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AR Rahman on bowling over the Hollywood Bowl

The maestro got a rare applause on performing at the historic concert in Los Angeles in July.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2006 13:30 IST

Composer AR Rahman's historic concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles last month has changed the equation between Bollywood and Hollywood.

Recalling the exhilarating experience, Rahman says: "They had been trying to contact us for the past year. Finally I let them on to my events manager.

"When I was earlier honoured at the Hollywood Bowl in 2000, they told me it was going to be a non-Indian audience. But a lot of Asians came, which was fantastic. But that process of reaching out to a global audience happened this time at the Hollywood Bowl."

The concert held on July 16 was attended by 18,000 people. Says Rahman, "Eighty per cent of the audience was non-Indian. More than an endorsement of my music it was an acknowledgement of our entire film industry. I hate to call Hindi cinema 'Bollywood'. But that's what we represented at the Hollywood Bowl.

"The doubts that I had about our music being appealing to the West were finally cleared. Our sincerity was quite clear to them. It took me years to get unapologetic about our music in front of a western audience. I now realise that the gift god has given me is the gift that I need to use to the fullest in front of audiences in any part of the world.

"That's exactly what I did at the Hollywood Bowl that evening. My musicians and I for the first time felt such pride in doing our own thing. I started the evening with Bombay Dreams which the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performed, followed by Dil Se, Rang De Basanti etc. Then we did choral arrangements of my songs from Mani Ratnam's films with a group called Global Rhythms."

"They're students from Miami University. These kids had been following my music for years. They all flew into Los Angeles at their own expense because they wanted to play with me."

Says Rahman: "I wasn't thinking of the fact that the Beatles or Pink Floyd performed at the Hollywood Bowl. I was just thinking of what I was supposed to do. I got great support from my musicians like Hariharan, Sukhwinder, Madhushree and Sadhana Sargam. Two local dance groups from Los Angeles danced to Rang de Basanti and Sona sona (Bombay Dreams)."

Rahman is again prompted to look seriously westwards.

"I'm confident about hitting other cities in Europe, Russia, China, Japan with similar concerts. If it worked in America, especially Los Angeles where the cream of the crowd lives, it can work anywhere. And I feel it's not just me moving forward. It's the entire Indian music industry.

"I made a big sacrifice when I did the musical play Bombay Dreams some years ago in England, leaving behind several lucrative offers in Mumbai and Chennai in the process. I think the gambit has finally paid off."

This time Rahman isn't keen on letting his movie assignments suffer. "More international concerts are going to happen now. But not too frequently. I had an international concert tour in September which I've postponed because of my movie assignments in Hindi."