September 25 2014
Putting blind musicians centre stage…
IT’S ALMOST getting to the point where he is better known by his first name than his full name.
Baluji Shrivastav is the man behind Inner Vision.
This is a 10-piece band/orchestra quite like any other in the UK today.
Every member, just like the man, who put them together – Baluji – is either blind or partially sighted.
They come from several different countries and play music that represents their internationalism, but all live in London. It can be sublime Indian ragas, soulful gospel and blues or haunting Arabic ballards.
They kick off their UK tour today (Thursday, September 25) with a concert at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, London and launch the band’s first CD.
Baluji is an accomplished musician and composer and has played alongside the likes of Annie Lennox, Boy George and most prominently perhaps with Chris Martin of Coldplay and the para Orchestra at the closing ceremony of the para Olympic Games.
In the current film, “Million Dollar Arm” which has a musical score by AR Rahman, it is Baluji’s sitar you can hear.
“If every blind musician was represented in the same way as a sighted musician there would not be any Inner Vision,” Baluji told www.asianculturevulture.com
He grew up in India, where attitudes towards people with disabilities present a challenge in itself.
His way out was to play music – and it soon became apparent that he had a gift for the sitar, though he plays quite a few instruments.
“I had to be strong. I have been very rebellious; I just did whatever I wanted to do, wherever I wanted to do it.”
He came to Britain 1983 after a stint teaching music, both Indian and western, in France.
His philosophy is simple, infectious, inspiring.
He eschews a guide dog for himself, prefers to be independent and self sufficient (though he jokily credited his wife with keeping him young and looking nothing like the 63 years old he is).
“I used to hear different kinds of music in taxis, depending on the origins of the driver.
He recounted: “I think I went to Folkstone (to play a concert). I walked from the station to the venue.
“The person there asked: ‘How did you come?
“I said: I walked.
“They asked: How did you walk?
“I said: With my legs.
“They said: How did you know the way?
“Because I don’t have eyes physically, I’ve got thousands of other eyes who look out for me and they told me the way’. I have lots of help and support. I ask people, people with eyes don’t ask. I have more communication with people because I am blind.”
He assembled the band personally and each one not only has a story to tell but represents the triumph of hope over despair and isolation.
“They are good musicians, as good if not better than sighted musicians, but they don’t get the same opportunities and then they don’t have the confidence.”
Perhaps the best example of this is 90-year-old Peggy Scott, a painter, who lost her eye sight in terrible car crash.
“She had never played music in her life,” narrated Baluji. “She said: ‘I am not a musician I can’t do anything’. I said: Pick up those cymbals’.”
You’d be tempted to say the rest is history, suffice to say Peggy is now Inner Vision’s finger cymbal player.
The idea for Inner Vision came to Baluji as he travelled around.
“Music is music, it has a universal language, when people play together they give each other signals, when we play we do it with feelings. If you close your eyes there is no difference between our music and theirs.”
He hopes that the UK tour will be a stepping stone to an international one – currently there isn’t the funding, though they did get an offer from Dubai but the practicalities ruled it out – for now.
“I want Inner Vision to grow and establish itself globally. I want it to engage with communities and find other brilliant musicians.
“It does not belong to me, it belong us to all equally, we are all equally important and I want it to grow.”
He also hopes to raise funds for a documentary to be made about the band and also has another ambitious project he is just formulating.
He wants to assemble an Indian blind orchestra/band with blind or partially sighted musicians, compromising one from each state in India and hopes to get the backing of the British Council.
Inner Vision –
Baluji Shrivastav – sitar/ gopi / Indian vocals / dilruba / swaramandal, Takashi Kikuchi – viola; Victoria Oruwari- soprano; Abi Baker- piano / violin/ clarinet ; Tristram Llewellyn – keyboards; Rikki Jodelko – guitar / vocal; Baldev Singh – tabla; Peggy Scott – finger cymbals; Fereshteh Khosroujerdy – vocals; Ziad Sinno – oud /Arabic vocals
September 25th LONDON –
The Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA Time: 7.30pm 0207 613 7498 / Boxoffice@richmix.org.uk
£12 / £8.00 conc
Ticket includes access to post show party and album launch.
October 4th WORCESTER
New College Worchester
The Chapel, Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JXTime: 5.00pmTel: 01905 763933 / 0207 226 2094
Tickets: £10.00 to be booked in advance.
October 10th DEVON
Barnfield Theatre Barnfield Road, Exeter, Devon. EX1 1SN
Box Office on: 01392 271808
October 15th BRIGHTON
Ropetackle Arts Centre, Little High Street, Shoreham-by-Sea, BN43 5EG
Box Office: 01273 464440
October 18th SUFFOLK
New Wolsey Theatre, Civic Drive, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2AS
Box Office: 01473 295900
Tickets: £8.50 – £15.00
October 25th LUTON
Luton Library Theatre
Luton Central Library, St George Square, Luton LU1 2NG
Tel: 01582 878 100