Poila Baisakh Kal Baisakhi and Bhoomi
Not even a nor'wester could quell the storm of applause as Bhoomi took the stage for Poila Baisakh. And to top it off, an absolutely sumptuous buffet dinner ...
There was a storm. And it threatened to bring down the curtains on the Poila Baisakh celebrations at the DI on Saturday even before they had gone up! Over 150 members and their guests were well-ensconced in their seats on the lawn when, at 7.45pm, the season’s first Kal Baisakhi storm (nor’wester) hit the city. A rush for cover ensued, even as gales of up to 76 kmph blew away tablecloths, swayed trees, and toppled flowerpots. Strangely, the flower decorations on the stage and the newly-laid forecourt that Steward Pratap oversaw in the afternoon stood their ground, even while the performance of Bhoomi and the audience shifted into the protected LIVE@DI environs.
“It took us just 25 minutes to shift inside and set up our instruments and equipment. We’ve been hit by similar storms at a few of our shows earlier, but this shift was in record time,” remarked Soumitra Ray, Bhoomi’s lead singer and band leader. His strong ties with the club may have been an instigation. Soumitra, or Shomu as he is known to many, almost grew up at the DI. “I still remember my parents’ membership numbers. My Dad’s was 213 and my Mom’s was 214. I recall those wonderful days at the club… Many years later, my two sons learnt how to swim here,” Shomu said of his association with the institution. “This is as much my club as it is yours,” he told the members in the gathering, amidst applause.
The Emcee for the evening, Joy Majumdar, welcomed the audience with his own version of “Amar mukti aloy aloy” (inserting ‘ey Nababarsher akashe’ in the next line) as well as reciting a poem heralding the Bengali New Year. He then handed over the stage to Bhoomi, the popular urban folk group that has been enthralling audiences not just in Bengal but in the country and abroad since 1999. With Robin Lai on the keyboards and violin, Abhijit Ghosh on bass and backup vocals, Hemanto Goswami on acoustic guitar and vocals, and son Arjyesh Ray on drums, Shomu belted out one hit after another, mixing a melodious voice with tuneful conga and percussion.
From Bhatiyali to Baul, Rabindrasangeet to their very own compositions, Bhoomi got the audience swaying and clapping to their music. “Nazam, nazam” was followed by “Dhitang, dhitang boley”, and the gathering willingly complied with Shomu’s request to sing along. Their R&B number, “L9”, named after the once-upon-a-time bus route that traversed Calcutta, filled the listeners with nostalgia, while the ever popular numbers “Kam sarse”, “Mone aar naire” and “Kande shudhu mon” drew applause. In between, Shomu pointed out that Bhoomi was the only Asian band to perform live at the UN General Assembly in July 2006, an honour the group greatly cherishes.
The performance started at 8.40, and within half an hour, about 250 people crowded the hall. Chairs were placed wherever there was place, and movement from one end to the other was an art the bearers managed with dexterity. “I came along to hear them even though I had a dinner appointment later. They are a good, entertaining band,” remarked Stephanie Sweeney Samuel, who missed working with Shomu in The Telegraph sports department by a couple of years in the late Eighties. “I’ve heard their songs several times on TV and radio, but this is the first time I’m hearing them live,” said Somita Dey, who was enjoying every moment of the performance. But it was the hit “Shohag Chand” that got a couple of enthusiastic ladies onto the floor. Sulagna Mukhopadhyay and Tripti Banerjee moved on the limited dance floor to the beats of the popular number, so much so that Shomu remarked, “Mairee, ki energy!”
Vocal energy by the audience was released when Bhoomi came to “Barandaye roddur”, and this time Shomu did not have to request the gathering to sing along. The curtains finally came down at 10.30, when the group wound up its 1,696th public performance, singing without a break. Many wished they could have continued with a few more songs, but a sumptuous dinner awaited those who had booked the ‘Bangali bhoj’ that had been laid out at Zach’s Lounge upstairs. All the items, from chholar dal, radha ballavi and chhanar kalia to fish fry, mutton dak bungalow and chicken Hyderabadi were well-prepared by Saqi Caterers. “We have been doing the club circuit for some time now, but this is the first time at DI,” said owner Sankar Banerjee.
Club president Jayajit Biswas was thankful that the evening went off well despite the inclement weather. “The band and the audience were in their full colours, and the music was followed by a lovely dinner. I think all the members and their guests went home happy. What better way to start 1424, the Bengali new year!” he remarked.