Please don’t get me wrong – I am very proud of Rehman’s Oscar wins and really love his songs. But A R Rehman as a performer – sorry I think he should stop. Rehman is an incredibly talented composer, but I think he is at his best in his studio with his keyboards and software sequencers. Notice his performance in Jay Leno – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rdN77SJ8_4. He is just standing there with a keyboard (probably a Korg Oasys), if you look at his hands he is really not doing much – he is probably triggering some pre-recorded arpeggios and sequences. Typically a keyboardist sits in such a way that the keyboard is almost orthogonal to the stage, so that the camera can capture the performer’s finger in action. Rehman’s keyboard is almost positioned to strategically hide his fingers. Then there are 2 people behind with huge blue colored drums. And then there are a couple of guys in the right corner with a guitar and maybe banjo. They start by playing a boring tune and humming to it for a few minutes and then suddenly Rehman gives up whatever he was doing and jumps into Jai Ho mode. Now c’mon there is no way the assortment of instruments there can produce the sound that comes out! Of course, by this time a dance troupe jumps on stage to distract and hide the lip-syncing that follows. Rehman surely was singing, but mostly he was crooning “Jai Ho” to a pre-recorded track, but the hook of the track which is played everywhere – high pitched Jai Ho with heavy echo effect remains just that – pre recorded track. His performance in Oscar’s was no different.
Although lip syncing and dancing to pre-recorded stuff is a norm in India and noone really seems to care. But in the west, people have different expectations from a live performance. It is an opportunity for fans to see their favorite songs played by live musicians in action – not live dancers in action dancing to the CD played on powerful speakers. Remember Ashlee Simpson fiasco in SNL? The oscar nomination does open opportunites for Rahman, but really I think he should stay off live performances and focus on his composing chops.