BENGALURU:Bengaluru is a hub for expatriats, who are keen to connect with other expats with similar interests. Which is how the Japanese choir – Royal Echo – was founded in 1999 by Norie Ohga Manikath. The 20-member team, is all set to bring in the tunes of Japan to the city this weekend. They will be performing for the first time this year in the city after their recent gig in Chennai.
Coming from varied age groups with the oldest member being an 83-year-old to the youngest member being only a teenager, the group has had to change members constantly. The members keep changing over the years, as most of them are temporary expatriates visiting the country on offshore work or business. Shino San, the head of the team, joined the group in 2012 although she has been living in the city since 2005.
Working at a Japanese bank, the group has made her feel at home. “People don’t have friends here when they move in for the first time. So, we mingle and help them feel comfortable here,” she says.
“We sing 80 per cent Japanese songs with a mixed chorus, and the rest are in English, and even Kannada at times,” says Shino, adding that they constantly recruit new members and practice their routine until they move back to Japan. The style of the family is old retro music with some filmy and musical tryouts at times. “Most members of the team have no previous experience but we make sure to have a good time,” she adds.
The troupe has been performing two gigs a year, one at Japan Habba and the other at the Japanese Association Christmas party held in the city. Apart from this, they also host shows at several restaurants and pubs in the city.
When asked if it was difficult for the group with constant change in members, she says, “It is challenging at times to manage the team because members keep changing and for practice, we have to start all over again.” However, the troupe finds Bengaluru to be very welcoming and tolerant to their practice sessions, which they conduct at one of the member’s houses. Shino says, “Neighbours have been warm and friendly, and we’ve not received any complaints from them during our rehearsals. It would’ve been a different story back home.”
A peek into the history
Founder Norie was a professional singer in Japan before settling in Bengaluru in 1985. Part of the Japanese Association, Norie was asked to sing a song for the members and was later suggested to start a choir group under her guidance. Currently, three of its original members continue to perform for the troupe including Norie - Junko Ravindran and Teruko Thimarayappa, who had migrated to India. The troupe will be performing at 1Q1 Kitchen & Bar, on June 16 from 5 pm to 6 pm.