Bollywood Night, India’s film music and dance showcase, comes to the Bowl in July with the genre’s premier composer and musical genius, A.R. Rahman, leading the way. Accompanying him is a star cast of playback singers, many of who were introduced to the world of film music by Rahman. Also performing are a medley of music and dance groups such as Musafir, Sher Foundation, Bollywood Step Dance, and Global Rhythms.
Rahman has redefined contemporary Indian music and, according to a BBC estimate, has sold more than 100 million albums of his works, comprising music from more than 50 movies.
Born into a musical family, Rahman started playing the piano at a very young age. His father was a composer, arranger, and conductor for Malayalam movies. Unfortunately, he died when Rahman was only 9 and the family started renting out musical equipment to make ends meet. Young Rahman then joined noted composer Ilayaraja’s troupe as a keyboardist and computer programmer. After working with several renowned composers, such as Ilayaraja, Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy, Zakir Hussain, and L. Shankar, he set out on his own to compose jingles for popular Indian television features. During this period, he also obtained a degree in Western classical music from the Trinity College of Music, London, and went on to set up his own in-house studio called Panchathan Record-Inn at Chennai.
The Bombay film industry discovered Rahman in 1991, when Mani Ratnam’s Roja was released. The film was a huge success with a musical score that was original and brilliant. Roja brought acclaim to the composer, including the Indian National Award for the best music composer, the first time ever given to a debutant. Since then, Rahman has gone on to win the Indian National Award three more times (for Minsaara Kannavu, Lagaan, and Kannathil Muthamittal), the most ever by any composer.
Rahman is accompanied by well-known Indian singers like Hariharan, Sukhwinder Singh, Sadhna Sargam, Madhushree, and Anisha Nagarajan of Bombay Dreams. The singers from India have sung some of Rahman’s most successful songs.
Hariharan has been awarded with a Padamshree, one of India’s highest national honors. He is credited with the most soulfully sung title song from the film Roja, “Roja, janeman.”
Sukhwinder Singh rose to fame with a blazing rendition of an all-time favorite, “chaiya-chaiya,” an energetic song shot with a group of dancers on a moving train, from the movie Dil Se. Today, he is one of the most sought-after singers in the film industry and owes a large part of his success to Rahman’s encouragement.
Sadhna Sargam received training in Hindustani classical music first from her mother, Neela Ghanekar, and then Jasraj. Her mentor in film playback singing was the illustrious team of Kalyanji-Anandji. Sargam won the National Award for the Year 2001 as the Best Female Singer for the Tamil song “patta cholli” composed by Ilayaraja. She also has other award-winning songs to her credit such as “kuch na kaho” from the movie Kuch Na Kaho, composed by Shankar, Ehsaan, and Loy. She has also sung “khamoshi mein pukar hai,” composed by Rahman, for a Chinese project, Warriors of Heaven and Earth.
Madhushree is a versatile singer who has been credited with singing super-hit songs for films like Rang De Basanti, Kisna, Swades, Yuva, Kal Ho Na Ho, Kuchh Naa Kaho, Tehzeeb, and Saathiya. Her beautiful rendition of “kabhi neem neem” won her the Sony Stardust Award 2005 for Best Female Singing Sensation.
Anisha Nagarajan, grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., and was chosen to perform as Priya for Bombay Dreams, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s acclaimed Broadway show that has Rahman’s musical score.
Musafir, from the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan, has dazzled audiences with its energetic hybrid versions of Indian folk and popular music, acrobatics, and feats of physical endurance at concerts and festivals all over Europe. The band is composed of professional musicians belonging to the Langa, Manghaniyar, and Sapera groups from the Thar desert area of Rajasthan.
Conceived in 1996 by Miami University alumnus Srinivas Krishnan, Global Rhythms performs ethnic music from non-Western cultures. Based at Miami University of Ohio, the group is open to all students at the university with an interest in world music. Today, the group has grown from just five members in its first year to include over 30 instrumentalists and the university’s entire Collegiate Chorale. Global Rhythms has performed music from Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East, with a particular emphasis on both the classical and popular music of India, at national and international venues. This is the second time that the group is coming together to perform with Rahman, the first time being in 2003, when it toured all over the country with the composer.
Sher Foundation constitutes some of Southern California’s most talented bhangra dancers. Bhangra, known for its vigor, has become a popular dance form in recent years among Indian Americans. The group hopes to bring a part of history, culture, and flavor of the northern Indian state of Punjab to the stage.
Bollywood Step Dance was launched in 2005 and provides professional dance training and troupe performances for all kinds of events, music videos, television and movies, workshops and classes. The expertise of choreographers and dancers Yogi, Rashmi Goel, and Saloni Ashok Swarup, will come alive for everyone to see.
By combining diverse talents from around the world, with the common thread of Rahman’s music, Bollywood Night promises to be one-of-a-kind music and dance extravaganza.
Sunday, July 16, 7 p.m. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood.
$5-$81. (323) 850-2000.