This Friday, the city will be treated to some rare classical music — 10 Hindi songs composed by sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar that have not been sung since 1986.
Written especially for the inauguration of Delhi’s Baha’i (Lotus) Temple 24 years ago, these songs are now being brought back to India by the Voices of Baha, an international choir that will perform at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) on Friday.
“The songs are based on classical Indian ragas, but have been adapted for the choir by adding Western classical harmonisation,” said Tom Price, renowned US-based composer and conductor of the choir, who had collaborated with Ravi Shankar for the fusion elements of the songs.
“Ravi Shankar combined all the spiritual ragas for these songs, such as Bhairavi, Todi, Yaman and Kedar. We sang it at the Lotus Temple without any music, which was a challenge,” said Indian composer Ashit Desai, who had conducted the Indian choir in 1986.
On Friday, Desai, his wife Hema and 13 Indian singers will accompany the 120 members of Price’s choir along with a blend of Indian and Western instruments.
The Voices of Baha, which has toured over 35 countries globally since Price founded it in 1992, is primarily a Baha’i choir.
Most of its members belong to the Baha’i community founded in Iran in the 19th century. There are over five million Baha’is in the world, though the community in Mumbai is only about 500.
The songs of this choir are spiritual — drawing from the teachings of various faiths, but mostly translations of Baha’i scriptures in various languages and styles ranging from gospel to pop and now Indian classical.
“It doesn’t matter what language you sing in, because when different cultures meet, you realise we are all united as human souls,” said Ava, one of the solo singers in the choir, which is now practicing the Hindi lyrics of Shankar’s songs.
Coming from at least 20 countries around the world, choir members have decided to uphold the Bahai spirit of celebrating diversity by dressing in their various national dresses for the Mumbai concert.
(The Voices of Baha concert will be held at the NCPA on Friday June 18, at 7 pm)