AR Rahman Concert

AR Rahman Concert


Oscar winner AR Rahman did not disappoint his audience, and it was surreal to watch and hear the adulation that he got from his audience in Silicon Valley. AR Rahman’s Intimate Concert Tour was a sold out event on June 11 and June 12 in San Jose. AR as he is known is on a hectic tour of North America that started on the East Coast in May and is making it way around the US. The West Coast is their last leg of their hectic tour that ends with a concert in Vancouver, Canada next week.


AR Rahman San Jose

AR Rahman Concert in San Jose


While waiting for the concert to start I could not but help listen to people discussing in English, Tamil, Hindi and Punjabi about AR’s music and what they expect to hear. And AR did not disappoint his audience. We heard songs in Urdu, Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, French and English.


AR Rahman Music

AR Rahman in Concert


AR’s eclectic selection of songs included different musical genres from Carnatic, qawwali, jazz, rap, Bollywood and Hollywood. They included songs from his films like  Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, RockstarTaal, Laagan Highway, 100 Foot Journey, 127 Hours, Delhi 6, and Slumdog Millionaire. Accompanying AR were vocalist Jonita Gandhi, Haricharan Sheshadri and Annette Philip. Rounding up the band were  a couple of percussionists, guitarists, a vilionist (fiddler?) and a dancer.

AR Rahman Concert

AR Rahman Concert


AR played multiple instruments from piano, keyboards to an accordion. At one point he also played requests from the audience on the accordion.  And for one of his songs he requested the audience to turn on their cell phones and hold it high. And boy! that was a sight to behold when you saw hundreds of brightly lit screens of cell phones waving in the air. Take a look at this picture, which barely captures the mood in the auditorium.

AR Rahman Concert

AR Rahman Concert


What took me suprise was a jazz number that AR and Philip sang. I was pleasantly floor to hear Philip scatting away with superb confidence. Philip is a an alum of Berklee School of Music and is an accomplished singer. This was the first time I saw her at a live concert.

Gandhi, a Indo-Canadaian singer belted out quite a few songs in Tamil, Hindi, French and a rap song in English. Sheshadri and Gandhi sang a few duets from the extensive repoitoire of AR’s discography.

The concert started a little after 8 pm and lasted till almost 11 pm.  “Don’t leave your seat after the concert is over, there is an encore,” advised our usher as she pointed us to our seats before the concert. She was right. At the enderafter AR thanked and waved goodbye to his audience, he came back with his troupe to sing a repertoire of songs from his various films. My sense was that folks were willing to stay for another hour had he wanted to continue with their singing. But, AR’s show must continue in a different city and this time it is going to be Seattle.

The hashtag for AR Rahman’s Intimate Concert is #ARRNAIT




Baar Baar Dekho” means look and look again. I’d say listen and listen to this song again.

This delightful  track is from Shillong Chamber Choir of India. They do a great job of fusing a 1962 Bollywood or Hindi song with a jazz standard ‘S Wonderful, by Gershwin brothers from the 1927 Broadway musical “Funny Face.”

Bollywood meets Hollywood in this song  you say? For sure, and this goes back a long way as Prof. Greg Booth mentions in this interview I did with him on Bollywood music and the global influence, especially American influence that goes back to the 1940s.

Neil Nongkynrih founded Shillong Chamber Choir choir in 2002. The choir has won a clutch of awards at various competitions and have appeared on “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” or “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” hosted by Amitabh Bachchan,

By the way, does Providence have a plan for how I discover music? Lately it seems like I keep stumbling and tripping over new music from India, especially the Northeast. So happy to have discovered Shillong Chamber Orchestra’s  fantastic melange of music that fuses Bollywood, jazz, blues and a little bit of reggae.


Dr. Salman Akhtar

Dr. Salman Akhtar

Dr. Salman Akhtar talks about the 100 year old  history of Bollywood or Hindi cinema in this multi-part interview. What is different about Dr. Akhtar’s approach is he brings his trained psychiatrist eyes to the subject and helps us understand what socio-economics factors permeated and colored the narrative and story lines of filmmakers. And how films in turn shaped and colored the attitudes of film goers in India. This is about “Bollywood and the Indian Unconscious” a chapter that he wrote with K. Choksi in “Freud Along The Ganges,” that he edited.

In Part-1 of our interview we talk to Dr. Akhtar about his family and their involvement in Hindi cinema, Dr. Akhtar comes from a family of poets and writers. His father Jan Nisar Akhtar worked in Hindi film industry as a lyricist and poet. His mother Safia Akhtar was a talented writer & poet.  His brother Javed Akhtar is a well-known writer and lyricist in Bollywood. We wanted to find out how he got interested in the history of the world’s largest film industry. What was it about the Bombay dream merchants that caught his attention and why?

Dr. Akhtar is a Psychiatrist and a professor at Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He has has written extensively on  psychiatry, psychoanalysis and about poetry and films.

Tune back next week for Part-2 of our conversation with Dr. Akhtar where we explore Hindi films from the 1950s and 1960s.

This interview was recorded in 2006.


Photo courtesy of Dr. Salman Akhtar

Podcast: Greg Booth on Indian Wedding Brass Bands


Greg Booth

Greg Booth

Prof. Greg Booth is a teacher, author & musician. In his book Brass Baja: Stories From The World of Indian Wedding Bands he takes us behind the scene into the world of the Indian brass band musicians, whose rich musical traditions and history has been largely ignored. It was way back back in the 17th century that the first wedding brass band made their appearance in India. Today, Indian wedding brass bands are an integral part of Indian popular culture and cinema. Most of all they are a big part of Indian wedding celebrations.

We spoke to Prof Booth about the evolution of Indian wedding brass bands and the introdution of western musical instruments into Indian music. For instance, the clarinet and violin were introduced from the west into traditional Indian classical music. And, the harmonium, which is such a large part of Indian music was introduced to India by European missionaries points out Prof. Booth.

LISTEN: Prof. Greg Booth on Indian Wedding Brass Bands

He trained in western classical music and then learnt to play the tabla from Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ustad Alla Rakha.

This is part one of a  3-part interivew on Indian Wedding Brass Bands, Indian film music and Bollywood. In part 2 and 3 Prof. Booth talks about the influence of western music into Bollywood and takes us behind the curtain into the world of Bollywood musicians.

Song Credit: Sheila Ki Jawani by Sunidhi Chauhan and Vishal Dadlani from Tees Maar Khan

Photo Credit: Greg Booth