Renowned instrumentalist and leader of the Inner Vision Orchestra - the world's only professional ensemble of blind musicians - Baluji Shrivastav OBE was blinded at only 8 months.
Baluji battled adversity and stereotypes to become one of the world's most respected multi-instrumentalists. After working alongside artists including Boy George, Doves, Stevie Wonder, Shakira, Madness, and more, Baluji established the Baluji Music Foundation in 2008 – an organisation to support visually impaired musicians which in turn founded The Inner Vision Orchestra.
The orchestra is the world’s only professional ensemble of blind and partially sighted musicians, established to challenge the barriers Baluji faced as a child and reached the international stage when they performed at the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympics at the London 2012 games.
Baluji has two exciting shows on the horizon, with April 2nd seeing him perform alongside world-renowned opera singer Patricia Rozario OBE for a night of Goanese music while later on May 7th Baluji takes his Inner Vision Orchestra to Bradford-on-Avon for an indelible performance of spectacular artistry and passion.
He spoke to Asian Voice about it.
Please tell us a bit about your new projects. How and when can our readers be a part of them?
I have a great tour coming up from March till October supported by the Arts Council and the City of London Corporation. First up is a concert at Keele University Concert Program Series with eight members of Inner Vision Orchestra featuring folk music from around the world. Then at Ropetackle Arts Shoreham by Sea I am performing with maestro Sanju Sahai and the fabulous Jazz Orient including local jazz performers. Really it is an amazing variety of music and musicians I am working with including a new collaboration with the Hamdel Ensemble with Seyed Ali Jaberi from Iran. Details are on the www.balujimusicfoundation.org website
How did the pandemic affect your work and more people like you when the arts community needed help and support?
The pandemic made me rethink how to keep music alive remotely. We discovered that using Jamulus software which is FREE musicians can rehearse in real-time together! So I kept playing with members of my orchestra and music friends all over the world. I also had time to reflect and practice and develop some new compositions which I am still developing. I also presented some online music workshops and live-streamed concerts from the roof of my house and a TEDx filmed presentation. I also explored Western harmony and orchestration further.
What can we learn from the pandemic as a community in terms of reviving arts and sustaining work for specially-abled artists like you? Are there enough arrangements and facilities to support your craft?
In the pandemic, we all suffer from isolation, though some more than others. I am very grateful to the Arts Council for its emergency support which enabled me to survive and for the encouragement of my friends and family. At such times we all have to support each other.
What is your opinion of present-day music across the globe, especially in India?
It would be great if the UK had a station like All India Radio Ragam or Sandesh Radio which celebrates the vast musical treasures of Indian Classical Music. Indian music has the potential to interact with so many different kinds of music due to its melodic and rhythmic versatility. At its heart are improvisation and spontaneity. I am thrilled at the opportunities to interact with artists like Malu in Madrid, and artists like Massive Attack and Stevie Wonder. The whole earth is my family-Vasudhaiv kutumbhakam (Sanskrit)! I want to play with everyone, anywhere! Make music, not war!