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Music Collaboration Charms Boston’s Bollywood Music Fans

Shuchita Rao

Bollywood popular star Shreya Ghoshal performed with the Berklee Indian Ensemble (BIE) on the evening of December 7 at the invitation of Berklee College of Music as resident artist for 2017. Produced by Berklee India Exchange’s Annette Philip (artistic director), Clint Valladeres (managing director), and Rohith Jayaraman (assistant manager), the concert titled “Shreya meets Berklee” commemorating BIE’s 5th anniversary was sold out several days before the day of the show. There was much excitement in the air before the show began and after the show ended, an overwhelming expression of delight at the outcome of the collaboration between Ghoshal and the Berklee Indian Ensemble.

Commencing shortly after 8pm with a warm welcome address by the president of Berklee College of Music, Roger Brown, the two hour long show featured non-stop entertainment led by Ghoshal and BIE’s talented orchestra comprising a variety of Western and Indian instrumentalists, vocalists and dancers from 19 countries. President Brown applauded Ghoshal for her versatility as a musician and command over multiple languages. He made the audience smile with his comment “After Hindi, Telugu and Kannada, I won’t be surprised if she sings in Gregorian”. 

Ghoshal’s entry to the Berklee Performance Center’s stage in a flowing brocade cream gown embroidered with shiny sequins and a long, bright yellow dupatta drew instant applause from her fans. With perfectly coiffed shoulder length henna tinted tresses framing a pretty face, she projected grace and beauty. Creative lighting bathed the stage in vivid colors as a couple of graceful Rajasthani folk dancers accompanied Ghoshal’s opening song “Ghoomar” from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie “Padmavati”. Ghoshal’s velvet smooth voice backed by Berklee Indian Ensemble’s orchestra and choir breathed life into the rhythmic song based on raga Brindavani Sarang. Thanking the producers of the show and President Brown for making the event happen, Ghoshal said “I have truly had the best time of my life working with the Berklee Indian Ensemble in the past few days.”

In a span of two hours, Ghoshal sang twelve popular compositions of AR Rahman (Kalvare, Mannipaya, Barso Re, Do Dilon Ke), Madan Mohan (Aapki Nazron), Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (O Rangrez), Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Ghoomar, Deewani Mastani, Mohe Rang Do Laal), D. Imman (Sundari Pennae) and Ismail Darbar (Dola Re Dola), Rabindranath Tagore (Ekla Chalo Re) in Hindi, Tamil and Bangla languages. Marked by perfection in pitch, command on rhythm and appealing voice modulation, Ghoshal’s innate talent, training in classical music and perseverance served her well in delivering the songs with ease and flair. The strengths of the evening’s presentation included colorful costumes, vibrant dances, well-coordinated orchestration and innovative instrumental twists to interpretations of yester-year melodies such as composer Madan Mohan’s hit song “Aapki nazron ne samjha”. Ghoshal’s duets with three talented young vocalists, Rohith Jayaraman, Shrivant Singh and Shradha Ganesh were excellent and received with tremendous enthusiasm by the audience. BIE’s robust string and percussion orchestra greatly enhanced the presentation and the occasional use of konnakol technique (vocalization of percussion syllables) by Jayaraman added a unique touch to some of the song arrangements. Graceful classical and folk dances by BIE students added visual appeal and drama to the presentation.

Berklee India Exchange’s artistic director, Annette Philip praised Ghoshal and said “One of the things that excites us very much every time we have an artist in residence is the opportunity to explore, experiment and challenge ourselves. What is especially nice is when an artist comes in and really pushes our limits further than we thought we could go.” Serving as a platform for cultural conversation about Indian music through artist residencies, musical collaborations and performances, the Berklee India Exchange has hosted Indian vocalist, composer, and producer Clinton Cerejo, Grammy and Academy award-winning composer A. R. Rahman, master vocal improviser Vijay Prakash and the virtuosic vocalist-composer Shankar Mahadevan as resident artists in the past four years.

A visibly delighted concert attendee Radhika Basheer of Sharon, MA said “It was a great concert especially because Shreya Ghoshal and all of the performers seemed to be having a lot of fun and enjoying themselves while presenting the songs.”

The evening concluded with Berklee students hailing from several countries around the world walking down the aisles with lighted lamps in their hands while Ghoshal sang Nobel Laureate poet Tagore’s Bangla song “Ekla Chalo Re”. “With so much negativity and tension in the world today, music is what has kept us together. This concert is a tribute to love, humanity and music” said Ghoshal in a heart-touching, wrap-up note to a magical Bollywood music night.


(Photo credit: Mike Spencer )

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