I have been a member of the Berklee Indian Ensemble for 2 years. They have been like a family to me. They have always brought out the best in me, and I will be forever grateful to them for all the opportunities. This time, I was honored to perform with the one and only Shreya Ghoshal.
The Berklee India Exchange have hosted famous artists from India such as:- Clinton Cerejo, A.R Rahman, Vijay Prakash, Shankar Mahadevan, Raghu Dixit etc. This year, in their fifth year artist residency, they hosted none other than Shreya Ghoshal. It was sold out 2 weeks after it was announced.
Shreya Ghoshal needs no introduction. She is a leading playback singer from India, who is versatile, and has sung songs in various different languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Assameese, Bhojpuri, Gujarati etc.
One of the things I am grateful for about this show is that I was singing for all the songs except for the ones she had solos. We rehearsed around 10 hours everyday for 2 weeks. We put in a lot of hard work. There were some hard times, but there were also some good tim
es. Due to the hectic rehearsals, and since it was finals week, I didn’t get to eat proper food nor did I get to exercise or sleep properly. I started getting anxiety and I got two panic attacks. It was then that I realized the value of self-care. I realized that even though I love singing, I love performing, I love my major and I love my friends, I get triggered by anxiety easily, and that one needs to find time to take care of oneself. After that realization, I started taking some time to relax, exercise, eat and sleep well. But aside from these difficulties, I also had so much fun. I got to bond with my friends and I got to know them even more. I got to see how talented and kind they are. I felt blessed to be among them, and I felt I was evolving every time I was with them. I believe that our bonding, our talent and our energy is what makes all of our shows successful and the same can be said for this one, I would say.
We spent a week rehearsing with Shreya Ghoshal. I have always admired her singing and talent, but it was only after meeting her that I realized that she had an amazing personality, too. She is so humble and down-to-earth. She is the leading singer of India and yet she had no star-like attitude or diva-ness in her. She was friendly to us. She is just like how the rest of us are. I remember when she entered, she cried “Hi guys” and she cracked jokes, something I have hardly seen people do. There was one time when she gave me a high-five. Every time during rehearsals, she would tell us about her experiences recording these songs, which helped us understand the songs more.
I was also grateful and honored when I was chosen to sing for her at the Masterclass. When I got the message that I was shortlisted, I couldn’t believe it, as I didn’t think I was deserving. I got to sing “Mohe Rang Do Laal” in front of her; I was nervous, my body was shaking the entire time. I mean, who wouldn’t be nervous if they got to sing in front of one of the top singers of India? But she was very genuine and honest in her feedback. She said she liked my singing and she also told me to work on my diction and dynamics. She spoke to me and guided me as like a friend would guide a friend. After that moment with her, my respect for her increased and I have also started believing in myself. I will keep her feedback in mind and continue to work on myself.
Then came the show, which went really well. The entire Berklee Performance Center was packed with a large audience. The show started with a bang and much energy with “Ghoomar”. The others songs we did were “Kalvare”, “Mohe Rang Do Laal”, “Deewani Mastani” (She sang both of these songs as a solos), “O Rangrez”, “Aapki Nazron Ne Samjha” (a wonderful classic rendition done by Shreya ji, originally sung by Lata Mangeshkar), “Mannipaaya”, a mash-up of “Barso Re/Dola Re Dola”, “Sundari Penne” and we ended with a rendition of the popular Bengali patriotic song “Ekla Cholo Re” by Rabindranath Tagore. It was a perfect end to the show, with people bringing diyas, the performers playing and singing their hearts out and with the audience completely moved.
Special mentions to these friends of mine: – Amira Gill and Harini Iyer, who choreographed and danced gracefully to “Ghoomar” and the “Barso Re/Dola Re Dola” mash-up, Janani Sharma who danced gracefully to “Mohe Rang do Laal”, Shrivant Singh, a talented singer who got to sing a duet with Shreya Ghoshal for “Mannipaaya”, Shradha Ganesh, another talented singer who got to sing a duet with Shreya ji for “Dola Re”, Rohith Jayaraman, the assistant manager of Berklee India Exchange, and a very talented singer, who also got to sing a duet with Shreya ji for “O Rangrez”, Vasilis Kostas who played the Laouto and Layth Sidiq who played the violin, both of them accompanying Shreya ji on “Aapki Nazaron Ne Samjha”.
It was truly a night to remember. Our 10 hours of rehearsing, bonding and our collective energy finally paid off and it was a success. Whenever a show ends, I start feeling emotional and I cry for some time and I did the same when this show ended. I was continuously singing the songs, thinking about the memories we had, but then again, things have to end someday. I am just going to keep in mind that I was grateful to have been a part of this show, grateful to have met a very talented and humble celebrity like Shreya Ghoshal, grateful to have sung in front of her and most of all grateful for doing this with the people I care about.
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And how proud and happy was I to witness all this happening live in front of me.. God has gifted you with lot of talent Swara and a lot of great friends at Berklee