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On a song at UN
- Bhoomi receives standing ovation

'Antorjatik kashphuler bagan dekhe elaam,' grins Soumitro Ray of Bhoomi, recalling raised arms swaying to the band's tunes that reminded him of the rippling kash of the Bengal countryside.

The venue: the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, where 'Lata Mangeshkar, Ravi Shankar and others have performed' and where Bhoomi members 'were the first Indians to be invited after a gap of six or seven years'.

The lead singer, drummer and lyricist of Bhoomi was relaxing at Dalhousie Athletic Club after successful shows at Houston Banga Sammelan and the Dag Hammarskjold auditorium at the UN on July 12. The group, comprising Soumitro, Surajit Chatterjee, Sanjoy Mukherjee, Hemanta Goswami, Abhijeet Ghosh and Robin Lai, took the stage in somewhat uncharacteristic tussar dhoti-kurta and performed for 75 minutes.

'It was supposed to be an hour-long programme, but the audience wanted us to go on and on,' Ray tells Metro. The auditorium was packed to capacity and after presenting Swapno, Chol sokhi, Pocha Kaka, Modhur modhur chaoni, Mone aar nai re, Baranday roddur, Kaam saarse and the brand new For a Better Day, in English, the group retired to a standing ovation.

Even after a bunch of immensely popular albums, a book of lyrics and over 1,000 shows (many of them abroad) the UN performance was 'special' for the band. 'There was not a single known face in the audience and I doubt whether any of them had heard our songs. We had distributed synopses of all the songs and I was doing a bit of explaining on stage. Something must have clicked, because I soon found them singing along. Nazaum, nazaum became 'Nzam, nzam' but it was a great experience,' says Ray.

A song that broke the barriers was For a Better Day, the first Bhoomi number not in Bengali, written especially for the UN show by Soumitro. The band felt that singing before the UN guests 'just called for a special song on the brotherhood of man'. The ballad with a chorus that goes 'Your touch could give me hope/ and strength to walk another mile' was so well received that S. Paradis, president of the UN Music Appreciation Club, suggested that it be adopted as a UN song, says Soumitro.

So will Bhoomi switch to English' 'Bengali suits Bhoomi just fine,' states Soumitro. For a Better Day, however, will feature in the band's next album.

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