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3-min read

Rahman Performs Tamil Songs in London to Uproar in Hindi

The Mozart of Madras played to a full house at Wembley Stadium in a concert titled Netru, Indru, Naalai.

Shantanu David | News18.com

Updated:July 14, 2017, 2:32 PM IST
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Rahman Performs Tamil Songs in London to Uproar in Hindi
Rahman's UK concert sparked a fierce debate

Oscar-winner, virtuoso, musical maven, darling of multiple film industries A R Rahman wears his many caps with ease, even if he’s not exactly comfortable with the publicity surrounding his celebrity status. But in any case, Rahman’s prowess is undeniable and any opportunity to watch him perform would be an occasion for anyone with the slightest appreciation for music. However, a Hindi-speaking audience at a recent UK concert seemed to disagree with this axiom; they also, unsurprisingly, want their money back.

The Mozart of Madras played to a full house at Wembley Stadium in a concert titled 'Netru, Indru, Naalai' ( Tamil for Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow). A few songs into the concert though, like the proverbial glass, the hall became half-empty, or half-full, if you will. A portion of the audience, proudly (and presumably) bilingual in Hindi and English and obvious Bollywood fans, were apparently miffed that the maestro performed Tamil tracks, in fact 12 to the 16 he sang in Hindi. This, in a concert with a clearly Tamil title and intent. The cheek of the man!!

Here’s the thing though. Rahman’s Bollywood efforts are only a small part of his repertoire, one that straddles multiple languages and borders. He’s composed for films and albums native to English, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu, Mandarin, Persian, and Kannada among other languages. To associate him with one particular genre or language is a fallacy, hovering at the edge of bigotry. Yes, he has done some spectacular (and some not so spectacular) work in Hindi films, which helped him gain instant name recognition in the northern half of India. But the fact is that the man is also a household name in other parts of the country, and world, which are as ignorant of his Hindi music as we are of his compositions in other tongues.

Interestingly enough, after the concert the organizers posted a note of thanks to all who had attended the concert, and with admirable restraint, avoided calling out the haters. They did note that there were 'some complaints' and clarified that there were in fact 16 Hindi tracks performed as compared to the 12 full Tamil tracks, and one medley of Hindi and Tamil. But as every millennial worth their social media handle knows, "haters gotta hate".

HI LONDON, THANKS FOR THE TREMENDOUS SUPPORT AND RESPONSE , HOWEVER WE HAVE BEEN GETTING FEW COMPLAINTS ON LANGUAGE BIAS...

Posted by A R Rahman Live - UK on Monday, 10 July 2017

In any case, Hindi-speaking audiences streamed out of Wembley fuming because a musician decided he’d like to play music from a language unfamiliar to them – a language he grew up with, by the way. But hey, they came to Chamma Chamma. They let loose on that favorite griping instrument, Twitter, with accusations of false advertising and demands for their money back. Check out some instances below.

Thankfully, the rest of his fandom (and other sensible people) took up arms for their hero and pointed out that music can’t be segregated, or confined to one language, no matter how much you wanted to listen to the whole soundtrack of Fanaa. As they pointed out:

However this resolves (or doesn’t), what is staggeringly clear that we as a people remain spectacularly insular, no matter what the color of our passport, or PIO card. Jai ho!

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