rahman's voice joined Chitra's in singing this overture, I got goosebumps at the thought of hearing the maestro sing. Rahman's music draws inspiration from world music. While this song draws on Italian Opera, when you hear another composition Maiyya Maiyya from the same film, the influence of Turkish music seep through like the unmistakable notes of rich Turkish Coffee.

For me the highlight was to see the legendary Sivamani perform. Anandan Sivamani (born 1959) - the percussionist was wearing his trademark bandana. He created magic with the solo performance where he drummed without missing a beat even as he twirled his drumsticks and threw them in the air as the double bass drum thumped away. He has in the past, used even the humble wok used to make biriyani, to create music!! He has a musical group called Shraddha where he makes music with Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, and Mandolin Srinivas. According his official website

"Siva was adept with his drumsticks even at the tender age of 7 and went on to give his first stage performance at the age of 12. "

He led a troupe of twenty dhols to give us a glimpse of a track from the yet unreleased Bollywood film Jodha Akbar.

Allah Rakha Rahman was born AS Dilip Kumar on 6th January 1967 and has played keyboards for Ilaiyaraja. He has a degree in Western Classical Music from the Trinity College of Music at Oxford University. Last evening he played his hits from Hindi, Tamil and even English compositions. We got glimpses of Rahman playing the synthesizer and even a grand piano. The only thing that jarred was the sound system that was truly awful. The system did not do justice to the master of music. We go to see a concert to be entertained and not to hear what we already have heard through a CD. Stage performances are about entertainment. That's an opportunity for the fans to see the artiste as a larger than life figure. It is all about playing to the gallery. Rahman lets his music do the talking and the only time he stepped up to admonish someone trying to surreptitiously record the show, he showed his human face. The entertainer to watch out for is Naresh Iyer who sang "I am a Rebel" and showed that he will leave a mark even while sharing the stage with Rahman.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Promo No Mo

For the last couple of years (well, it almost seems like forever) I have been subjected to this endless stream of promos of two films - Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. The beautiful people were all over the television channels. Heck... who paid for the promo budgets of these films? Bill Gates and Mukesh Ambani ? Two rich dudes promoting two film promos. Me thinks that is very likely.

It all began few years back by a grand announcement. We were told that this year on Friday 9th November 2007, two new stars are going to be born. It is not as if we are running two humans short on this planet. Yet we have to all make place for Sonam and Ranbir Kapoor. After all they are both pedigreed stars the media told us. He is Rishi Kapoor's son - no mention of Neetu Singh. Ranbir Kapoor looks to be more of the Neetu Singh clan than Raj Kapoor. Cut to the music. We have all been hearing the title song a million times a day so much that even I can sing the first fifteen seconds of that song "Saawariyah ah ah ahh... Saawariya ah aa a Saawariya". My neighbor's precocious twelve year old showed me how I had to do some shadow boxing while I sang this song. "Ranbir is cute... I think... my sister likes him, but Shah Rukh has more fans. All my sisters friends and their moms loves Shah Rukh. So more people will see OSO." Here is a budding critic's summary of market research.

I admit I am not much into creepy crawlies. Every now and then while I surf the channels I will come across a promo of Saawariya that ends with creepy crawlies emerging out of the artwork. Some channels have these creepy crawlies hanging discreetly behind the channel logo. IS OSO better than S'a? Is Deepika cuter than Sonam?? Is SRK's six pack for real or is it courtesy Photoshop? The nation is truly grappling with serious issues like these.

OK these promos have been successful in building awareness but guys gimme a break. I can't watch the news channel without running into some blatant infomercial. All news bulletins end with the two film's revenues being discussed in the same breath as the nation's GDP. Promo - no mo.