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Cover Story
– that’s all you need to know
By Arul Louis
scar winning Indian
composer A.R. Rahman’s
music of universal har-
mony blending traditions, time,
faiths and languages soared on
August 15 through the General
Assembly chamber, a venue
known more for cacophonous
His tribute to M.S.
Subbulakshmi, the “Queen of
Music”, brought 21st pizzazz to
the classic and the traditional,
upholding the sacred even as
electronic music and a kinetic
backdrop transcended cen-
The unity in diversity that is
India was weaved through the
concert, starting with Sanskrit
and Tamil devotional hymns in
Carnatic tradition and seamless-
ly moving to music in a popular
modern, Hindustani and
qawwali styles, and on to soulful
Islamic songs, ending finally
with a resounding “Jai ho”.
This spectacle of India pre-
sented in music proclaimed a
universal message to the world
in the wood-paneled chamber
transformed for a day from a
platform for dissensions to a
music hall where Hindu and
Islamic voices were raised
together in pleas for peace.
The backdrop shifted from
temple-like scenarios and
Islamic structures and timeless
motifs of scenic beauty and
shimmering light spectacles that
reflected the music.
India’s Minister of State for
External Affairs M.J. Akbar
reflected on this as he spoke
before the concert. In India, he
said, the day starts with the
‘aazans’ from the mosques,
‘bhajans’ from temples, devo-
tional songs from the gurdwaras
and hymns from churches.
During the freedom struggle,
Mahatma Gandhi started his
meeting with the song, “Ishwar,
Allah, tere naam”, he recalled.
“Our freedom lay in music,”
he said, recalling that the free-
dom struggle started with the
song “Vande Mataram” and
India is represented by that and
the National Anthem, “Jana
Gana Mana”.
Unlike most countries that
get an anthem after attaining
nationhood, India already had
an anthem before
Independencea, Akbar said.
The concert with the audi-
ence overflowing in the three
level chamber, enchanted the
international audience.
Panama’s Permanent
Representative Laura E. Flores
re-tweeted Akbar’s remark:
“Music is what links us as indi-
viduals to eternity” and said she
expected a “fantastic” evening.
David Roet, Israel’s Deputy
Premanent Representative,
tweeted the music was “amaz-
It was “mesmerising” and a
“magical treat,” Britain’s Deputy
Permanent Representative Peter
Wilson said.
In a video message before the
concert, UN Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon, celebrated the 70
years of India’s participation
with the UN that started even
before it became independent.
He said Gandhi’s message of
non-violence inspired the world
He also hailed India for being
the top contributor to UN
peace-keeping and for spread-
ing the message of yoga.
Rahman’s ensemble of almost
50, including the Sunshine
Orchestra, reflected what
Indian’s Permanent
Representative Syed Akbaruddin
said was “the journey of a billion
people” as India progressed
since Independence.
In a stark contrast to the
modest group of five accompa-
nists of Subbulakshmi in the
original concert 50 years ago,
this year’s performance with the
large multi-religious ensemble,
the techno music, the video,
show lighting the background
and the eclectic repertoire could
be viewed as a timeline of the
nation’s progress.
His Sunshine Orchestra is
made up of what he said were
underprivileged youth, whose
talents he burnished to shine on
an international stage.
A highlight of the concert was
the ‘thaniavarthanam’ or
Carnatic percussion solo, with
cymbals, drums rather than the
mridangam, and small earthen-
ware instead of the ‘ghatam’ that
evoked audience participation.
At the end of the concert,
Rahman made a plea for peace,
calling on the world to “find a
better method to solve conflicts”.
“Let us hope we will see this
change in our lifetime,” he said.
Rahman At U.N. Blends Tradition, 21st Century Spectacle
Senior Indian government and United Nations officials were among the guests at A.R. Rahman’s concert at the United Nations August 15. From left, Dr. S. S. Badrinath, chairman emeritus of Sankara Nethralaya, that
co-sponsored the event along with the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, and wife Dr. Vasanthi Iyengar; Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, permanent representative of India to the U.N., Minister of State
for External Affairs M.J. Akbar, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who addressed the event via video conference. Photo below, Minister Akbar opens an exhibition of photographs of M.S. Subbulakshmi.
Peter Ferreira
Peter Ferreira
Jay Mandal
Peter Ferreira
News India Times August 26, 2016
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