Friday, October 01, 2004

Ekam Sat, Vipraha bahuda vadanti

Over the last 200 to 300 years, the incidence of urban legends and unsolved mysteries like the Abominable Snowman and the Yeti has increased multi-fold. While not being in the same scale, the mysticism surrounding AR Rahman's upcoming works, particularly the ones that are long overdue surely evokes the same effect among his ardent fans (which includes me too).

Ekam Satyam is one such effort. So what is Ekam Satyam anyways? In June, 1999, the Hindujas announced a series of concerts by Michael Jackson. For the second concert in Munich (the first one was going to be in Seoul) Michael Jackson was going to be accompanied by some Indian artistes including Rahman, actors Prabhu Deva and Raju Sundaram and actress/danseuse Shobana called the "Michael Jackson & Friends" concert for the aid of the “world's needy children”. The proceeds from the charity concerts were to aid the efforts of the International Red Cross Society, the Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund, and the UNESCO. The Hindujas roped in G. Bharat (aka Bharat Bala) and his wife Kanika Meyer Bharat to conceptualize this performance. Rahman stepped in with his musical poweress and set the ancient Sanskrit verse Ekam Sat, Vipraha bahuda vadanti, the literal English translation of which goes Truth is one, the wise call it by different names (source: a search on Google) to music with English lyrics to supplement the Sanskrit verse.

Associated Press reported that this concert took place on June 27th, 1999. The concert is notable for the minor mishaps that befell Jackson while he was performing. A bridge on the stage separated too soon and MJ fell in, but climbed out to continue his next two songs without any apparent trouble. However he left after performing for just over half an hour and Associated Press reported that he was treated for minor burns caused by fireworks (during the concert) and stayed overnight at the hospital.

Indian newspapers and websites later reported that Rahman and his fellow artistes closed the nine-hour open air concert after Jackson entertained an audience of more than 55000 fans at the gigantic Olympic Stadium. Jackson later came on stage to join the finale performance with the Indian troupe and gave a rendition of the English translation of the Sanskrit verse and Rahman's number 'Ekam Satyam'(One Truth) with folded hands wearing a white outfit designed by Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra.

The Tribune which describes this concert also mentions the cutting short of the concert and the hospital visit. But I thought there was a slight descripency between the accounts from AP and the Indian websites. While the Tribune mentions that the Indian artistes were the closing act of the concert, it mentions that Jackson left after his performance of 35 minutes. So where the Indian artistes made to cut short their performance? Or did MJ cut his performance midway, making the Indian group come on early and then enter the stage to finish his duet with them and leave the concert.

Anyways that’s the confusion. So what happened to the single? In one of his MTV interviews, Rahman said that he has “rendered the Sanskrit portions written by A.R Parthasarathy while Michael Jackson has rendered the English lyrics written by Kanika Myer Bharat”. So I am assuming that just the title and the first line of the song is from the Sanskrit verse from the Rig Veda. Rahman also said then (in 1999) that “since it became immensely popular among Jackson fans in the West, it was decided to release the song as a duet sung by Jackson and myself” and that while he expected the single to be released by the end of 1999, he also expected the single to be included with Invincible, MJ’s then forthcoming album. However neither happened. And are their any recordings of the concert? None, it would seem. Maybe the Hindujas could throw light into this.

However a lot of samples/music files make their way across cyberspace claiming to be recordings of the elusive Ekam Satyam and frequently they set the alarm bells ringing on the ARR fans Yahoo group. And it happened again last week. This person said he had uploaded this long overdue composition into some server or the other where all of us (the other members) could download it. Before some of us could respond and ask him about the source, a lot of other people had jumped and tried to download the file (in mp3 format). The group was privy to a number of frantic (to say the least going by the liberal sprinkling of E’s and L’s in the usually short word that is “HELP”) emails from a lot of people who could not download the file. Then someone emailed saying that the song cannot be THE Ekam Satyam because it sounds too amateurish to be Rahman’s collaboration with Michael Jackson. And then someone else stepped in to tell us what a lot of people knew already – that this mp3 file was the same one that has been floating on the net for quite sometime now. That has stopped the mad rush for the time being (at least for the next one year, if Rahman does not announce the release of the single in some form or the other).

So when is the single gonna be released? Or have we heard samples of it already as a BGM, like we heard “Telephone Manipol” as one of Roja’s BGMs? Reportedly Rahman is in touch with the group and some of the members and the only way the confusion can be cleared up is by him and him alone.

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