Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Washington Concert: A Sell-Out Success

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May 10, 2012

Special By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON, MAY 4 – For many South Asians, all roads led to the Constitution Hall, Friday night.  The reason and allurement both were Bollywood’s stupendously successful singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan who was performing live in concert!  The event drew people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in a splendid display of unity proving beyond doubt that music is universal and knows no bounds or boundaries!

May 10, 2012

Special By Geeta Goindi

WASHINGTON, MAY 4 – For many South Asians, all roads led to the Constitution Hall, Friday night.  The reason and allurement both were Bollywood’s stupendously successful singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan who was performing live in concert!  The event drew people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in a splendid display of unity proving beyond doubt that music is universal and knows no bounds or boundaries!

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan performing at the Constitution Hall, on May 4

The concert was organized in the nation's capital by Manish Sood and Deepa Shahani of Intense Entertainment. In all, Rahat will be performing in 19 cities within the US.  The tour which began on April 14 and extends until June 9, with Washington being the seventh stop on the itinerary, is packing in the crowds!

Regarding the response, international promoter Mr. Salman Anwar informed INDIA THIS WEEK that it has been extraordinary with sold-out concerts in all cities.  People from all walks of life are turning up in record numbers to hear this tremendously gifted singer weave and render verses and songs which have made him a household name today!  Such is the widespread appeal of Rahat’s music which draws on the ancient music traditions of the Indian subcontinent.  His name spells melody!

It is well known that he is the nephew and student of legendary qawwali singer Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who referred to him as “My eyes upon the world”!  He is also heir to the Ustad’s awe-inspiring legacy.  “I am very fortunate to be born in a family where music flows in our blood stream”, Rahat says.

At the Constitution Hall, he performed non-stop, barring a 20-minute interval, for close to three hours, beginning with a qawwali, ‘Allah Hoo’, a powerful offering to the Almighty.

In his choice of Sufi music and qawwalis, he paid a rich tribute to the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan by rendering ‘Yeh jo halka halka suroor hai, yeh teri nazar ka kussoor hai’, ‘Aafreen Aafreen’, ‘Ankhiyan udeek diyan’ and ‘Tumhe dillagi bhool jaani padegi’.  He was in top form in this genre while demonstrating an expertise in classical music.

Born into a family of traditional musicians, Rahat started learning music when he was merely 7 years old.  His first concert was at the age of 11 with his teacher and Guru, in 1985.  He made his debut in Bollywood, in 2003, with the super hit song ‘Lagi tumse man ki lagan’ (Paap) and has never looked back.  In such a short span of time, he has scaled the dizzying heights of success!

At a press conference a day prior to the concert, held at the Bombay Tandoor restaurant in Tysons Corner, a reporter pointed out that he is now more popular on account of his Bollywood songs and was curious to know if he was deviating from his family tradition of singing the qawwali.  Speaking in a mixture of Hindi and Urdu, Rahat replied that while “Qawwali has always been the style of our family, it has evolved.  The qawwali that was sung 60 years ago is not the same as in the last 30 years and the qawwali of 30 years ago is not possible today.  Everything has to change in identity, keeping the basic form intact.  The basics are the same”, he stressed.

Bollywood’s top singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan with Deepa Shahani of Intense Entertainment and Mrs. Nilima Mehra, television anchor and producer, at a Press Conference held at the Bombay Tandoor restaurant in Tysons Corner

Rahat noted that “the making of music has undergone a transformation.  It is qawwali-based.  Qawwali has enabled us to sing in a high pitch.  In my shows, approximately 40 percent of the numbers are qawwalis; the rest is Bollywood songs.  ‘Yeh jo halka halka suroor hai’, Ankhiyan udeek diyan’, ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’, are staples of my show without which it is incomplete”, he said.

Rahat’s distinctive high-pitched rendition has brought the Sufiana style to the forefront of Bollywood music.  He shared this with the audience on Friday in several hit songs: ‘Sajda’ (My Name is Khan), ‘Surili akhiyon wale’ (Veer), ‘O re piya’ (Aaja Nachle), ‘Teri meri’ (Bodyguard), ‘Main jahaan rahoon teri yaad saath hai’ (Namastey London) and ‘Ishq risk’ (Mere Brother Ki Dulhan).

Before singing one of his most romantic songs, ‘Tum jo aaye zindagi mein baat ban gayee’ (Once Upon A Time In Mumbai), he announced that it is a special dedication from Manish to Deepa.

These hugely popular Bollywood numbers and qawwalis were interspersed with the soulful, “Mein tenu samjhavan ki”, a beautiful ballad in Punjabi, which is impressed on our collective consciousness!

For the finale, Rahat rendered ‘Tere mast mast do nain’ (Dabbang) bringing the crowd to its feet, followed by ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’ to loud cheers from the audience and bursts of confetti

At the press meet, Rahat noted that “a few years ago, music was good but not long-lasting.  Songs did not retain their appeal.  Now, music directors have been working hard”.  He has been fortunate insofar as his first Bollywood song ‘Lagi tumse man ki lagan’ (Paap), released 9 years ago, and continues to be a favorite.  This was followed by ‘Jiya dhadak dhadak jaye’ (Kalyug), another evergreen number.  “A song whose base is classical can never go out of style”, he emphasized.  “It always remains fresh”.

When asked by emcee Anisa Siddiqui to sing a few lines from one of his favorite numbers, it came as no surprise, but a delight, that he chose ‘Tere mast mast do nain’ which remains his most popular Bollywood song to-date.

Rahat was also asked if he encountered any difficulties with US Immigration while entering the country, case-in-point Shah Rukh Khan’s recent detention.  The singer, who is politeness personified and steers clear of any controversy, chose not to comment.  Instead, his spokesperson, Mr. Shafiq Saddiqui, told the Press that it was smooth sailing at the airport for Rahat and his team.

While acknowledging that Shah Rukh has a huge stature, Saddiqui said: “We don’t compare ourselves to anyone.  Let me share with you that the day Shah Rukh landed in New York, Rahat Saab landed at JFK International Airport, on an American Airlines jet.  I was honored and privileged to receive him at the aircraft.  For his crew, two counters were allocated for fast process.  We didn’t release this information in the media until now.  It is God’s blessing that so many people around the world love Rahat Saab”.


 

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