| Rahman in city. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta, Jan. 9: Today, a few Calcuttans had the first glimpse of the man, slightly built, under the trademark mop of dark hair. Come February 1, thousands of fans in the city will get the first feel and Taal of his music, Dil Se. Almost eight years after he ‘arrived’ as the Pioneer of Techno-Fusion, Allah Rakha Rahman will string together his first full-fledged live concert in the country at the Salt Lake stadium.
The Telegraph Unity of Light Concert, presented by Hero Honda with the ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers as the host, will kick off a 15-city world tour by the master composer. He has already taken his magical mix of classical, jazz, rock, fusion and Sufism to several countries.
The best voices of Bollywood will be there at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan spectacular, including S.P. Balasubramaniam, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Sukhwinder Singh, Sadhna Sargam, Vasundhara Das and Mahalaxmi Iyer.
However, the spotlight will be on the tune titan himself. He promises a grand show, with glimpses of the grandeur of an awards nite or, in a Western context, moments akin to the West End or Broadway experience. Long-throw array speakers through omnidrive will blast pulsating sound to get the stadium in groove, while master light designer Benny Ball from London will cast a spell with his illumination wizardry.
For ‘Chhaiya Chhaiya’ Rahman, whose father R.K. Sekhar — an arranger and conductor — had worked under Salil Chowdhury, this is the first trip to Tagore town. And he is glad to start off here.
“A lot of musicians in Chennai are from Calcutta and this place has influenced a lot of melodic music. We will do a few of my numbers translated in Bengali,” says the Muqabla man, now “interpreting Rabindrasangeet” in Shyam Benegal’s Subhas Chandra Bose.
A devout Muslim convert and disciple of Sufi saint Karimullah Shah Kadri, Rahman visited a dargah near the airport immediately after landing in Calcutta. Later in the evening, he called on Tanushree Shankar and made a trip to the venue of his February big-bang show to have a “feel of the arena” that will launch the largest concert tour of his career. The extravaganza will feature a 30-piece string and brass section and “very strong percussion and electronic parts”.
“Usually I’m quite shy about coming on stage. I prefer the studio instead,” he confesses. Is that what took him so long to plan a full concert in his own country' “For the past 10 years, I have been waiting to perform in India, but I never got the internal consent that I’m ready for it. The block was mostly technology-related, and I feel we have sorted that out now. There will be surprises for the audience as well as for us,” adds Rahman.
The Unity of Light show, which travels to the US, Canada, the Gulf and East Asia after Calcutta, has engaged him completely. “These concerts are very special to me because light is not always physical. It also means wisdom. It means the sublime and illumination of the heart. With the current state India is in, this music will provide a statement along with entertainment,” he promises.
Rahman feels that collaborating with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Bombay Dreams was a most rewarding experience. “The success of Bombay Dreams has opened many doors for Indians and Asians abroad. Monsoon Wedding and Lagaan have also played a significant role in breaking barriers and there’s a lot of respect for us in the West now,” he observes.
While R.D. Burman was his first major influence in Hindi music, Rahman has a special regard for Mani Rathnam. “He goes to areas other people don’t touch and it’s easier for a creative person to travel on that plane,” explains the prodigy who learnt to play the piano at four and draws inspiration from Naushad to Illayaraja, Bach to Beethoven, The Carpenters to Carnatic.