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FOG Idol 2019 off to a melodious start

FOG Idol 2019 off to a melodious start
August 08
12:57 2019

LAKSHMI IYER
India Post News Service

FREMONT, California: FOG Idol, the singing competition that is part of the Festival of Globe (FOG) celebrations, launched its auditions in the last week of July in Saraswathi Hall at the Vedic Dharma Samaj Fremont Hindu Temple.

The participants with their families and the judges – from left to right: Jasmine Kaur’s mother, Mohammed Haroon, Jasmine Kaur with her brother, Shrinidhi Ivaturi (in front) with her mother, Ritu Maheshwari, Alka Bhatnagar, Deepthi Nakka, Lekshmi Satheesh (second from right) with her husband, Lakshmi Iyer (far right)

Over the weekend of July 27 and 28 and this past weekend of August 3 and 4, there has been an impressive turnout of talent in different age groups.

On July 27, Alka Bhatnagar, the Chair of FOG Idol AND a renowned singer and Hindustani classical instructor who has worked in TV, films and radio back in India and performed in several concerts, inaugurated the contest by paying homage to Lord Ganesha through the hymn, “Vakratunda Mahakaaya Suryakoti Samaprabha.”

The judges for the first two days and FOR August 4 were Alka Bhatnagar, FOG Media Chair Ritu Maheshwari and FOG Coordinator and this correspondent.

The first contestant was Shayanti Ghoshal, a college student at UC Davis. She gave a bravura performance in Hindustani classical. Rachita Panda, also in the 18+ age group, sang a difficult classical number – a hymn in praise of Lord Shiva – and impressed the judges with her sweet voice.

Nishant Bordia, a software engineer by profession, demonstrated superb “aalaap” skills in his performance of “Dhak dhak mora jiya” (in Indian classical music, a rapid rise and fall with fluctuations in pitch is known as “aalaap”).

Kishor Bhatt, a big fan of the late legendary Hindi film singer Kishore Kumar, sang a few numbers including “Khaike paan Banaras waala”, the famous number picturized on Amitabh Bachchan.

A surprise walk-in was Mrinmoy Roy who sings at the Fremont Hindu Temple and is well-versed in Rabindra Sangeet of West Bengal. A self-professed fan of Manna De, he sang one of Kishore Kumar’s earliest numbers, a semi-classical song that had catapulted him into fame.

The participants and their parents/friends with the judges – from left to right: fourth – Ritu Maheshwari, fifth – Alka Bhatnagar with Ankita Jayasimha (in front), center – Lahar Dalal, Sireesha Dhulipati, Sheetal and last – Lakshmi Iyer

When the judges requested a second number, he sang a song originally rendered by Asha Bhosle, one of Indian cinema’s greatest female playback singers along with her sister, the legendary Lata Mangeshkar.

In the 10-17 age group, Kaavya Patel sang “Pehlaa Nasha” for her main performance, an all-time favorite from the 1990s.

On July 28, Aadhya Rai, also in the 10-17 age group, rendered “Main Kaun Hoon” from the recent film, “Secret Superstar” very well. For her second song, she picked the oldie, “Dil ki girah mein”.

On August 3, Lahar Dalal, another well-known Bay Area singer, joined the panel of judges. The judges had a real surprise in eight-year old Ankita Jayasimha. She beautifully rendered an Annamacharya bhajan for her first song. When the judges requested a second song with no accompanying music, she sang a Carnatic number. Along with her older sister, Ankita is receiving training in classical music.

Sireesha Dhulipati, a hardware engineer who works for Synopsys, also comes from a Carnatic singing background. She first sang a classical number. When Bhatnagar requested a second song, she picked the evergreen hit, “Lag jaa gale se”. With very strong “aalaap” skills, Sireesha’s performance was impressive. Bhatnagar, who was born and raised in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh, advised Sireesha on her breathing technique so that the latter does not break up words.

The judges for July 27 (from left to right): Lakshmi Iyer, Alka Bhatnagar and Ritu Maheshwari at Saraswathi Hall

She said, “Wording is very important in Bollywood.”

Another surprise walk-in was Sheetal, an 18-year-old girl who has been active in her high school choir. Sheetal’s performance marked a departure from the previous ones that were based on Indian classical music. She transported the audience to a different realm with her rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. For her second song, she belted out the Sia-David Guetta hit, “Titanium”.

Both Bhatnagar and Dalal advised Sheetal to gain some training in Hindustani classical in addition to her mainstream American singing.

August 4 had an interesting mix of contestants. The first to walk in was Mohammed Haroon, an Afghan by origin, who has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for five years. He sang the famous number, “Tere liye duniyaa chhod di hai…main tujko itnaa chata hoon” with a background score, and when asked to sing without a background , crooned the title song from “Kal Ho Na Ho”.

Haroon mentioned that he was always passionate about music and had grown up listening to a lot of Bollywood songs. He added that his favorite was Mohammed Rafi. About his repertoire, Haroon said that he sang in many different languages, including Punjabi, Hindi, Arabic and English apart from his native Afghan tongue.

When asked to sing an old song, he rendered a few lines from a difficult Rafi song.

There were two girls in the 5-9 age category. Shrinidhi Ivaturi, who is just a few days away from her 10th birthday, sang “Ey watan” for her first song and an American patriotic number for her second.

Jasmine Kaur played the keyboard synthesizer while singing, “Hum honge kaamyaab”.

The last two contestants August 4 were Lekshmi Satheesh and Deepthi Nakka, both in the 18+ category. Lekshmi gave a mind-blowing performance of a classical song from the film, “Devdas”. When Bhatnagar requested for a second song, she rendered another difficult number with ease, originally sung by none other than the great K. L. Saigal. Bhatnagar was especially pleased as her father, a singer and composer himself, was a huge Saigal fan and she had grown up listening to his songs on the radio.

Judges for August 3 – From left to right: Alka Bhatnagar, Lakshmi Iyer, Lahar Dalal and Ritu Maheshwari

Deepthi Nakka also was very melodious. Her rendition of a Bollywood song followed by the Telugu version of “Kehna Hi Kya” from “Bombay” were both on point.

FOG Idol auditions will continue at the Fremont Hindu Temple August 10 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and, August 11 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The finals will also be held August 11 from 5.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m.

 

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