Beats from the balcony
Two Pune-based sisters are winning the Internet with concerts from their verandah
Decked up in nauvaris and armed with ukuleles, Pune-based sisters Antara and Ankita Nandy regaled the listeners with their version of Reshamachya reghanni on Maharashtra Day, accompanied by the beats of ghungroo tied around their ankles and a few thumkas. The two-minute clip, that's shot on their verandah, has over four million views on YouTube alone, much like their other videos from the series they call Balcony Concert.
The series, which has become a hit with netizens during the lockdown, took off when the sisters, who hail from Assam, weren't able to head to their home state ahead of Bihu, in April. Twenty-one-year-old Antara, a playback singer who's worked with biggies like AR Rahman, shares, "During Bihu, we spend time in Assam, meeting our family, friends and performing for a few shows. Since we were missing that, we decided to dress up and sing for fun. Our mother wrapped us up in the mekhola, and we sang the Assamese song Phul phulise boxontot to an imaginary audience from the balcony." As the video looked nice, Antara uploaded it on her social media handle, and within hours, the duo was flooded with messages from relatives and friends from across the country saying their song was going viral. "We were so encouraged as we had shot that for fun. Both of us then knew that the Balcony Concert was here to stay," Ankita, 18, chips in.
Since then, the duo has belted out 11 such concerts in their trademark style of dressing up according to a theme, accompanied by their ukuleles, and introducing themselves as the Nandy sisters in the language they go on to sing in. But the sisters, both born in Assam and trained in music — Antara is a Hindustani classical scholar while Ankita has learnt under the guidance of music director Chandan Roy Chowdhury — are not new to the world of social media content. A couple of years ago, they were known as the 'clap and cup sisters', thanks to videos in which they would make music out of kitchen staples. However, college and school for Antara and Ankita, respectively, kept them busy in the past few years. "It was during the lockdown that we found time to jam together like we used to. Ankita wanted to learn the ukulele, so I started teaching her. And then the Bihu video happened, so we played along," says Antara.
Ankita, who just passed out of high school, and has sung for various TV shows, shares they wanted to spread some positivity. To reach out to all kinds of people, they cover songs in different languages, from Malayalam to Rajbongshi. A glance at the comments section on their YouTube videos will tell you that the "polyglots" have fans from around the country. "Our friends help us a lot. For example, for the Malayalam song Jimikki kammal, it took us days to perfect three kinds of Ts in the language. Our friends patiently helped us with the diction over calls," she elaborates.
While they pick songs they enjoy, the concerts are also planned keeping in mind special days such as Maharashtra Day, Poila Boishakh, the upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi, or seasons, like the onset of the monsoon. Once the song is selected, they spend days perfecting the arrangement, a fact that's visible in the way they seamlessly multi-task — singing, playing the ukulele, occasionally drumming a stool, and even throwing in some moves, like in the Bhojpuri song Kaun disaa. "Arranging the songs takes time. Some songs, such as Jimikki kammal or Ghanana ghanana are heavy on percussion. So, we started tapping on the ukulele along with playing the chords, or use ghungroos or the stool to add beats. We divide our parts, the harmony and the solo, as it's all shot in a single take," explains the elder one.
The visual and technical aspects are choreographed by their parents. Their mother takes care of their elaborate costumes and the balcony set-up; for instance, they were in breezy dresses in hues of blue for Ghanana ghanana, with a little umbrella tucked in a corner. "Our father is the techie, shooting, taking care of audio and lights, etc. They are the ones cheering us on," Ankita adds.
We are told more such episodes can be expected, along with original tracks, while they'll continue to focus on their higher studies. "This series brought us closer. It's been a revelation as Ankita is now more into music. It feels good to have been able to put a smile on people's faces as that was the whole idea," Antara sums up.
Log on to www.youtube.com/c/antaranandy/videos
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