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Feel-Good WE Concert Goes Digital This Weekend

The eighth edition of the annual fundraising concert will spotlight over 150 performers from India, the U.S. and U.K. for a cause

Rolling Stone India Jun 12, 2020

This year's WE concert will feature a string orchestra, acapella groups, electronica sets as well as the staple offerings of pop, rock, jazz and more. Photo: Courtesy of Mrinalini Somani

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The WE concert returns for its eighth edition this weekend. Organized by musician/activist Mrinalini Somani and Mumbai-based NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation, the annual production is a fundraising project that supports the holistic education of children learning at the Foundation’s arts academy. Set to stream on June 13th at 7 p.m. on YouTube and Facebook, the WE concert is adapting to the digital format; 19-year-old Somani doesn’t view this as a setback. “I’m so excited because WE gets bigger every year and we always do something different,” she says. 

Over the years, the concert has been staged at venues both big and small, having begun as a humble production in Mathurdas Mills’ now-defunct Blue FROG before taking to stages of Charni Road’s Royal Opera House and Nariman Point’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). Having run the show since its inception, Somani always wondered about the future of WE and amidst the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown, the musician/activist found an answer. “WE keeps evolving in ways that surprises us. Now that no venue in the world is available, we get to take the show everywhere,” she says. 

Mrinalini Somani performing at the 2018 edition of the WE concert. Photo: Courtesy of Mrinalini Somani

Somani along with multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Yohan Marshall (of city-based rock band Marshall & the Mischief) put a call out on social media in May, inviting students to audition and submit their video performances for the digital concert. Stitched together and edited by Somani’s U.S.-based friend Lori Beth Sussman, this edition of WE features a string orchestra, acapella groups, electronica sets as well as the staple offerings of pop, rock, jazz and more, spotlighting over 150 performers from India, the U.S. and U.K. 

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As India reckons with its rap wave, artists from the Salaam Bombay Foundation also offer up their take on hip-hop, inspired by the now-cult 2019 movie Gully Boy. Titled “Lockdown Chalrela Hai,” the rap was written to showcase the state of the world. “This year is different because we get to see a very real, raw glimpse into the performers’ spaces and their artistry as every video has been shot at home. It’s a very special edition,” says Somani. Collaborating with Somani and the Foundation were also dancer Norden Sherpa who choreographed all the dancers from home as well as past performers and Somani’s long-time friends Kimaya Mehta, Avanti Singh and Anya Vakharia who handled the logistics of the show.

The WE concert’s theme this year is ‘feel-good.’ “Right now everybody’s going through a really tough time and I want the show to be something that lifts people spirits and makes them happy. I hope that they’re smiling by the end of the show,” says Somani about the choice. As the world grapples with a new reality, the WE concert pledges to make things better; this year’s edition will focus on raising funds for underprivileged students to facilitate online education in a time of remote learning. Proceeds will also be directed towards meeting students’ immediate need for essential supplies as well as their continued creative education through the Foundation and various other learning opportunities. “The artists have really stepped up their game this year as we go global. We hope you tune in. It’s going to be a good time,” signs off Somani.

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The WE Concert will stream at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 13th on Salaam Bombay Foundation’s YouTube channel and Facebook Page. You can donate to their fundraiser through Ketto

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