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 The TAAL academy performs a folk dance routine at the 2018 Indian Musical Extravaganza performance during the annual Stars in the Park summer concert series.

The TAAL academy performs a folk dance routine at the 2018 Indian Musical Extravaganza performance during the annual Stars in the Park summer concert series.

Photo by Lani Sanders

International artist and crowd favorite to hit Stars in the Park stage

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published June 19, 2019

 Sarah Smith said her music comes from an expressive, emotional place.

Sarah Smith said her music comes from an expressive, emotional place.

Photo provided by Sarah Smith

FARMINGTON HILLS — Excitement is ramping up at the Heritage Park amphitheater as Stars in the Park, the city’s annual summer concert series, welcomes a new-to-the-series performer and anticipates the arrival of Bollywood with one of the series’ most popular shows.

Hailing from London, Ontario, Canadian singer-songwriter-rocker Sarah Smith will perform June 20, and the crowd-favorite Indian Musical Extravaganza by the Jai Ho group will take the stage June 27.

Stars in the Park is a free summer concert series held 7-8:30 p.m.  Thursdays at the Heritage Park amphitheater, 24915 Farmington Road.


Premiere performance for Sarah Smith
No stranger to the stage, Smith’s “favorite part about music is performing.”

Smith has been center stage ever since her early days in the church choir. She often got the solos because her mom, the choir leader, was a bit biased. She’s grown to find a second home there.

“I love being on the stage. I love putting my heart and soul into singing and playing guitar live, seeing the reactions from people, and hearing my music may touch them or they can relate to some of my words,” she said. “That’s an amazing feeling.”

Despite not thinking she could make a career out of the arts initially and instead joining the Canadian military academy, Smith has found success since pursuing music independently and full time in 2005.

Prior to her solo career, which began in 2012, Smith was the frontwoman for the popular Canadian rock act The Joys. With them, Smith was honored with the Best Rock Act award at the Jack Richardson Music Awards two years in a row.

Her solo music continued to garner her a handful of other music awards, including some from the London Music Awards and the Toronto Independent Music Awards. Her music has been featured on everything from video games to TV series and films.

Smith explained that as a resident of Canada, she has to buy work permits for herself and her trio of band members in order to perform in the United States. She said she’s proud to be in a place in her career as an indie artist where she can buy the permits “to go south of the border and bring the music to you guys.”

As a first-time performer in Farmington Hills, Smith is looking forward to performing a mixture of her original songs and some cover songs that people know and can sing along to. With three solo albums since 2012, plus a live CD and a Christmas CD released in 2018, she has no shortage of material.

“I’ll make you laugh. I might make you cry. I’ll make you dance. I might make you take your clothes off. You never know,” she said. “Come out and experience it for what it is.”

At the end of the evening, Smith hopes she can leave people feeling touched by the music she makes.

“Artists put a lot of time and effort into honing their craft, and I want people to feel they’ve been touched by the artist. That artist is me this time, but whoever it might be, I just hope they feel they were touched by the artist (who performed) that day.”

Smith has already released three singles this year and is working on recording a new album in July, which she believes will be done by September, before her European tour. To preview Smith’s music, visit 8DxVOc3Oxjxyx.


Bollywood is back for fifth year
As one of the most popular performances of the concert series, drawing in crowds of around 1,000 or more people, the Indian Musical Extravaganza performed by Jai Ho returns to the amphitheater stage for its fifth year.

Rachel Timlin, the director of the Farmington Hills Cultural Arts Division, said it’s one of their biggest concerts of the summer, bringing in people from all over, not just Farmington and Farmington Hills.

“It’s pretty beautiful when you see the Indian Extravaganza concert,” Timlin said. “The compliments we get after that concert and the positive feedback telling us how much they enjoyed the concert and being able to experience something new, that’s kind of the goal there.”

Amit Deshpande, the producer of the Indian Musical Extravaganza and a vocalist in the performance, said he’s also noticed the group’s popularity rise over the years.

“Since more people have learned about the group and what we do, even though we promote our event, people already know it’s coming up and they’re looking forward to this event every year,” he said.

The Jai Ho group, Deshpande said, was created five years ago specifically for the purpose of performing in the Stars in the Park concert series. The group is an umbrella under which several Indian musical groups from across the state come together to perform.

The number varies every year, but each year the performance includes, on average, 70-75 performers.

Each year, Deshpande and others establish a theme for the program to help tie the varied artists together. An emcee also periodically chimes in with information about the year’s theme, the songs being performed and more.

This year’s theme is centered around the youth of Michigan “to promote a lot of the talented local young performers and teens we have,” Deshpande said.

Despite changing themes, Deshpande said concert attendees can always expect an upbeat, lively performance filled with Bollywood music, folk, fusion and a little bit of classical. Attendees also will see a spectrum of colors and costumes.

“It’s almost like a nonstop, back-to-back show, with a little bit of emceeing in between,” he said, “but we try to keep it a back-to-back show to keep the momentum going.”

Deshpande hopes people will recognize that hard work too.

“The first thing I hope they take away is the effort that’s involved for all the performers to bring out their best on the stage,” he said. “Hopefully, it also educates them on what Indian music comprises, what we can do with it and how flexible it is in work with other kinds of music.

“We always want to make sure this event happens, or we have at least one South Asian concert, because then we can portray Indian music in different forms and different ways,” he added.

To preview last year’s Indian Musical Extravaganza performance or to learn more about the group, visit