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Boston Sargam 2023: New England Celebrates Baisakhi 2023 With Zest

Nikhil A. Gokhale, Priti R. Sonwalkar and Brij Garg

Boston Sargam 2023: New England Celebrates Baisakhi 2023 with Zest 

Nikhil A. Gokhale, Priti R. Sonwalkar & Brij Garg

Boston Sargam, the much anticipated annual cultural event from New England made a grand event on April 16, 2023 at the Boyle O'Reilly Hall in Westborough, MA. The event was organized to mark the auspicious beginning of Baisakhi 2023. Traditionally, Baisakhi is celebrated all over India (especially in North India) to mark the beginning of the spring harvest. Historically, it is also the day when the 10th Guru of the Sikh tradition asked for five disciples (later to be known as “Panj Pyare”) who were ready to sacrifice their lives for righteousness. The five men who showed tremendous enthusiasm in shouldering this responsibility hailed from various parts of India and belonged to diverse communities. They were subsequently appointed as the first disciples of the “the pure” Panth. They were also presented with five symbols and a new surname (“Singh”), which would inspire them to be as victorious as a lion. The 10th Guru himself was given the name “Guru Gobind Singh (from Rai)” from that day onwards.

An ecstatic Brij Garg remarked, “Punjabis are well known for their gregarious spirit.  Their lassi glasses are the biggest and their parathas are the richest! They dress up with the brightest and most colorful clothes in India. At this celebration of Baisakhi on the evening of April 16, the charming dresses adorned by the enthusiastic women who attended the event or participated in it accurately reflected this tradition.” 

Meanwhile, DJ Tej Singh maintained the festive mood with his melodious songs. DJ Tej has been serving the Indian community in and around New England for the past 20 years. His passion and interest in music and singing have inspired him to entertain and bring together people at birthday parties, graduations, fundraisers, weddings, and at various events hosted by Indian organizations. He has been an integral part of Boston Sargam right from its inception. 

Navneet Sharma of Hopkinton set the mood for the evening with his melodious songs. The first half of the evening was managed by Madhumita Das, who introduced various singers and performers. Himani Chawla sang a beautiful Punjabi solo song, followed by Geeta Singh. 

Geeta Singh, based in North Andover, Massachusetts, learns vocal classical music from Mr. M. Ramarao and works for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Geeta enthusiastically participates in facilitating various Boston Sargam events. Boston Sargam provides her with an opportunity to perform community service and deliver classical vocal music in front of an enthusiastic audience. For the event on April, 2023, she selected songs/tracks that demonstrated certain nuances of classical vocal music.  For example, the ghazal by Chitra Singh and the late Jagjit Singh (“Us mod se shuru karen”) was based on the Khamaaj and Kaafi ragas, and on the Keherwa taal.

Jaya Asthana recited a poem about Basant rutu (the season of Spring). Other singers including Bibek Das, Niti Kapoor, DJ Tej, Jyoti Singh, and Suparna Biswas also delivered mesmerizing performances. Abhishek Singh’s poetry recital also received a good response. The duet by Manisha Chaudhary and Navneet Sharma stole the show. It was based on the folk song "Kothe de aa mahiya," made famous by the immortal Jagjit and Chitra Singh. The line "Tusi roj nahaya karo" (take a bath everyday) made the audience burst into spontaneous laughter.

Jaya Asthana also read a poem written by her late mother Mrs. Raj Kumari Sinha. Jaya prefaced her poetry reading by talking about how her mother was a great lover of nature, and how a lot of her poems had “nature” as the central theme. As the evening was a celebration of Baisakhi, she read a poem on the "Basant Rutu" (Spring). Because of popular demand, she recited another poem titled "Ye kaun Chitrakar hai," which also artistically narrates the beauty of nature.

Niti Kapoor, a Math Teacher and mother of two college-going kids sang the melodious and evergreen ghazal “Aaj jaane ki zidd na karo.” She has been actively volunteering for Ekal, New England, for the past several years. Niti has felt passionate about signing since her childhood days.

Says Niti’s husband Rishi Kapoor, “The program was well organized and everyone had a wonderful time. Looking forward to more such Boston Sargam events.”

Rajesh Bhutani introduced the mind-boggling performance of Nikita’s Bollywood Dance Academy (NBDA) – a very well-choreographed dance.  Students of NBDA delivered an enthusiastic performance.  This part of the evening was hosted by Geetanjali Virmani. The live music motivated several women from the audience to step onto the dance floor. They spontaneously danced and imitated the “Giddha and Tape (aka Tappe)” moves. The audience relished the scrumptious sandwiches, snacks, and desserts that were offered to them during the event by the organizers.    

NBDA has been sharing its passion for dance since 2009 in New England. Nikita’s philosophy is that dance is for everyone. NBDA is rich in tradition and has built its foundation on technique, while remaining current through workshops and training sessions. Students of NBDA delivered an epic performance that was the highlight of the evening. NBDA’s tiny champs impressed the audience with their Bhangra grooves, while their dance moms and divas lit the stage with their grace, thus reminding us of the Baisakhi festival back home in India. NBDA teachers and performers included Lalitha Pathruni, Meera Patel, Aarya Poudyal, Anshika Jale, Anaya Shah, Kashvi Mehta, Trisha Mehta, Lalitha, Deepika, and Amrata.

Says a thrilled Ekta Jain, “It was our pleasure to perform for Boston Sargam and Ekta Dance Academy was happy to present “Giddha,” a famous folk dance of Punjab, in traditional Punjabi attire along with authentic folk dance props.” The performing artists included Ekta Jain, Geeta Virmani, Dimple Desai, and Priyanka Belawade. Ekta Jain, Founder, Ekta Dance Academy, taught dance in India for 7 years, and after moving to the US, has continued teaching for the past 10+ years. Based in Westborough, Massachusetts, Ekta Dance Academy (EDA) encourages students of all ages to learn all forms of Bollywood dance, as well as hip-hop, freestyle, folk, and semi-classical dances. Students of EDA regularly participate in dance competitions and also perform for cultural organizations. Dances include group numbers as well as musical dance dramas. Besides getting featured in local newspapers and channels, EDA has performed on live TV for the Boston Celtics. Through various partnerships with charity organizations, EDA students voluntarily participate in community activities. For instance, they organize free dance workshops and perform at senior citizen centers. 

At the Boston Sargam event on 16 April 2023, Navneet Sharma’s performance was outstanding.  In the beginning, he sang a medley of old Hindi songs on his Suzuki Professional Harmonica, followed by two duets with Manisha Chaudhary. He also sang a solo titled “Asman se aya farishta” from the movie “An evening in Paris.” The audience was captivated by his powerful and emotive voice. Every note was executed with precision and skill. Moreover, Navneet’s stage presence was magnetic, drawing everyone in. The crowd started dancing on the floor and erupted in applause after the song, with some even getting up to give a well-deserved standing ovation. It was clear that Navneet had put in a lot of effort to ensure the delivery of a flawless, mesmerizing, and brilliant performance. Overall, it was truly an unforgettable experience for everyone in the audience.

“It is great that Boston Sargam organized such a great event. Hopefully more such events will be organized by Boston Sargam in the near future,” said an amused Navneet Sharma.

Rajay Goyal thanked Boston Sargam for organizing the festive event. “It was a wonderful evening organized by Boston Sargam. Anil Chawla’s and Tej Singh’s audio system management was fantastic. It was a great venue of appropriate size that let people mingle after a long hiatus. Many folks played and sang some truly lovely songs of the yesteryears. Well done, Boston Sargam,” said Rajay.

Suparna Biswas, an enthusiastic singer from New England, said, “Boston Sargam’s Baisakhi musical event that took place on April 16, 2023, was a great initiative by Anil Chawla and team and I was glad to witness the event, after COVID-19 gap. The event was very entertaining. The music played by the local artists and the Punjabi folk dances were both impressive. It was a pleasure to present my new Punjabi song, which I released on the occasion of Baisakhi, in front of a small but elite audience. The single music video is a brand new Punjabi song titled "Mahi javin na," written by the well-known Punjabi Lyricist Aanchal Puri from Mumbai. The renowned Music Director Shourya Ghatak (Pintu) from Kolkata has directed the music. The music recording and vocal dubbing were done in Kolkata and the video shoot was done in Sikkim. The song was very much appreciated by the Boston Sargam audience. We are definitely looking forward to many such events in the near future. The heart-touching Punjabi song has been posted to YouTube (https://youtu.be/a8kEUdvsgjs). Congratulations and thanks to Boston Sargam!”

Abhishek and Jyoti Singh were happy to attend the Boston Sargam event. The duo said that they had witnessed a great mix of music, dance, and poetry after a long time. Abhishek Singh took this opportunity to share Krishna's devotional poetry and a few other patriotic poems using his popular style, while his wife Jyoti Singh sang a popular song from the movie "Qala" to enthrall the audience. The couple thanked the Boston Sargam team for arranging the fun-filled musical night.

“The whole evening was memorable and the hosts Anil Chawla and Himani Chawla took excellent care of the diverse audience. Everyone participated enthusiastically. People were clapping and dancing to various songs,” said Abhishek and Jyoti.

Educator Manisha Chowdhary, Director of the Manishum Early Learning Center and Patron/Event coordinator of the Bihar Jharkhand Association of New England remarked, “I am thankful to the Boston Sargam organizers for giving me the opportunity to represent myself in their show. I represented myself as a Bhojpuri singing “Bidesiya, sunder subhumi bhaiya Bharat ke deswa,” written by Babu Raghubeer Narayan in 1911. The folk theatre form of Bidesiya has originated in the 20th century and has been prevalent in the Bhojpuri-speaking regions of Bihar. Bidesiya is a dance version of Biraha songs and expresses the pain and despair of the families that are distanced from their men. Thank you to the entire Boston Sargam team for putting up an amazing show.”

A jubilant Nisha Bawa said, “We attended this spectacular show for the first time, but will join again in the future. It was a truly amazing talent show and artists from all age groups participated in it enthusiastically. Kudos to the entire team and to its relentlessly contributing volunteers.”

Feeling super excited about the event and its overall coordination, Bibek Das and Madhumita Das said, “We spent a wonderful evening with entire team of Boston Sargam. Our association with the group dates back to 2009 when we were inspired by  Anil Chawla, Tej Singh and his close associates because of their tireless efforts in promoting community events that unified people and helped discover new talent from within the community. The evening once again recreated the magic of Boston Sargam. It was a fun-filled getaway from our busy lives. Enjoyed compering at the event that joyfully overflowed with epic music, poetry, live singing, and wonderfully choreographed dance performances. We also got an opportunity to catch up with old friends.”

Anil Chawla thanked Tej and Raj for setting up high-quality audio systems. He also thanked entire team including Ashwini Mishra for extending a helping hand to Boston Sargam ever since its inception in 2009.    Anil Chawla especially thanked Suresh Sharma and Sneh Sharma who came all the way from Glastonbury, Connecticut to attend this event.  Suresh Sharma is founder of Milan cultural Association, which organizes great musical events along with social, civic and economic issues of United States of America and India.

Announcing the conclusion of the festive evening, Rajesh Bhutani & Sudha Bhutani, Boston Sargam noted the happy mood of all attendees of Boston Sargam event. Anil Saigal of Lokvani enjoyed the entire event and sated that they never ever missed any event organized By Boston Sargam. Anil Saigal mentioned the community-supported great Ekal programs.  Abhishek Singh & Brig Garg announced the upcoming community programs such as the storytelling contest for youth and the Hindu Heritage Day on May 20 at the Marlborough Middle School.


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