Zee Jaipur Literature Festival: Capella choir, Sufi-Gospel music leave audience spellbound

JAIPUR(WEB TEAM):“Choir group Vocal Rasta’s specially composed national anthem left my hair standing on end,” admitted Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia leading to a huge applause from the gathering at the opening ceremony of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival. The chief minister was only lending voice to what many in the audience felt. “It’s amazing to see the effect they created without any instruments,” she said about the choir.

The response left the 15-member group that will also kickstart the second day’s proceedings with full musical programme enthused. Antoine Redon, who conducted the choir, told dna, “We are a group that came together only two months ago. We are all from different backgrounds. Some have trained in Indian classical music while others have trained in Western. Some are jazz enthusiasts while others are into pop. The national anthem is not my composition alone. It was a collective idea where we all brought in inputs for the same words to sound different.” He spoke of how the challenge of taking on the national anthem without any instruments was huge. “We wanted to fill in for the various instruments with our voices. This is why we use humming to create a base.”

Earlier, Sonam Kalra’s Sufi Gospel Project set the tone for ZJLF with its moving mix of Indian and Western music. This blend of faiths, through the use of song, music and the spoken word saw traditional western Gospel music meld with Indian classical sounds, and Indian spiritual texts enriched by elements of western poetry create a sound that touched every soul. “I first conceived this idea when asked to sing Gospel music to commemorate the birth centenary of the Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan at the Inayat Khan Dargah in Delhi. I’d sung Gospel in churches and at other music venues but there I wanted to create a sound that blended the faiths,” Kalra who is Sikh said, “I am often asked why I sing Gospel. My answer is always the same; because God has no religion. I work with a keyboard player and guitarist who are Christian, my accompanists on the sarangi and tabla are Muslim, my flautist and percussionist are Hindus – a testament that when it comes to faith and music, religion is not relevant. The music emerged through a collaborative and organic process, combining our musical abilities and collective improvisation and feeding off our diverse beliefs.”

A disciple of classical vocalist-composer Shubha Mudgal and Sarathi Chatterji, Kalra has also learnt various genres of Western music including Gospel, Jazz and Opera under Hur Chul Yung and Ashley Clement. “My diverse experiences have taught me that despite their different roots, different musical traditions have so much in common. This realization was the genesis of The Sufi Gospel Project,” she says of her musical project which began in early 2011. She was accompanied by Ahsan Ali Khan, the sarangi virtuoso who also joined the singing with his soulful voice. Amaan Ali Khan provided accompaniment on table.

Kalra said, “Our music is living proof that many different Hallelujahs can exist in harmony. This is the message we want to share through our music. It’s a new sound and quite unusual because we’ve blended traditional Indian instruments and sounds with age old Gospel hymns and Indian text and prayers. And because of the many languages and musical influences we’ve combined, everyone is able to relate to it.”