Revival of Jhankaar

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The Jhankaar band with local singing legend Jimmy Subhaydas, back: third from left. Picture: SUPPLIED

The revival of the Jhankaar band has gained them some popularity over the past few months. Originally formed in 2004 with three members, they have evolved with the return of managing director Sam Rao who reunited the band in 2017.

Now with eight members in the team, the band is based at Votualevu in Nadi. Band manager Samresh Rao said after completing his studies in 2015, he decided to revive the band.

“I was awarded a scholarship by the Indian High Commission in 2012,” he said.

“To study for my Bachelor of Arts degree in instrumental music in Kolkata, India.

“So, during that time the band had to stop performing because I was the one running the show.”

When Rao came back in 2015, he started teaching at Indian cultural centres in Fiji.

“In 2015, when I came back, I revived the band in 2017.

“And with only three old members, we got new members, now the band is based in the West.”

Rao said the band would travel to Suva to perform at certain events.

“There’s more action in the West, but we often travel to Suva and Nausori to perform gigs,” he said.

“Way back in 2004, most of our members were musicians for other bands, like the Sangee Sitare, The Bad Boys, Regime Orchestra and other bands.”

However, the unifying factor for these musicians was that “we were all artists of the Indian Cultural Centre”.

“So, basically, we have added a classical touch to our old music. We all came together to form Jhankaar.

“It was named the Jhankaar Orchestra because it was a big band at that time.” From 2004 until 2012, they were regular fixtures at private events and weddings, “but we also started getting opportunities for the stage shows”.

“Our market was very small because we were playing mostly in private events, but we started getting a lot of shows like the Hibiscus Carnival and the Bula Festival.

“We went all the way to Labasa and Savusavu (in Vanua Levu), all these places during that time, from 2004 to 2010.”

Rao said when the band was revived in 2017, there was a surge of events for them to perform at. “So, if you’ve seen our Facebook posts, we do a lot of concerts.

The Jhankaar band before a performance. Picture: SUPPLIED

“These are Bollywood-based concerts and this year, we managed to actually do the highest number of huge shows as far as Hindi music concerts were concerned.

“We did five major stage shows. One was at the Girmit Centre in Lautoka and the other one we did was at Suva’s Albert Park. This was during the Fiji Girmit Day.

“The third one we did in Nadi and the fourth one we did at the Tebara Carnival in Nausori.”

In addition, the band also did a show in Sigatoka last month, and they had an opportunity to do a virtual concert for FBC during Fiji Day. These activities have drawn supporters and viewers from overseas, and because of these concepts, “we are now regular with private events”.

“We have been getting reservations and bookings almost every weekend,” Rao said, adding that a memorable event for the band was performing at the Girmit Day celebrations on May 12 this year.

“It was at Albert Park when we performed live in front of a large audience. The historic part was that we actually played original Girmit songs.

“And because the market in Fiji is such, we are always copying and doing covers for Bollywood.

“We started with originals that were composed by prominent musicians of Fiji like Mr Vivekananda and also Mr Naresh Chand, a music teacher at the Girmit Centre.

“So, they composed the songs and sang and we backed them up. “We also had the likes of Jimmy Subhaydas, who also performed with us there.

“And from the band side, since we’re growing now and gaining popularity by backing those pioneer musicians, I think that was when people recognised us and our popularity.”

Rao said there were plans in the pipeline to host a national tour and a Fiji Hindi Music Festival next year.

“We’ve only planned for seven concerts and these concerts will be under our banner.

“We want to go on a national tour starting with Ba, Lautoka, Nadi, Sigatoka, Suva, Labasa and Savuasavu.

“And also in terms of Hindi music, we have not been able to bring all the musicians together.

“And we have planned to do a show next year that can bring in overseas musicians, especially from Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

Jhankaar band members

Vikash Reddy – lead vocalist, Rajen Mani – keyboard, Dhiraj Lal – vocalist, Elvin Kishore – bass, Sahil Naidu – percussion, Noshil Thakhur – vocalist, Ronald Mani – drummer, Samresh Rao – manager