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 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

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Shaan Sizzles on Stage and Rocks off It

Photos by Darshan Shah


Every time I meet Shaan and see him perform on stage, I’m constantly blown away by his talent, his stamina and how incredibly genuine and accommodating he is off stage.
   On 24th June, Klub Klassic and Mark Premji brought Shaan to Atlanta for the final concert of his tour which spanned the US, Canada and the West Indies. What many members of the audience didn’t know says Mark Premji who was the National Promoter for the show was the fact that Shaan had performed till 1.30 a.m. in Trinidad before an audience of 7000, didn’t even have time to shower, caught a flight and reached Atlanta at 6.30 p.m. A quick shower, and a 30 minute nap later, the popular Saregama host and singer par excellence was ready to rock the stage.

This time, Shaan who has been to Atlanta last year, came to town with his own band, with five musicians-Sarosh on lead guitar, Anupam on percussion, Bernard on Bass Guitar, Sushil on key board and Gopal on drums. The five made it seem as if there was an entire orchestra on stage with their versatility and talent. Ruchika Tikkoo was the female lead who came with Shaan and she began the show with the two popular numbers Kaisi paheli hai yeh kaisi from Parineeta and Dhoom Macha le from Dhoom, among her first three numbers. After that it was Shaan all the way. 

He began with the sizzler of last year that had won the filmfare award- ‘Dus Bahane” from the film Dus. Shaan had mentioned to me that this song was a last minute addition, because the makers wanted a song to be used in the promotional trailer.” The song was created and shot within 48 hours and released, and before we knew it, it was a mega hit.”

Shaan mentioned that having performed back to back before two huge crowds of thousands of people in Surinam and Trinidad, he was really happy to be performing before a cozy crowd in the intimate settings of Earthlink live. Looking down from the high stage, Shaan jokingly said he was getting vertigo, and chose to come down and serenade a few members of the audience, shaking the hand of a man who thoughtfully ran over and placed a chair for Shaan to climb down on, touching the feet of an elderly lady sitting near by. His sense of humor came to the fore when he said-I’m always there in your living rooms, and at times..uh.. in your bedroom-referring to the popular Saregama show that he hosts on Zee TV, before belting out Dil ney tum ko chun liya hai, Main Aisa Kyon hoon, and Musu Musu, the song with which he started singing for films. His new album Tishnagi has been a hit in the US and Shaan went on to sing a couple of popular songs from the album before Ruchika came back on stage to sing Kuch To Hua Hai, Ladki Kyon na Jane Kyon, Ladkon si Nahin hoti, Koi nahin hai kamre mein and 24/7 from China Town.

Then it was time for a twenty minute interval, but Mark Premji surprised Shaan and his wife Radhika, and Shaan’s mom with a lovely birthday cake for Shaan’s older son Soham who turned 4 on that day. It was the cutest sight to see Soham waiting for his grandma, while his little brother Shubh was having a whale of a time running his hands across the cake and covering his cute little face with it. Backstage to mark his birthday the adorable four year old was instructed by his mom to give dad a kiss and touch his feet which the little one did.

An exciting highlight for local Atlanta fans was a mock Sa Re Ga Ma held on stage where 9 local Atlanta singers performed one by one, and audience applause was to decide the winner. In some cities the local promoters had refused to allow the mock round, saying people had come to see Shaan and not local artists, but I know that many people turned up for this show just to support their friends on stage. Due to flights being delayed and the artists reaching very late, the singers did not get an opportunity to rehearse with the musicians or even tell them what song they would be performing, but everyone sportingly took to the stage. The singers ranged from trained performers to those who love music with a passion but have little official training and zero experience in performing with a live band but all of them came through with flying colors.

Tanweer Mian an IT professional set the segment off to a flying start. Tanweer says he comes from a music loving family and has been performing at concerts for over 15 years, across the US, Canada and the UK. He has his own band called The Melody Group. Currently working on an album that should be completed next year, Tanweer sang the popular hit” Bheegey Hont tere” and nailed every single nuance of the song. Shaan who is extremely quick witted and had a special word for every singer-said to Tanweer-“Stay in IT, don’t come to Bombay otherwise my job will be in jeopardy.”

Lakshmi Rao came next. Lakshmi’s parents are both accomplished musicians and her brother too is in Bollywood. Having won many accolades as a singer, Lakshmi was kept away from a professional career as the Mangeshkars were ruling the roost then.

She got her big break on stage in the US when she sang with Nitin Mukesh. Since then Lakshmi has done a lot of successful shows with Tanweer and many other male singers from all over US. Lakshmi chose to sing “Jeeten hain shaan se,” to also acknowledge Shaan. The singer was duly impressed by her pitch and how her voice soared on the high notes.

Swapna came next and sang the rather difficult number Chupke se Lag ja gale. Swapana has a nice voice, but it was obvious she was having a hard time staying on key and with the musicians.

Chandrika Narayan who is a journalist with CNN, is a good friend and one of the most humble people I know. She came first in a competition in school and the girl who came second and has reigned supreme in the film industry, is none other than Alka Yagnik. While not professionally trained Chandrika sang at school functions, on social occasions, music festivals and competitions taking a long break after marriage but now is part of a group where people get together and sing on karaoke. She has also sung with Tanweer.

Chandrika always makes us laugh because at the beginning of every session, she says, “My voice only warms up after 3 songs.” When she repeated that phrase to Shaan, without batting an eye, he said go ahead sing three..when she fumbled with the first few lines, as her pitch didn’t match what the musicians were playing and sportingly started all over again, Shaan said mischievously-okay that was one, and now the second song..
Chandrika sang the title song from the film Tere Naam, and while this was not her best performance, all of us cheered like crazy because she is such a good sport and a genuinely nice person.
Anita Gupta, who is a multi-talented woman, actress , model, singer, IT professional all rolled into one came next with the seductive Jadu Hai Nasha hai and Shaan said its rare to find a combination of beauty and melody, so it was nice to have her on stage. Anita has a better repertoire of songs and while this was not her best performance, it was better than what she thought it to be after she came off stage.

The first time I heard Subra Viswanathan, I was totally blown away by the effortlessness of his voice. More than that his wife Latha and he are two of the coolest people I know. His humility, sense of humor and the ability to genuinely appreciate good music and good singers without an agenda is what makes him one of the most popular singers and people in town.

An IT Management professional by occupation, Subra has been very active in the Atlanta music circles. He excels at vocal light classical music and, as a trained percussionist in Mridangam, accompanies artists in and around Atlanta in Carnatic music circles.

He blew everyone away with his rendition of Kinna Sona by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The huge cheers that erupted even before he walked on to the stage didn’t go unnoticed by Shaan who said to him-Subramaniam ji, what is the secret of this adulation? Subra jokingly said he bribed everyone with samosas..Pat came the response from the ever witty Shaan-“The samosas became quite a samasya(problem) for other contestants, since the cheers will decide the winner.(Did we hear that this guy didn’t sleep more than 30 minutes over a 48 hour period before coming on stage? Shaan’s quick witted comments and presence of mind on stage and phenomenal memory are quite mind boggling to say the least).

Mahua Mukherjee came next. Mahua, a software consultant is a Sangeet Visharad in Hindustani Classical Music, having learnt from her mother, her guru Balram Saha and from Padma Devi Maudgalya at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. She has also learnt from Shubha Mudgal for a short period of time. An artist at All India Radio Delhi, Mahua too, gave up on regular singing for a decade until arriving in the US 2 years ago. Since last August she has been performing with Dr Brij Singh’s band Dhwani. It was obvious that she was a league above many of the other singers as she sang Seekho na naino ki bhaasha, a song made popular by Shubha Mudgal. Shaan observed right away that he could see the training and began referring to her as M&M because of the sweetness of her voice. Mahua is as charming and humble in real person and a treat to listen to.

The last but not the least singer who calls her self a “natural talent and self-taught music lover”” was Raakhee Bannerjee. Raakhee has learnt Rabindra sangeet for about 2 years and then recently studied Hindustani Classical music at the Pt. Jasraj School. Raakhee has won several competitions, and is a regular performer in and outside Atlanta.

She sang Suniyo ji, Lata Mangeshkar’s popular song from Lekin and nailed it as well.

At the end, four people received the same level of applause and were declared joint winners. They were Tanweer Mian, Mahua Mukherji, Subra Viswanathan and Raahkee Bannerjee and I have to say the audience was very knowledgeable and discerning and made the right choice.
It was also really nice to see how supportive they were of the local artists. Many came up to me and said to convey their compliments to the singers and Mark Premji for thinking of this idea, and to Shaan for doing such a super job of hosting the show.

Shaan began the second segment with the number that has become a huge runaway hit-Chand Sifarish from Fanaa. He did such an outstanding job, that the crowd screamed for an encore and he obliged sportingly. From there he sang in many different he was winding down my friend Komal Seernani screamed from the audience-“You left out the Sindhis”. Without missing a beat Shaan sang a sindhi segment, and went on to sing other block buster numbers from salaam namaste, My brother Nikhil, his ever popular numbers from Tanha Dil and other hit songs like Nikamma kiya, janaabe ali and bindaas to name a few. There was also a mock competition between him and Ruchika about who is the best- boys or girls. The singers invited members from the audience to come and join and at the end, the decision was made in the favor of the girls when Anita Gupta’s husband, the ever witty Umesh Rathie floored everyone by spontaneously mouthing a Jagjit Singh song couplet, giving it his own twist..” We will lose our heart to you and make your win everlasting!(Hum Haar ke Dil Apna Aap ki Jeet Amar Kar deetey Hain!)

Shaan’s thoughtfulness spilled over as he took time out to sing lines from a song I had requested a year ago when he had come to perform and he had not been able to sing it. It is a beautiful but not often requested number based on rag Darbari. Composed by A.R Rehman the song Paigham laya sawaan is a song that Shaan admits to being one of those few numbers where he felt elevated as a singer. He had asked me to bring the lyrics and promised he would sing it. I forgot but he insisted I write the lyrics down and then took time to break the rhythm of the rocking numbers he was belting out to say he was going to sing this for me..he did and then went on to song my other favorite Le chalen from My brother Nikhil, dedicating it to yet another friend in the audience.

More sizzle was added to the show with the local group Silent Killers coming up with some great moves to the songs as Shaan and Ruchika performed in the forefront.

The show ended at almost 2 a.m. Shaan has gone back to India but people haven’t stopped talking even to this day about his amazing stage presence, his thoughtfulness, his incredible humility. Mark Premji says he is yet to meet someone who is so caring of his band, who makes it a point to hang out with everyone in spite of long hours on stage, and tries to accommodate everyone. For Premji who traveled off and on with Shaan, the tour was a revelation of the star’s popularity. “The Rockstars concert was on the same day as Shaan’s show in New York. They asked us to join hands with them. Salman Khan called me personally, but we went on our own, and Shaan pulled in more people than the Rockstars show did. It speaks volumes about his popularity,” says Mark and adds, “When we toured the West Indies, we were accorded a personal welcome by the government of Surinam, thousands of people gave Shaan a standing ovation, and yet he is the kind who sings his heart out with as much sincerity and passion, and shows the same kindness and joy on stage-be it 50 people or 50,000. I have yet to meet someone as “nek dil” (pure and noble of heart) as Shaan.”

The local singers came away with some interesting thoughts. Subra said “While talent, practice and dedication is definitely important in a live performance, the sheer amount of energy that Shaan brought to his performance, his general humility and self effacing nature, and the way he was able to get the audience involved, while hard to replicate, is truly a model to emulate for future performances of my own. It is not easy to do, and too often we mistake good singing with a 'serious' demeanor, and yesterday's performance taught me otherwise. Finally, I have to admit that coming in to the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, I was not sure whether the audience would appreciate close to 45 minutes of music from local talent, having really come to see and hear Shaan. Kudos and sincere thanks to the Atlanta audience for their wholehearted support and cheers. They truly made it a memorable night for me.”

Tanweer Mian added “Performing at the Shaan concert was definitely an enjoyable experience. It was even more enjoyable hearing other Atlanta singers, some for the first time, and they were excellent. Shaan made the singers feel comfortable and relaxed, which added to the overall pleasant experience.” Chandrika Narayan added “Shaan is a fabulous singer, amazingly good natured, and has a great sense of humor ! He remembered our names, (mostly); chatted informally with us, and was the best host that I’ve encountered!” Chandrika also says, “ The other major thing I learned – and I’ve heard it said repeatedly before on American Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma and Indian Idol – and I never quite realized how important it was – that if you’re given just one song to sing, it’s critical to pick the right song!

Also, you should not depend on a band (that you may not have had time to practice with) – for the beat and the background music! (In fact, I think it is better if the band is a little subdued and not too loud -- you sing better, you get to hear yourself better and you’re not drowned out by the band!) 
Although I was kicking myself since it was certainly not my best performance on stage --- (not even close) -- all in all, it was a very positive experience. And I think Mark Premji was a gracious host - he made things fall into place even though the band arrived late and there were other hiccups! 

Lakshmi Rao said, “I was literally awestruck by Shaan’s versatility, agility, and the strength of his voice. I actually wanted to back out of singing but after talking to him backstage, I felt comfortable, because he is so humble and easy to be with. Is it any wonder that he is today's top favorite.”

Other artists echoed Lakshmi’s thoughts and were equally appreciative. For those who missed this concert, perhaps this really will remain my choice for THE CONCERT OF 2006. So it really was your loss. 

Let’s hope each time Shaan comes to the US, Atlanta becomes a compulsory stop for him, and more and more people can dip into the nectar of his voice and be part of the love and warmth he carries in his heart for everyone. He was even thoughtful enough to request every one to come for the next show starring Debojit, Rex and Qazi, to encourage these young stars from Indian Idol and Saregama (to be hosted by Klub Klassic again on 21st July). And this after 4 plus hours of jumping and dancing and belting out number after number. It was a night that beautiful memories are made of. 

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