Opera dictates the life and desires of Toshanbor Singh Nongbet
Somewhere over the rainbow no longer remained the mystical place hiding the proverbial pot of gold. As Toshanbor’s voice filled the Indian Council for Cultural Relations auditorium on the evening of January 31, with the rich notes of Harold Arlen’s composition Somewhere Over The Rainbow, the pot of lyrical gold materialized out of thin air. Toshanbor Singh Nongbet, Opera aficionado, versatile singer and fourth runner up in India’s Got Talent (IGT) Season 4, performed in the capital recently.
From the hilly terrain of Shillong to the hustle of Delhi, Toshan, as he is affectionately known, is still to come to terms with his newfound status as India’s Opera Boy.
Hailing from the North East, Toshan considers it to be one of his strengths that indirectly contributed to his birth and growth of love for the Opera.
“My love for music is not a familial inheritance; more like an inheritance form my surroundings. Shillong is a dream and to grow up in that place, where the tastes in music are so different, shaped my career in some way,” claims Toshan.
Also, as he jokingly adds, “Being from the North East is sometimes an advantage because people go like ‘oh, boy from the jungles of the North East made it big’ and all. For them, for someone to make it this far from that part of the country is like a fairytale.”
His tryst with opera being one tempered by his shy disposition to his finally overcoming his fears to bring out the tenor in him, Toshan credits his rise to Aroha Choir’s Pauline Warjri. “She is an amazing woman. When I was with Aroha, I sang blues, jazz but no opera. But slowly I got the opportunity to move on from being a background singer,” says Toshan.
With opera holding the strings of his life in harmony, Toshan elaborates on the deep emotional connect that surfaces whenever he sings. “Opera is a combination of singing, dancing and acting. What I do is just a part—Oratorio, the singing,” says Toshan. Even though opera is not as popular as pop, he explains, he wouldn’t leave it as he is driven by the amount of emotions that opera unfolds.”
A passionate admirer of Luciano Pavarotti , Toshan is optimistic about the possibility of Indians embracing the medium. His stint at IGT kindled the fascination for this genre of music and Toshan is content with the interest it has generated.
However, he dreams about travelling to Italy and learning the ‘real thing’. Bollywood evokes a response of displeasure as Toshan believes in being a master of his own art rather than being a puppet. “But you never know, if there is ever a crisis financially, Bollywood will be my next calling,” he jokes.
Till then, the next stop in Toshan’s wish list is being the ‘Opera symbol from India’. And the chord he’s struck with his audience indicates that it is no longer a distant possibility.