Bhakti Utsav kicks off on the right note | india | Hindustan Times
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Bhakti Utsav kicks off on the right note

Girls from a Sri Lankan choir sang Vaishnava Janato, a Gujarati devotional song close to the heart of millions of Indians.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2006 19:45 IST

Magic was in the air at the Bhakti Utsav 2006 fest in Delhi when girls from a Sri Lankan choir sang Vaishnava Janato, a Gujarati devotional song close to the heart of Mahatma Gandhi and millions of Indians.

The objective of the three-day event is to create spiritual democracy to complement political democracy in South Asia, and the surprise song by Sri Lanka's Soul Sound Friday evening turned out to be a very successful fusion that was widely appreciated by the crowd.

Set up in the cool environs of Nehru Park, the music festival began with Shanti mantras by Delhi's Gandharva Choir and was followed by bhajans by Aarti Ankalikar and Pandit Hridyanath Mangeshkar.

And Soul Sounds enchanted too. It is a group of 30 girls from the Holy Family Convent School in Colombo who are regulars at chapel singing. The all-girl choir first took to simple chanting, excelled in gospel and spiritual singing and has received accolades in the West.

Soundarie David, the director of the choir, owes it to Gregory Rose, a prominent conductor in England, who helped give them international exposure and inspired them to win a prize at the International Eistedfodd Festival in Llangollen, Wales in 2004.

Soul Sounds first performed at Colombo Plaza in December 2004. In January 2005, they raised funds for tsunami victims by singing Grief Never Grows Old which then made it to Billboard charts.

So what is the USP of the group? Versatility. "Music crosses all pluralities, and our group is good at many things, from gospel to rap," says Soundarie.

At Bhakti Utsav, they sang gospel, hymns and devotional songs in Latin, English, Sinhala, Tamil and of course "Vaishnava Janato", though they don't know a single word of Gujarati.

Dubbing their first visit to India as exciting, the young girls say that India and Sri Lanka share cultural affinities and one thing that is truly common between the two countries is devotion.

All of them are from the same school, so how long do they hope to last as a group? "As long as the love for music lives in the heart," says a chorister with a glint in her eyes.

The first day of the music festival also showcased soulful renditions by the Wadali Brothers, Sangeet Natak Academy winners from Punjab who sang Sufiana qalaam by Baba Farid and other Bhakti saints.

The three-day festival will feature performances from neighbouring Bangladesh and Pakistan as well.