Most international musicians barely get noticed in the bustling Big Apple, but AR Rahman is a show-stopper â€” and very profitable.
Fans have paid prices of up to $1,000 (Rs47,000) for 11 concerts in North America between June 11 and July 5, which are already thought to be sold out.
Rahmanâ€™s â€œJai Ho â€” The Journey Home Tourâ€ begins on June 11 at New Yorkâ€™s fabled Nassau Coliseum where Pink Floyd performed during â€œThe Wall Tourâ€. More recently, Madonna held three performances of her â€œBlond Ambition World Tourâ€ in the massive Nassau Coliseum.
â€œItâ€™s definitely an East-meets-West kind of show where thereâ€™s technology and tradition. Just like ARâ€™s music, it breaks all borders,â€ said the showâ€™s artistic director Amy Tinkham, who has run tours for Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Mariah Carey.
Two years after Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars, interest in all things Indian is still going strong. Rahmanâ€™s Slumdog… soundtrack, which earned him two Academy Awards and two Grammys, has made him a recognisable name in America.
It also helps that Rahman is a prolific composer who has astaggering range. Americans find his music â€œeasy listeningâ€ as it is brewed with an unerring feel for melody, swing and soul.
Ahead of his concert, Rahman who has been writing musical scores for Bollywood since the 1990s credited the film industry for his versatility.
â€œIn America, they typecast a person â€” he is a good horror movie soundtrack composer or he is a good classical music composer. In India, the director expects everything from one person. That pushed me to compose different types of music â€” Indian and Western,â€ Rahman toldÂ DNA on the sidelines of an event in the Asia Society.
For a musician who has won two Grammys, Rahman started out as an engineer who was clueless about the depth of his prodigious musical talent. â€œMy first movie, I thought it was going to be my last movie,â€ said Rahman. â€œSo I wanted to do my best and then leave it.â€
For a man who was going to do his â€œbest and then leave itâ€ Rahman has come a long way. He has sold 150 million records and 200 million cassettes and is counted among the top 25 recording artists of all times. TIME magazine rated the soundtrack of Roja in the top 10 of their all-time best movie soundtracks of the world.
Financially the â€œJai Ho…â€ tour is being run like a Swiss watch. Rahman will perform at massive venues in North America and Europe, but there will be one night per city instead of a run, so more places will be pumped up with enthusiasm and keen for Rahman souvenirs. Rahman snakes through America and Europe before ending at Londonâ€™s Wembley Stadium on July 25.
Rahman is putting on a three-hour concert that features Cirque du Soleil or circus acrobats, four troupes of dancers and a Mongolian contortionist who will demonstrate extreme Indian yoga. The show brings together flutists, cellists, tambura players, singers and musicians who have played with Lionel Richie and Fleetwood Mac.
â€œRahman has captured the imagination of audiences of all demographics, both Indian as well as western. His music is multi-faceted. I donâ€™t think his Oscar-winning Jai Ho is his best work, but he certainly deserves an Oscar for the breadth and excitement of his musical talent,â€ said Aroon Shivdasani, executive director of the Indo-American Arts Council, which is selling the concertâ€™s tickets.
â€œRegular tickets to Rahmanâ€™s concert tour of the US are sold out. The only tickets remaining are those of high ticket value. I doubt there will be a single available seat at any of the actual concerts,â€ she added.
Americans are buying into the East-meets-West spectacle. â€œLanding a Rahman concert ticket is a big deal,â€ said attorney Gary Sherman, who has a ticket for Rahmanâ€™s concert at the Patriot Center, in Washington.