It was that period of a day in 2019 when the orange glow of the setting sun had faded and the first stars were appearing in the sky. We were in Kolkata, getting biryani from a takeaway next to a field where a stage had been set up for a musical performance. Crowds across varying age groups — some who were saree-clad middle-aged women and others who were clearly still in college — were filtering into the area with evident excitement, some of them holding hands and laughing. There was a genuine air of happiness and we understood why when we realised that Bengali folk-rock veterans Bhoomi were the band for the evening. That’s the sort of effect the act has on people, with aunties and uncles inevitably hitting the dance floor at their concerts along with the paarar chhele meye, or neighbourhood kids.
The outfit is now gearing up for its first-ever digital performance this weekend, which also happens to be their 1,795th live gig. And front man Soumitra Roy pooh-poohs away any apprehension that the online medium will take the zing away from the usually up-tempo experience at their shows, as was evident on that Kolkata field. He says, “We have to face the fact that we won’t have any live audience for a while now. I mean, this is the first time we are playing together after January 29. But I am excited about performing for a new type of audience. There will be hundreds of pairs of eyes looking at us from across the screen, listening to us and enjoying our music while we play it. You must appreciate the fact that these are people who have bought tickets. And we have also had queries from the US, so it’s a huge audience when you come to think of it. You are singing for a united world.”
Roy performing live
That’s a pragmatic and healthy approach to take in a situation like this, when people are moaning about missing offline gigs like children moan at a fair when their parents don’t get them ice-cream. Roy adds that the one-and-a-half hour set will include all their classic hits, meaning they will roll back the years. So, tune in whether you’re a mashima (aunty) or a jowaan chhele (young boy). It will be a fun time, guaranteed.
On September 20, 8.30 pm
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