A. R. Rahman’s marvel of light and sound – but where’s the music? (part 1)

AR Rahman was supposed to be in the Bay Area in early summer and with great difficulty seats were procured.  Then there was an accident with some props and the tour was postponed.  We had a group made up of various visitors from all over and they went  their way.  Of course it would make sense that concert tickets should be fully refundable if the event was delayed.  So we went to Indian Store where they tickets were bought only to be told “Ji we know nothing about these tickets, please to contact the organizers!”. A phone call to the organizers and we were told “of course we can refund money if you show us the plane tickets of those in the party who have now left” !!!  I could imagine a phone call to India, and then a courier-ing of tickets, so it seemed like giving tickets away to friends might be a cheaper option.  But these tickets became surprisingly hard to give away.  Then I discovered that it is not easy to convince people to come for a FREE ARRahman concert if it is being held on Sunday night!  The 7:00 pm concert will begin at 8:00 pm and likely be a mismanaged affair that will go on forever with long breaks filled with random stuff.  Or it could go the way of the recent Sukhvinder concert where he arrived 2-3 hours late, sang 5 songs and hurriedly left while the crowd pelted the stage with whatever they had on hand!  The reluctance was understandable.

The stalwart among us did make a trek to the Coliseum Arena and showed up promptly at the appointed time.  The proceedings on stage consisted of various dancers dancing to a medley of AR Rahman songs while people filed in and out constantly and yelled at each other across vast distances.  At desi concerts one has to be particularly wary of the people filing in with food and drink.  It is completely possible to have someone spill piping hot chai on your lap, say a “sorry ji, very sorry” while trying to dab at your lap with Kleenex (and likely a used one!).  So one can only relax after the neighbors have settled in with their chai and samosas, the babies have been fed, and nappies changed.  Somehow it makes sense with our Indian Stretchable Time sensibilities, that any concert would start an hour after the advertized time.  So after the various Jai Ho dancers were done, the lights finally dimmed and a shimmering transparent curtain came down across stage.  The first piece showcased a young boy appearing to run across stage to O SAAYA!  The music was pulse pounding and a reminder that we were in the presence of Oscar winning glory!

Next various images flashed on the curtain and then we saw Rockstar Rahman himself sitting on some steps with a backdrop of fields (sarson? Perhaps!).  As the first notes were played there was an appreciative roar from the crowd!  Nothing like homeland nostalgia to get the concert going and YEH JO DES HAI TERA was just the ticket.  Rahman’s gritty voice, without the benefit of any processing, is unusual, but certainly not stellar, so it is the composition that carries the song in a live performance.  And we could tell that this would be a case of fantastic production values as various images flashed across the stage throughout the song in a tasteful collage.

(to be continued…)

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