Music has no language

Those who know me will be aware that I am a massive fan of Indian music, whether it be Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, or Punjabi, to name a few. Those who know me very well will know that AR Rahman is my favourite music director to date.

I was born in a decade when AR Rahman’s music was (and still is to be honest) reigning the Indian music charts – I was born in 1993, if anyone was curious.

Growing up as a toddler listening to songs from Duet, Jeans, Love Birds and Muthu for example, had a massive influence on shaping my taste in music. Growing up being exposed to multiple cultures and languages at school, and appreciating AR Rahman’s top notch work regardless of which state or country he produced for, made me appreciate music from different cultures that much more.

I am saying all of this because the AR Rahman concert which happened in July, in London, caused a lot of tension amongst the audience, and especially the non-Tamil audience, because apparently not enough Hindi songs were played. I was not present at the concert in July because of other commitments, so I am just stating what I heard and saw across social media.

What I wanted to discuss in this blog, however, was the fact that recently AR Rahman announced the dates for his concert in Canada in October. What I found shocking was that he will be hosting two separate concerts, one for Hindi music and another for Hindi music.

We can take this positively. AR Rahman has created so much music in both languages and it can be difficult to cover the best of both in one concert; so this separation might be good. However I see more issues than positives here.
Before you start thinking why I am writing about this, I realised there being an issue when I saw the responses on social media in response to this announcement of two concerts.

The one quality about AR Rahman is that he has been able to create music and touch the hearts of several cultural groups. To have all those cultural groups under one roof in the name of music is what music should be about. Creating a divide between Tamil and Hindi music puts several people in limbo: what about Tamils who enjoy his Hindi music and want to hear that, or vice versa? What about people from other cultural groups who love AR Rahman for both his Tamil and Hindi music and wanted to hear both (and seriously what are the chances that such individuals will buy tickets for both days)? Basically, by getting such individuals to choose between Tamil and Hindi, more of a rift is being created. Is this something that real music-lovers would want?

No one knows the reasons behind why such a decision was taken. If in the slightest, however, AR Rahman’s Netru Indru Naalai concert in London had a role to play in this separation, then we all should be worried. Why? Because we should be working towards breaking down cultural boundaries and inter-cultural barriers. Just when I thought we were taking a step in the right direction, we are taking two steps backwards.

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