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NE Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Competition Is A Big Success

Shuchita Rao

When 11 year old Anusha Kulkarni received a re-sounding applause for her powerful rendition of the popular Hindi film song “Mere Dholna” in the NE Sa Re Ga Ma competition at Babson College on June 26, one of the panel judges, playback singer Minu Purushottam congratulated her and asked her a question in Hindi in front of a large music loving audience.  “I am sorry I do not understand Hindi” replied young Anusha in all honesty. The answer may have surprised the judge considering her exemplary diction in a language that was not her primary native language but to many members of the audience, that fact was not a big surprise. In a world filled with people of diverse backgrounds, music has established itself to be a proven agent that has the power to leap across language barriers and unite people.

In late May, 2010 with a view to bring together people of different cultural backgrounds who enjoy Hindi and related languages and Hindi film music, New England Hindi Manch, a non-profit organization based in Boston organized a Hindi film song competition along the lines of India’s popular T.V show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. The plan to host a music competition that featured Hindi songs proved to be an extremely smart move because it leveraged the presence of a healthy interest in Indian music in the local New England area which has recently emerged into an Indian cultural hotspot.

Once the idea of a Hindi music competition was planted, a team of dedicated volunteers steered by Hindi Manch board members, Preetesh Shrivastava, Mohan Dali, Shubha Chungi, Chaitanya Godsay and Pradeep Shukla got to work. Song auditions were arranged in 3 Boston locations, Winchester, Cambridge and Framingham to attract local area singers in two categories: juniors in age group 9-17 and adults over the age of 17. The organizers received an enthusiastic response. 100 plus hopeful contestants signed up to compete in two categories. Initial rounds of competition led to the selection of 6 juniors and 24 adults for the semi-final competition. Through a careful process of selection to eliminate repetition, contestants were allowed to select two or three songs and mail karaoke tracks to organizers of Hindi Manch ahead of the June 26 semi-finals.

The semi-final and finale events on June 26 at Babson College were ticketed events and open to the general public. Against a backdrop of lighted silk pearl white curtains, emcees, Chaitanya Godsay and Vasundhara Ganju introduced contestants to the audience in Hindi. Contestants sang romantic songs, sad songs and classical songs from old and new Hindi movies set to karaoke music with courage and energy. Between the use of trained, melodious voices to dramatics and enigmatic stage presence, performers engaged audience attention for more than 8 hours. Contestants were judged on a rubric that graded accuracy of pitch, rhythm, expression and complexity of songs presented. The competition was a difficult one to judge and led to the selection of 5 finalists in adult category and 3 finalists in the junior category.

The judges for the semi-finals and finale were Minu Purushottam, a well known playback singer from Mumbai who has sung in Hindi movies with famous Mangeshkar singers Lata and Asha, Rama Karedla, a local musician, Shrikant Lagu, a Hindustani vocalist from Mumbai and Pranab Biswas, a classical vocalist who has sung for movies such as Rajneeti and Lagey raho munnabhai. Biswas commented to the audience after listening to a couple songs “ This competition is no different than the TVS Sa Re Ga Ma show in India when it comes to the quality and high standards of performances”.

 A magazine published in Hindi titled “Patrika” containing the program schedule and articles in Hindi contributed by local writers was available to the audience. Bollywood Grill provided delicious Indian food at affordable prices. Members of the audience deliberated with great interest on semi-final performances between bites of Chole baturey and sips of mango lassi and made predictions on contestants who would make it to the final round.

The final competition began at 6:15p.m. Adults sang two songs for the final round while juniors sang one song for their final competition. 2 Hindi group songs, “Humaari mutthi mein” and “Sooraj ka naya chehra” were presented by competition participants to the accompaniment of live instrumental music preceded the final competition. Local music brands Aaroh and Saptaswar provided accompaniment on tabla, drums,  electric guitar and keyboard. Guest performers Kumkum Dilwali, Meena Sundaram, Shraddha Agrawal and Raghu Saranthan presented popular Bollywood numbers to entertain the audience.

There was palpable excitement in the air when the judges announced prize winners. The winners of the adult category were Shirish Nimgaonkar and Sharanya Sarkar. The winners of the junior category were Roshni Narasimhan, Anusha Kulkarni and Selina Banerjee. Anusha Kulkarni also won the audience choice award in addition to the second prize.

President of the organization Preetesh Shrivastava addressed members of the audience in his vote of thanks. He said that he observed that members of Hindi-Urdu speaking community all the way from Hotel Taj in Mumbai, India to Hotel Taj in Boston were hesitant to speak in Hindi and consciously avoided speaking in the language. With the idea to introduce our future generations to the Hindi and related languages and culture, Hindi Manch will undertake creation of social, cultural and educational programs that bring together the Hindi language speakers in the New England community. Baalmanch, a  talent show for children, Mahamoorkh Sammelan, a comedy show and a full length Hindi play Ballabhpur ki roopkatha, directed by Mohan Dali will be some of the programs that will be presented by Hindi Manch in Boston in the coming months.

The credit for a very thoughtfully conceived and efficiently organized competition goes to Hindi Manch (www.hindimanch.org) and to the dedicated members and volunteers of the organization who worked hard to make the event a grand success. 

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90.Yahoo, Anusha! July 25, 2010Miss Melissa 
91.Deserving winners July 14, 2010Shridhar 
92.Kudos to Roshni Narasimhan July 12, 2010B Raju 
93.Deserved the win July 9, 2010Dipti 
94.Great event July 9, 2010Kash 
95.Great job by the organizers - good singers July 9, 2010Prakash 
96.Singers in the junior category were wonderful July 9, 2010AN 
97.Did the competition need to have a winner? July 9, 2010InderJeet 
98."Professionals" should be excluded July 9, 2010Prateek 

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