Rahman sings for India-Australia friendship

Forty thousand Sydneysiders Saturday night clapped and cheered as the ‘Mozart of Madras’ A.R. Rahman and his troupe provided a spectacular musical extravaganza to salute India-Australia friendship.

Seamlessly blending the traditional with the modern, the music spanned the differences of language, enthralling old and young, touching the very heart strings at a time when Australia-India bilateral relations have come under strain following attacks on Indians in this country.

Music transcends boundaries and Saturday night it did, as Sydneysiders were taken on a journey of peace and joy by Rahman and his amazing troupe of nearly 40 musicians, dancers and supporting artists over 2-1/2 hours even as ominous clouds threatened to give way. A steady drizzle began as the sonorous sounds of “Khwaja Mere Khwaja” filled the cool night air.

It being one of the most anticipated concerts staged as part of the three-week Sydney Festival, people had begun securing places as early as 12 p.m. to get up and close with their music idol at the Parramatta Park, in the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta which has the largest population of Indian and South Asians in Australia.

Even the American-born Premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally, couldn’t conceal her excitement.

She said: “This event is a celebration of Indian culture, music and dance and acknowledges the invaluable contribution that the Indian community has made to the social fabric of NSW. It sends a clear message that NSW is a welcoming place for people of every country to study, live and work.”

For the 20 young boys and girls, who got a chance to perform with the world renowned maestro, it was the most exhilarating experience.

”It was a mind blowing opportunity that comes probably only once in a lifetime. We had intense rehearsals for five days and were really nervous, but once on stage, the energy and power of the music just consumed us all,” Akshita Mohan, 18, a resident of suburban Westleigh who was one of the supporting dancers, told IANS.

It is not often that an artiste of Rahman’s calibre performs for free, but that is typical of the man and his music.

”The concert is a gesture of friendship and goodwill between the two countries. I hope this solidarity continues to grow and blossom through the coming years,” said Rahman amidst deafening applause.

For those who couldn’t brave the crowds, the concert was telecast live by Australian Broadcasting Corporation to 44 countries with Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden, who plays for Chennai Super Kings as one of the hosts.

Rahman, who flew back home Sunday morning, was a guest of the NSW state government and Sydney Festival, which is Australia’s largest annual cultural event, showcasing a broad spectrum of Australian and international dance, theatre, visual arts and music.

As festival director Lindy Hume told IANS: “There are only a handful of living artists in any genre whose work is instantly and easily embraced in both eastern and western cultures - and one of them is A.R. Rahman. The message of this concert is one of harmony and cultural understanding between Australia and India, two countries who share so much more than a national day (Jan 26) and love of cricket.”

The mesmerising performance, enhanced by state-of-the-art digital projections, ended on a high with the magical power and vitality of “Jai Ho” reaching a crescendo in “Vande Mataram” as fireworks lit the night sky .

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