In the South African city for the first leg of his three-city tour, the singer-composer then travelled to Cape Town and Sun City all of last week.
A source present says, "The audience at the stadium was on fire to watch the Mozart of Mumbai perform in Durban with his slick, professional cast of over 35 talented performers. Rahman fans were excited as he was supposed to perform to film music, amongst others and the curiosity was greater than normal. It had the promise of being a memorable event."
What was that!
Everything looked good till the show started in the 70,000-seater stadium. "About 12,000 spectators and 6000 complimentary passes were distributed as the sale of tickets was slow. The sponsors may have lost between 500,000 to 750,000 USD. Seventy per cent of the 13,00,000 South African Indians are South Indians and about 80,000 Gujaratis.
“The balance is a mix of all ethnicities. So there were Tamil, Hindi, Gujarati and even Punjabi tracks. The crowd wasn't inspired and that impaired the enthusiasm of the performers, including A R Rahman."
According to an eyewitness, "The tackiest number was the singer-composer's duet with Lata Mangeshkar, because he was singing live but Lataji was being projected through a DVD. By what definition can we call that a live show? Some performers who mime to a recording on stage are banned for life. What should be done for this?"
Another spectator adds, "Rahman is a genius composer but his live shows are marred by him singing most of the numbers, playing many instruments and even emceeing the show. He is a master music maker but when he tries to do everything something goes wrong, like it did that evening."
The source adds that the show was more like an expo of Rahman's various abilities. "Then he announced he will play a song from one of his albums. The sparse and reluctant applause went totally silent on such occasions. Hariharan's singing was more welcome than the music maker who should not shift the focus of his energies."
To top it all as soon as the Holi song began, it started raining and the audience started scrambling away. The source adds, "Rahman then started the Jai Ho number, which was to be the highlight of the show and put a break on the exodus especially on the young Indian boys and girls. The act ended with Rehman's rendition of Maa Tujhe Salaam."
The Other Side
Rahman's spokesperson clarifies, "People at Durban and South Africa loved the shows and we got great feedback on his website. It was held at a football stadium which is huge and naturally can't be filled to capacity during a musical show. It was almost full.
“Also regarding Lataji's duet on the AV, it's a format that Mr Rahman has always followed since his shows in June. In fact, he recently thanked Lataji for her contribution to his music at another show where she wasn't present. It's not possible for her to go on these shows."