After a gap of a year, Cherry Blossom Festival bounced back in all its glory and with a superb line-up that included headlining international acts and some wonderful local music. Originally set to be held between November 17 and 19 at RBDSA Sports Complex, Madan Kurkalang, Bhoirymbong, the weather in Meghalaya played up and heavy rainfall robbed the festival of its first day. But the next two days were euphoric for those living in the state and, most probably, no one was either home or asleep. Amidst lush greenery, just a little away from the beautiful Umiam Lake, Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 was held.
There were performances by Ronan Keating, Ne-Yo, Hybrid Theory, Sanam and Jonas Blue. Musically, it was a mixed bag with local artistes like Lou Majaw (known as Bob Dylan of India), Blue Temptation (a blues band from Shillong), hard rock fusion band Snow White and EDM artiste Pink Panda taking the stage and proved why Shillong is the land of rock. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t teary-eyed when I heard Ronan Keating from the front row.
The festival had three stages, with performances being held simultaneously across stages. The Main Stage was where all the headlining performances took place, there was a Cherry Blossom Stage and The Dome (owing its name to the shape). The festival upheld the carnivalesque spirit with the scent of roasted pork and local Khasi, Garo and Naga cuisine filling the air; some cool merchandise stores sprawling across the vast expanse; and, a giant Ferris wheel stole the show. Here are some snapshots.
(L-R) “It’s overwhelming to see so many people singing along despite being from a generation that was not even born when I dropped these songs. What a wonderful sight Shillong is,” said Ronan Keating. “I’ve come from a very remote land in Ireland, and to come here, take the stage and watch all of you enjoy my performance so much is amazing.” Someone from the crowd flashed a poster that read: “Ronan I love you more than pork.” He quipped: “I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult.” He sang his songs from the former band Boyzone, like No Matter What and I Love the Way You Love Me. I think when he started off with his numberWhen You Say Nothing At All and reached 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, I was teleported from Meghalaya and found myself standing right before a blue door in Notting Hill. Flashlights went off and everyone joined in as he sang some of his foot-tapping as well as romantic numbers.
Sanam Puri’s voice and smile are to die for. Despite being pushed to the last day due to unforeseen circumstances, Sanam (Indian pop band) held the stage with pride as thousands lined up, stayed back late and danced along, right after Ronan Keating. “We do covers, yes, and the audience loves it, but we’re going to do some of our originals and are really excited about that. We are eagerly looking forward to the audience’s reaction,” said the band before going up on stage. And after their performance, with a crowd cheering and almost losing their voices to both their cover of Gulabi aankhen and their originals, we can say Shillong gave the band a treat.
Lou Majaw, who plays at Dylan Cafe in Shillong every Friday, never fails to impress. “I still do what I do, because, among everyone else, I do it the best,” he said as he spoke to t2 before going up on stage. The most fascinating thing: The singer is almost 80 and needed assistance going up on stage, but the moment he took his guitar, one could see him shed decades. He delivered an energetic performance as he strolled back and forth on stage with his guitar.
“The energy in Shillong and the crowd gathered here is unbelievable! The landscape, cherry blossom trees, everything is setting the mood right,” said the Let Me Love You hitmaker Ne-Yo. He looked dapper in a black fedora and black suit with rhinestones. Ne-Yo was an experience I’ll never forget, and the crowd showed crazy energy as the R&B artiste took the stage and impressed with his smooth moves and melodious voice. From Sexy Love to Try Me Out, he made it enjoyable.
(Top left) Snow White delivered an impressive performance and upheld their campaign: “Say no to drugs.”
(Bottom left) Jonas Blue, an English DJ and producer from London, entertained with EDM numbers on the last day of the festival. He delivered the coolest closing act. People across age groups (some of them with kids), danced to the foot-tapping beats of the artiste.
(Right) Blue Temptation, a blues-rock band from Shillong gave an impressive performance and sang some of their originals, like Here All Night (their latest release) and Blessing, as people turned their smartphone flashlights on and swayed along.
A WALKTHROUGH OF WHAT WE LOVED
(Top left) Smoked silkworms, crabs, prawns, pork and more. Plus, local Khasi, Garo and Naga cuisine filled the air with mouth-watering aromas and ensured everyone munched away.
(Bottom left) The merchandise stores were stacked with cool sports jerseys, band T-shirts and more as people poured in. The accessories store had cool junk jewellery, colourful scrunchies and dream catchers at reasonable prices.
(Right) The giant Ferris wheel stole the show