Saturday, January 16, 2010

Healing the rift

from w
In Australia there has been a spate of assaults on visiting Indian tertiary students, over 1000 in a year (out of about 30,000 assaults) so there has developed a sourness between the government of India and Australia, as the parents of these students are troubled about violence. I think the assaults are both opportunistic and racist and to be condemned.

So how to do something to heal this rift a little - besides better policing, advice to international students, etc.A.R.Rahman, the composer from Chennai decided to visit Australia, put on a concert, use music to invite a kinder relationship. Of course he would be preaching to the converted. Already most people in Australia abhor violence like this and also appreciate world music. The concert was held in Sydney last night and was called 'Jai Ho' from the song he wrote for Slumdog Millionaire. He uses Sufi qawwalis, Indian music and symphonic orchestral themes.

from The Age Melbourne a few days ago.
Bollywood brings love ... and beats
January 13, 2010
by Matt Wade.

CAN Bollywood rhythms help soothe international tensions? A. R. Rahman, the superstar of contemporary Indian music who created the Oscar-winning soundtrack for the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, thinks they can. As fury grows on the subcontinent over attacks on Indians in Australia, Rahman will stage a free concert in Sydney's Parramatta Park on Saturday to ''build a bridge of understanding''. Rahman himself suggested the show as a gesture of goodwill.

''This concert is a statement of friendship, peace and love,'' he told The Age before leaving for Australia.

Rahman's desire to stage the concert underscores how deeply the attacks have been felt across India. He considers it his ''duty'' as a musician to help promote understanding between both countries. 'The show is to celebrate both music and friendship,'' he says. ''I feel a concert is a very spiritual gathering where people from many different backgrounds can come together doing the same thing. It's a great way to make a statement of love and peace.'

Rahman's show, which is part of the Sydney Festival, was announced last August after a series of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney. The assaults received blanket media coverage in India and damaged Australia's reputation as a safe destination for students.

Tension has flared again in the past fortnight following the violent deaths of two Indians in Australia, including the stabbing murder in Melbourne of former student Nitin Garg. These incidents have made Rahman's visit all the more poignant.

He hopes the Parramatta show will help break down cultural misunderstandings and boost the morale of tens of thousands of Indians studying in Australia. 'It's not just the music, it is what's behind the music,'' he says. ''I really hope we get a positive response in Australia.'...

Rahman has achieved hero status in India and his success is symbolic of a new, more internationally oriented and globally influential India. He has fond memories of playing to packed crowds in Sydney and Melbourne in 2005. 'They were some of my best audiences,'' he says. ''There was great hospitality … there was a lot of encouragement and a lot of love, so that's what forced us to come back again.'

Rahman said about 80 people would be involved in Saturday's high-energy concert, which will be one of the highlights of this year's Sydney Festival….

Even before last year's international triumph, Rahman had experienced huge success in his homeland, where film and pop music merge. He started out as a session musician and composing jingles for commercials in his home town of Chennai, formerly Madras.

Rahman launched his career as a film composer in the thriving south Indian movie industry….The 44-year old's personal story reflects India's religious diversity. Rahman's father, a composer, was a Hindu and his mother a Muslim. He was given the Hindu-sounding name, A. S. Dileep Kumar, but converted to Sufism - a mystical and lyrical form of Islam - in the late 1980s and changed his name to Allah Rakkha Rahman.

His music has been deeply influenced by his religious experience and Rahman attributes his achievements to divine blessing. ''My whole journey in music has had a spiritual guidance,'' he says...
And some tips to incoming international students to Australia:
Join student associations and develop a network where you can quickly learn the ropes of living in an Australian city.
Don't walk alone at night or through parks as there are bogans out there. It's unfortunate but there are young men who don't have respect for other people's rights and lives.
Make sure your chosen college is reputable and not one of the dodgy ones.
Form friendships outside your own cultural group and develop your English skills.
And after the concert
A R Rahman enthralls Sydney
Meghna Sharma, Sydney, DHNS:

''Love'' was the theme at the A R Rahman concert held in Parramatta Park in Sydney’s west.The maestro brought up the idea several times during his stunning extravaganza. The event was part of a wider initiative of the New South Wales Government to ease relations between the country’s significant Indian population and the wider Australian community.

Rahman performed a selection of his most popular pieces from hit films such as “Dil Se,” “Taal” and “Guru.” The most anticipated item “Jai Ho” was performed at the end to a delighted audience against a backdrop of fireworks. Despite the recent communal friction, the event faced no problems. The only hassle organisers faced was that of people creating a scrum as they tried to get as close to the stage as possible. When it came to the music, the Indians in the audience appreciated the traditional pieces, but the big Bollywood hits with pumping rhythm were the favourite among the non-Indians, as could be determined by the resounding applause following such numbers as “Chaiyya Chaiyya” and “Humma.”

While the atmosphere at the event was laid-back, there was an underlying awareness of the recent events that inspired it and another focus was what Indians and Australians have in common. Cricket was the most obvious answer and the concert was preceded by an address by former Australian captain Steve Waugh who expressed his wishes for a better future. Cricketer Matthew Hayden interviewed members of the audience during breaks. “The thing to remember is that we are all the same inside,” said a young man he spoke to.

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