Why it's destination India for Bryan Adams and the like

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By Madhusree Chatterjee

New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) Thanks to its net-savvy and well-travelled people, rich music and dance traditions and openness to experimentation, India has become a hit with top Western performers who find audiences here mature and highly receptive.

The entertainment circuit is abuzz with shows from the likes of Canadian rockstar Bryan Adams, American pop rock band Foreigner and the US-based Paul Taylor Dance Company.

"The audience has changed in the last 10 years because of the internet and the viral effect of aggressive social networking that has spread awareness about English music in India," Sujit Jain, managing director of Netsurf Entertainment, who is presenting the Bryan Adams concert in India, told IANS.

"The responses to all Western music concerts - the jazz festivals and the numerous rock concerts, including the small ones - have been overwhelming."

"The Canadian rock star's appeal cuts across all ages and generations. Western music aficionados in India like soft rock and romantic ballads which is Adams' genre of music. The concerts coincide with the Valentine's Day and his songs captures the spirit of the day," Jain said.

Jain plans to bring Shakira and U2 to India later this year.

Adams will be in India Feb 12-16 for a five-city concert beginning with Pune Friday, followed by Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad.

On Friday, the popular 1970s band Foreigner will perform in the national capital with "funksitar" maestro Niladri Kumar. The Delhi concert will be followed by performances in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

A three-day International Dance Festival from Feb 15 by the Raja-Radha Reddy Institute of Dance will bring five of the world's leading dance ensembles to Delhi and Hyderabad, including the popular American new-wave Paul Taylor Dance Company.

For Kelly Hansen, the lead vocalist of Foreigner, "India is rife with expectation".
"It has a rich legacy of music and is a unique country. We want to have a great time here because the audience understands our brand of music," Hansen told IANS from Florida.

The band, which is collaborating with an Indian musician for the first time, wants to use the tour to familiarise itself with Indian music.

Said noted Kuchpudi danseuse Kaushalya Reddy, the driving force behind the Raja-Radha Reddy Institute's International Dance Festival: "The Indian urban audience is more mature that it was 10 years ago."

"The taste of the Indian audience has evolved with television. Indians are more open to Western culture, exposed to experimental work and well-travelled. The youngsters like traditional arts, but want to savour the delight of new western performance arts and music genres," Reddy told IANS. Her own daughter was training in blues and rock music from Ashley Lobo.

She said the Reddy institute wanted to bring the best of the dance genres to India. "We wanted to bring the best of renditions. The Indian audience may not always be able to go abroad to watch the top international cultural showcases, but they are discerning."

The last two months have been a carnival for the homegrown Western music audience.

Last week, blues legend Buddy Guy held Mumbai under its spell at the Mahindra Blues Festival with several other popular blues musicians.

Legendary jazz guitarist and three-times Grammy winner Larry Carlton, who performed at the Jazz Utsav in December, said "Indians were one of the best audiences he has ever had".

"You understand jazz music," Carlton told a packed theatre after his concert. Jazz as a genre is healthy and will continue to grow in emerging countries, Carlton said.

According to a capital-based culture analyst, the exposure of the Indian audience to western music and culture began in 1950s when the early pioneers of Indian classical arts like sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, sarod exponent Ali Akbar Khan and "tabla" king Allah Raka took Indian music abroad to Europe and the US and to perform and collaborate.

It led to a spurt in fusion projects throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including a brief brush with The Beatles.