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Over the years, Sunheri Yaadein, the popular annual Hindi film music show promoted by Swar Sadhana Academy and Ravie Shetty Concepts has built a loyal following in Auckland that has ensured a capacity crowd year after year.

Conceived by music enthusiasts, the late Sanjay Badakere and his wife and well-known singer Sandhya, Sunheri Yaadein has been a much looked forward to event in the Kiwi-Indian calendar for some time now.

This year’s edition hosted last week, however, saw a major change in the format – right from the well-recognised brand subsumed by the rather gimmicky title ‘A Cassette in my Walkman’. The show attempted to take listeners on a nostalgic journey back to the era of the portable cassette player – the iconic Walkman – with a selection of songs from the 1990s and early 2000s.

While the concept of the show was interesting, the selection of songs could have been more eclectic: The focus on Shah Rukh Khan songs was sharp – the playlist could certainly have been more melodically varied. Sunheri Yaadein, on the other hand, has done extremely well in its selection of theme-based songs down the years, weaving meaningful and insightful commentary between the songs to deliver a wholesomely nostalgic experience to its loyal demographic. ‘A Cassette in my Walkman’ had little informative commentary – more pointless banter that added little value, if at all.

It was heartening to see the impressive progress that Swar Sadhana’s students have achieved in their singing in recent years – a testament to highly-experienced guru Sandhya’s talim. Mayuri Bhole, Siddhi Nigudkar, Shikha Shethia and Gopal Krishan sang beautifully, with Shikha and Gopal excelling in their presentations. This reviewer first listened to Shikha five years ago – she has indeed come a long way. Given his superb, classically-trained voice and soulful singing, one would have hoped to hear more of Gopal on the night.

The concert was unfortunately marred by poor sound arrangements – the bane of musical concerts in Auckland. Mayuri and Siddhi’s singing was, at times, nearly inaudible as were some of the musicians – particularly the trombonist and the saxophonist. They were excellent in their playing but sadly very low on audibility. This was indeed unfortunate, as their performances could have added so much to the richness of the soundscape: to include woodwind instruments in Hindi film music shows is such a rarity in the first place.

The effervescent Ritika Puri brought much needed energy to the concert with her full-throated singing and cavorting across the stage. Generally, though, the energy levels seemed suboptimal and the performers were unable to inspire the crowd to join in to dance, despite repeated invitations to do so.

The more experienced Ravie Shetty, Vibha and Rachit regaled the audience with solos and duets, and all the singers and musicians joined in to present an impressive finale that was a well-crafted medley.

Veterans Hemant Thakar and Cloyd D’Mello on keys and ace percussionists Navneel and Prashant and drummer Nigel Kishore did a wonderful job accompanying, joined by three guitarists and the two woodwind players. A touching scene at the concert was Sandhya singing a popular duet with son-in-law Jatin Puri.

Sunheri Yaadein will undoubtedly do well if it continues to deliver on its popular, time-tested format. Sure, it must definitely experiment with new themes like last weekend’s concert. But it would be well advised if it kept these experiments different from its well-known brand rather than confusing, perhaps even disappointing, a section of the large and loyal following it has built over the years. That perhaps explains the less-than-capacity crowd at the show – something that has never been the case in previous years.

First appeared in the Indian Weekender dated May 11, 2023