On Saturday evening August 8, I attended a concert called Explosion 2009 in Oakland, California which featured popular Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam. Also included in the show were rising female singer Sunidhi Chauhan, rap group Hard Kaur, and a bhangra competition featuring California bhangra teams (primarily teenagers and twenty-somethings). I thoroughly enjoyed the show—some of my highlights and lowlights were:
- Sonu Nigam was really on top of his game— singing hits from the movies Om Shanti Om, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Saathiya, and Bachna Ae Haseeno. Energetic and showing great range and variety with both his dancing and singing, he was able to quickly engage the audience and make it a very vibrant experience.
- As an example of his musical range, he transitioned from one of his Bollywood songs into a surprise Michael Jackson tribute performance to Billie Jean, starting with a tabla like drum performance. He then went onto sing the entire Billie Jean song in English, with many of Michael Jackson’s typical dance moves, culminating in a very authentic Moonwalk. Here’s a clip of the song.
- Perhaps the most energy displayed from the crowd was during Sunidhi Chauhan’s Desi Girl performance. The performance of the popular song from the movie Dostana got the crowd into a frenzy, with portions of the audience streaming from the mid-levels of the arena to the lower level of the arena to wildly dance and revel to the rhythmic beats. Here’s a clip of the performance.
- The show included a performance by rap group Hard Kaur right after Sonu Nigam’s initial performance and then ultimately after their performance, Nigam and Chauhan both came back out to perform some more. The rap group didn’t really fit into the flow of the overall performance and I found it be distracting from the overall theme of the program.
- Preceding the performances from the Bollywood singers, about five or six local bhangra groups performed in an on-stage competition. While I really enjoy bhangra and appreciated the efforts from the teams, it was clear the majority of the crowd wasn’t there to see amateur bhangra performances and started to hoot and holler during the performances and yelling for Sonu Nigam to start his performance. An unfortunate part of crowd behavior as the bhangra performers were giving it their all and trained heavily for this event and didn’t deserve to perform during any booing. Blame goes to the organizers who should have planned a much shorter competition if at all when they have a captive audience waiting for headline performers.
Overall, a very enjoyable experience which I would go and see again. A few tweeks to the program would have made it even better but Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan both were top notch and made the show very much worthwhile.