AR Rahman delights a capacity crowd with a night of classic Sufi favourites

The beloved composer and performer's concert in Dubai was worth the wait.

A?R Rahman performing in Dubai. Courtesy Purple Vogue Events

When A?R Rahman performs, people come out in droves . and they wait for him, even if they have to do so for more than two hours.
Scheduled to start at 8pm, it was almost 10.30pm on Thursday when his concert at Dubai World Trade Centre, the first night of the city's Sufi Weekend event, finally began.
Due to the delay, the members of the audience were getting restless waiting for the maestro to appear on stage, but as his voice, singing "La ilaha illAllah", started to echo, a hush fell over the hall, which was jam-packed with fans, as the screen behind the stage lit up with beautiful graphics.
As Rahman stepped out on stage amid applause and cheers, he introduced the choir performing that evening, who were all students of the KM College of Music & Technology - a college founded by the maestro. They have been practising for more than three years, and this was their first big concert.
The line-up included many of Rahman's own compositions as well as some by the renowned Pakistani qawwali Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Rahman performed the lead vocals for some, but many were sung by the members of the choir or by the singer Javed Ali. Sivamani, a long-time friend of Rahman, was on ­percussion.
After the first few songs, Sivamani came on stage, followed by a very upbeat Mast Kalandar - one of the high points of the night.
It seemed like many in the audience were not prepared for the pace of the show, expecting Rahman to play more of his popular and commercial pieces - some in the crowd left long before the show was over.
The night started to gain momentum when Rahman did switch to some of his more popular songs, such as Piya Haji Ali from the movie Fiza, Arziyan from Delhi 6, Laal Meri Pat and Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodhaa Akbar and Kun Faya Kun from Rockstar.
Audience expectations aside, for someone who enjoys Sufi music, the night was a memorable one.
The students delivered a fantastic performance, and seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the Sufi lovers in the audience.
ajhurani@thenational.ae