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She rocks ’em

Her voice rose to a crescendo, soaring above the pulsating drumbeats, and the audience collectively stomped its feet.

“Hawa kafan hai, saansein dafan hain, mitti mitti hai sab, zinda hoon main kiske liye…” sang the husky-voiced Shibani Kashyap, and the audience sang along.

Panchami evening saw a sea of people welcome the diva and the Devi with Seagram’s Royal Stag Mega Music Pujo Rock, in association with t2, at Salt Lake’s City Centre.

Zinda means alive. And I think the Pujas are all about being alive,” Kashyap told Metro.

Going by the crowd response, it was an “alive” performance all right.

Mehndi on her palms, 29-year-old Bishaka Ray was seen tapping to the beats with her husband. “My husband loves music and I love applying mehndi, so we are both making full use of the evening. Shibani is singing really well. I hope she sings some more songs. We read about this event in t2 and came to watch it all the way from Madhyamgram,” she said.

The crowd had gathered long before the event began. In fact, most of them were already there when the doe-eyed diva came on stage for a 30-minute sound check.

By 7.30pm, when she was finally ready to take the mike, RJ Jimmy Tangree had worked the audience to a frenzy. The opening strains of her most remembered hit, Sajna aa bhi ja, played as she glided onto the stage to thunderous applause.

The set list comprised her own pop numbers, peppered with a few Bollywood hits. Songs like Ho gayi hai mohabbat, Kya nazakat hai, Zinda hu main and Sheila ki jawani drew in the crowd from the surrounding stairs closer to the stage.

But the maximum applause and madness were reserved for her near-perfect rendition of the Bengali folk hit Shadher lau. “I didn’t know she could sing in such perfect Bengali,” said Shatarupa Das, 22, clapping along.

“I sang in Bengali so that people could connect with me,” Kashyap said. “I can’t speak the language but I can understand it. I have sung in some Tollywood films, including Pa Ma Ga Re Sa (starring Rohit Roy and Resshmi Ghosh). My diction is clear because I like the language and my band’s guitarist, Saibal Basu, is a Bengali. We have been hanging out a lot together with Bengali friends. So I have picked up the right pronunciation from them. I haven’t learnt it or worked on it consciously, it has come to me naturally.”

The audience was already in a trance and Kashyap made sure they also joined in. Not one to be shackled by the boundaries of a stage, she mingled with the crowd and held out her mike for them to sing “banailo morey boiragi” to her “shadher lau”.

So how did she like it here? “I love performing in Calcutta,” she said. “The audience here has great taste in music. They are musically enlightened and receptive to different kinds of music. But what made it special was the Puja feel. This is the first time I am coming here during the festival. The festive spirit is amazing. The moment you enter the airport, it’s all lit up and you instantly know it’s Puja time.”