Composer gung-ho for ‘Jai Ho’ tour

A.R. Rahman shifts focus to live performance

A year after winning the Oscar for song and score for “Slumdog Millionaire,” Indian composer A.R. Rahman has shifted his focus from movie music to live performance.

Rahman’s busy prepping for his “Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour,” which kicks off June 11 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., before heading west toward San Francisco and L.A. and then jumping the pond to Amsterdam and ending up in London.

In a way, the trek comes full circle to Rahman’s appearance at the U.K. capital’s Southbank Center’s Alchemy Festival, where the London Philharmonic Orchestra performed scores from several of his pics including “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and such Bollywood hits as “Lagaan” on April 7.

“It was a completely different kind of show with a choir, instrumental music with background,” Rahman says. “I wanted to do it for a long time.”

The concert was important to Rahman, dubbed the “Mozart of Madras” (the previous name for Chennai, which many Indians still use) for another reason: to motivate students at the music school he founded two years ago in Chennai.

“India has no full-fledged orchestra with only Indians (and) no school that taught this kind of stuff. National events and films require a full orchestra.”

The KM Music Conservatory and Audio Media Education, India’s first Apple authorized training center, is based in Chennai and opened its doors in 2008. Rahman periodically visits the school, where a mixture of classical, Indian and Western music is taught.

As for the Jai Ho tour, Rahman says he wants to give fans who’d been to his previous concerts — including a “Bollywood Night” at the Hollywood Bowl in 2006 — something different.

This time, along with Deepak Gattani and Rapport Prods., which produces his concerts, Rahman is working with Amy Tinkman, who has directed concerts for Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Mariah Carey.

He’ll be accompanied on the 20-city tour by Bollywood dancers and acrobatics. The music will blend Western and Indian music and span Rahman’s filmography beginning with his breakthrough with 1992’s “Roja” to “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“I put on the table what I want in the show,” Rahman says. “It’s a marriage of two worlds. It will be very exciting even for those who’ve seen the performances before.”

Ducats ranging from $45 to $1,000 (for what’s known as the Jai Ho Circle), depending on the arena, are on sale for six of the cities. Although Rahman’s audience heavily draws on the South Asian diaspora, his shows have grown increasingly diverse.

Meanwhile Rahman divides his time between L.A. and Chennai, juggling Indian film commitments and tour preparations. Flying back and forth between the two countries gives him time to think, he says.

“There’s a complementary feel,” he says. “When I’m there I think about here, and when I’m here I think about things there.”

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