By Aparmita Das | Bhoirymbong:
He strummed his guitar in full country mode, and the audience loved every moment. Ronan Keating finally took the stage at the Cherry Blossom Festival on Sunday, and it was a moment to remember.
The audience, a diverse blend of age groups, from a gentleman in his 60s to a young girl of barely 9, all fell under Keating’s musical spell. Described as a gentleman, he exuded a soft demeanour, accompanied by a shy yet endearing smile that contrasted with the immense power of his vocals.
Dressed in an elegant off-white suit, adorned with golden hair, an earring on his left ear, and a watch on his left wrist, Keating not only delivered what the crowd had eagerly anticipated but exceeded expectations. The atmosphere was electric as he seamlessly connected with the diverse audience, leaving an indelible mark on the Cherry Blossom Festival.
“Every stage that I stand on, I hold the flag of Boyzone,” he remarked. Expressing his commitment to performing songs from his former band, he proceeded to treat the audience to a medley of Boyzone hits. “For the past 30 years, across every stage I’ve graced, I’ve always given my best, and tonight here in Meghalaya will be no exception,” he affirmed. True to his words, he delivered a stellar performance that resonated with the crowd.
“The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me”
… Yet, Keating bade farewell after gracing the Cherry Blossom Festival stage on a memorable Sunday.
Before delving further into Keating’s performance, it’s worth highlighting the impactful presence of a noteworthy band—Sanam. Around midnight, the soulful melodies of Sanam resounded through the air, prompting tears of joy from mesmerised fans who found it hard to believe that Sanam was performing live before them.
“Oh my! They’re even more handsome in real life…” echoed through the crowd, a sentiment that proved true. However, what truly stood out was not just their good looks but the camaraderie among the band members, their outstanding performance, and their undeniable talent. Sanam, renowned for their soulful renditions of classic Bollywood songs, delivered precisely what the audience had hoped for.
“I’m here for Sanam…Their music healed me,” reverberated through the crowd whenever anyone inquired about their presence. Perhaps there was truth in that sentiment. Four tall and handsome men—Sanam Puri, Samar Puri, Keshav Dhanraj, and Venky S—commanded the stage, embodying the essence of the band that the audience had eagerly awaited.
Prior to their performance, The Meghalayan had the chance to catch up with the band backstage.
“We were supposed to perform on Friday, but, unfortunately, rain played spoilsport. Well, it is what it is. The silver lining is that we’ve got more time here, and we’re still acquainting ourselves with the surroundings. Meghalaya has been a delightful experience so far,” conveyed Sanam Puri, the lead vocalist of the band.
“The energy in the air is electrifying, the India vs Australia finale is underway, and incredible artists are gracing the stage… This is unquestionably the place to be,” chimed in Venky, while Sanam Puri leaned forward, eagerly trying to catch a glimpse of the giant screen backstage showcasing the cricket match. “We’re quite literally in the clouds,” noted Samar Puri, evoking a sense of altitude, and Keshav exclaimed, “Absolutely, we’re thoroughly enjoying the weather.”
When queried about their proficiency in singing across languages, Sanam passed the mic to Keshav Dhanraj. Seizing the opportunity, Keshav praised Sanam’s remarkable versatility, stating, “One distinctive aspect about Sanam Puri is that his voice seamlessly adapts to every song, every language, and the accent is always on point… Even when we don’t comprehend the language, we feel the music. Our aim is to reach a broader audience, and we’re delighted that our music has the ability to resonate with diverse listeners,” Keshav expressed. Sanam was pleasantly surprised to discover that, despite the audience’s strong affinity for their cover renditions, there was still widespread awareness and appreciation for their original songs, such as “Teri Aankhon Se.”
Setting the stage for Sanam was none other than a cross-generational artiste, a heartthrob not only in the ’90s but spanning through the 2000s, 2010s, and into the 2020s, destined to endure as long as his timeless songs live—Ronan Keating. In the latter part of his performance, the singer took a brief intermission, only to return with an unexpected twist. Shedding his white suit, Keating emerged in black trousers and a rolled-sleeve black shirt, proudly displaying his tattoos.
At the onset of his first set, Keating had humorously noted, “Some of you may not be familiar with me and my songs, given that you might not have been born when I first started. However, your parents might recognise a few tunes of mine.” Yet, as his performance unfolded, he found himself proven wrong. By the end, the audience not only knew every word of his songs but also demonstrated that music transcends generations, and iconic songs remain evergreen, defying the passage of time.
Before the international and national acts took the stage at the Cherry Blossom Festival, a wave of excitement swept through the crowd as Shillong’s legendary Lou Majaw, often hailed as the Bob Dylan of the East, made his presence felt. Majaw delivered an electrifying performance that struck a chord with the audience’s soul. The iconic musician, renowned for his soulful renditions and timeless contributions to the Indian music scene, brought his unique blend of rock and blues to the festival stage.
Despite the chilly weather, the 76-year-old rockstar nonchalantly shrugged off the cold, much like Elsa would say, “The cold never bothered me anyway”. Mid-performance, he even took off his shirt, sending the crowd into a frenzy—a true rockstar of Meghalaya. While the locals anticipated Majaw’s showmanship, for visitors, he was a delightful surprise. One attendee expressed, “Lou Majaw is a legend. I am definitely coming back for his shows again!”
The local connection did not end there. In a delightful fusion of tradition and modernity, Nokpante from the Garo Hills took centre stage, captivating the audience with their unique repertoire. Their performance, marked by a blend of traditional and contemporary musical elements, added a distinctive flavour to the cultural extravaganza. Hailing from the picturesque Garo Hills, Nokpante showcased the rich cultural heritage of the region through a medley of songs seamlessly incorporating traditional tunes and modern renditions.
The grand finale of the Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 concluded with a bang! Jonas Blue, also known as Guy James Robin, an English DJ and music producer based in London, delivered a night to remember for the audience.
In a conversation with The Meghalayan, Jonas Blue shed light on his choice to partake in the Cherry Blossom Festival. He conveyed, “The impact of Covid has been profound, taking away two years of my life, much like it has for everyone else. With a fan base in India, I felt a sense of importance in returning here to perform. It was a decision I deemed crucial and necessary.”
As the chilly night warmed up with the beats and melodies he delivered, Jonas Blue created a night to remember. The atmosphere he generated ensured that every visitor at the festival went back home with a smile and a happy heart, truly making the Cherry Blossom Festival an unforgettable experience for all.