Prolific composer-performer A.R. Rahman has performed countless shows around the world, but he says his upcoming â€œJai Ho: A.R. Rahman The Journey Home Tour 2010â€ is more ambitious than anything heâ€™s ever done.
â€œItâ€™s a completely new experience,â€ Rahman told India-West June 4 during a video linkup from the Washington, D.C., area, where he was rehearsing the show in time for its June 11 launch at New Yorkâ€™s Nassau Coliseum.
He has discovered boundless energy within himself despite the extraordinary demands of putting on a show of such magnitude (he calls the project his most challenging work to date), and during our interview Rahman seemed well-rested and genial.
He said he almost never gets tired rehearsing for this show. â€œWhen you get into making music, you donâ€™t notice anything,â€ he told India-West. â€œAfter rehearsing, it takes me five hours to get the adrenaline out of my system. Iâ€™m up until 3 a.m.!â€
The video interview was arranged by local concert promoter Paul Singh as part of a kickoff party to celebrate the tour, which Singh is presenting at the Oracle Arena in Oakland June 26. â€œThe Journey Home Tourâ€ will next move on to Los Angeles June 27, for a show presented by Mehta Entertainment.
The Academy Award- and Grammy-winning artist has gradually embraced his inner rock star since he started his career in music 18 years ago.
Far from his beginnings as a shy keyboardist and jingle composer who was once content to stay in the background, Rahman is now singing at full blast at center stage.
â€œIâ€™ve been telling people, over the past three to four weeks that weâ€™ve been rehearsing, that I was a keyboard player. Then I was composing. Iâ€™d almost left behind playing live. Now Iâ€™m a singer, and my rustiness is going â€” slowly.
â€œI thought I wouldnâ€™t enjoy it â€¦ but I do.â€
He is even sporting extravagant costumes decked out with the latest technology, in a stage show designed by Amy Tinkham, a choreographer-stage designer who has helped spearhead shows for Madonna, Ringling Brothers, Paul McCartney, the Cheetah Girls and Britney Spears.
Rahmanâ€™s costumes for this tour (a reported 24 of them) have been in the news for their sparkling LED technology; they will be designed not just by leading Indian fashionista Ritu Beri but other designers as well as Rahmanâ€™s own wife, Saira.
The show will incorporate Indian classical music, Bollywood, Sufi and South Indian music. â€œThe show is about celebrating India â€” its festivals, its patriotism, its spirituality,â€ said Rahman.
We will also see a side of Rahman we havenâ€™t seen before: A.R., the dancer.
â€œHeâ€™s going to do a lot of moves,â€ said Hariharan, who was also on hand for the video conference. â€œBut everything is decent!â€ he laughed.
Vocalist Hariharan, whose voice has lent the magic to Rahmanâ€™s soundtracks to â€œRoja,â€ â€œBombay,â€ â€œTaal,â€ â€œGuruâ€ and many others, said, â€œThe production will be spectacular, with dancers and musicians, and a lot of special effects. You have seen his songs on a 70mm movie screen. Now you will see them live on a 70mm stage!â€
Itâ€™s performers such as Hariharan and Blaaze (who was also in the video conference) who inspire Rahman to choose which songs to perform in his shows, said the composer. â€œI choose the songs to complement and respect each singer,â€ Rahman told India-West. â€œWith a singer like Hariharan, I canâ€™t just give him two songs to sing!â€
Rahman says the show will feature nearly 100 artists onstage â€” 50 Westerners and nearly the same amount of Indian artists. He will have a 10-piece band, 10 singers and 13 dancers, as well as â€œa whole lot of crew.â€
Last month, filmmaker Deepa Mehta announced that she was making a film based on the hit stage spectacular â€œBombay Dreams,â€ which was produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and featured Rahmanâ€™s music. â€œIâ€™ve been rehearsing, so I am not sure about the details right now,â€ Rahman said. â€œWhen the tour reaches Europe I will know more.â€
Rahman was also in the news recently for his latest hi-tech purchase. While in New York in April, he bought five, thatâ€™s right, five iPads. One is for him to carry around, and one is for the studio. As for the rest of them, he told India-West: â€œWell, I have three kids, you know!â€
He answered another reporterâ€™s question about â€œSlumdog Millionaireâ€ and the sometimes unflattering way it portrayed contemporary India. â€œPeople see the slums and it reminds us that we need to eradicate poverty,â€ said Rahman. â€œThatâ€™s why I started my music school and my foundation.â€ The A.R. Rahman Foundation provides education to underprivileged kids in India.
Asked how heâ€™s seen his own music evolving over the years, he said it was impossible for him to take an objective view.
â€œThe people are the only ones who can decide that. You guys are the best judges,â€ he said.
Visit www.arrahmanlive.com for concert details.