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Bandra's St Andrew's Zonals returns for its 65th edition with community bonding and music

Updated on: 11 August,2022 10:49 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Tanishka D’Lyma | mailbag@mid-day.com

As St Andrew’s Zonals returns for its 65th edition, we look back at its history to understand how the platform has impacted the musical sensibilities of the suburb

Bandra's St Andrew's Zonals returns for its 65th edition with community bonding and music

Joshua Vaz and Shanelle Ferreira of Dissonant Harmony

August is that time of the year when most of your Catholic friends or relatives residing in Bandra might not have time to hang out. They’re just too busy prepping for St Andrew’s All Bandra Parish Talent Contest that is better known as the ‘Zonals’. In 1953, the Zonals was a talent contest of just one parish (St Andrew’s), which comprised the residents of the area surrounding a church. Today, the competition showcases the performing arts of the parishes of all eight churches in the Bandra deanery. The theme this year is Talent, Community and Togetherness, reflecting the platform’s core ethos. “While it’s all about developing talent, Zonals focuses on building a cohesive community, which is how everyone knows everyone in Bandra,” says Leanne Manchanda, member of the organising committee, Andrean Cultural Counsel. Vocals and choir, instruments, dance, elocution and theatre are the categories up for grabs this year, shares Manchanda.

A photograph of a winning zone in the 1960s
A photograph of a winning zone in the 1960s

From the 1980s, Manchanda has been the zone captain or organising member and shares stories about how the platform has allowed participants to develop skills and talent. “Not just performance skill, Zonals has paved the way for many to find their vocation, whether in marketing, event management or fine arts,” she notes. Bandra boy Brian Tellis, a multi-hyphenate professional who is a radio jockey and an entrepreneur in the events and entertainment industry, recounts his Zonals experiences, saying, “My first play at the Zonals was one by Imtiaz Khan and Amjad Khan where I had no lines. I was a very young boy but the experience stuck with me.” Tellis attributes the formative Zonals stage in helping him explore a career in the performing arts. “Zonals made us bigger and better people,” he says.

Elton Steve Vessoaker; (right) Elton as Nana Eugene
Elton Steve Vessoaker; (right) Elton as Nana Eugene

Speaking to Shannon Donald, and duo Shanelle Ferreira and Joshua Vaz who first stepped onto the stage at ages four, six and five, respectively, the impact of the platform on their work as artistes is evident. Donald, a singer, songwriter and vocal coach, shares, “Zonals made it easier to step into this profession as an artiste.” Guitarist, violinist, and music producer, Vaz adds, “I’ve been blessed to have had defining moments at the Zonals. Being able to perform with musicians far better than me has been rewarding.” For vocalist and dubbing artist, Ferreira, participation brought with it experience and insight into versatility. “The exposure along with watching vocalists was a learning curve.” Donald will be a judge this year, and Ferreira will be training youngsters for their performances. “This way, I can give back to the community,” Ferreira says.

Shannon Donald, Brian Tellis and Leanne Manchanda
Shannon Donald, Brian Tellis and Leanne Manchanda

Apart from being a community-driven effort, the Zonals has offered a platform for opportunities and skill development — from raising funds through door-to-door newspaper collection drives and conducting Tuck Days, to fun promotional ideas like the feisty Nana Eugene videos played by hair stylist and make-up artist Elton Steve Vessoaker. “Nana Eugene is most excited that the Zonals is alive and will always be. Although she’s competitive and partial to her zone, the Zonals has a special place in her heart because it brings all of Bandra together,” Vessaoker concludes.

On: August 14, 21, 28
At: 2 pm onwards, and September 4 at 5.30 pm onwards
At: St Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra West. 
Log on to: andreanzonals.hpage.com and St Andrews All Bandra Zonals on YouTube for 2021’s online edition
Cost: Rs 100 onwards

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