From the Deccan Herald (link at the end of the post)
I am very impressed by this, uniting of different spiritual paths in music, as our Murshid Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan (ra) suggested early in the 20th century. And for such a wonderful cause as well. An Indian Sufi group singing both traditional Indian poetry as well as Gospels. My heart is open to this. Please read.
Of sufi strains and biblical hymns
Baishali Adak, Feb 09, 2012 :
The Indian Cancer Society recently held its annual fundraising concert- ‘Artistes Against Cancer’ with a brilliant performance by the band ‘The Sufi Gospel Project’. Over 300 invitees attended the concert at the beautiful Lotus temple and appreciated the musical performance as well as the awareness initiative by the Cancer Society.
For over three hours, Sonam Kalra, the lead singer of the group and her band members enthralled the audience with their unique and spiritual music. Sonam’s meditative voice created a trance like environment while Alex Fernandes on the piano, Rishabh Prasanna on flute, Ahsan Ali Khan on sarangi, Amaan Ali Khan on tabla and Daniel Paul on guitar, gave her company. The serene setting of the Bahai House of Faith, with its open spaces and soft lighting, complimented the grave issue of the evening and the mystical music perfectly.
The programme began with the secretary of the Indian Cancer Society Jyotsna Govil speaking on the need for more awareness on this deadly disease. This was followed by a felicitation ceremony of some cancer survivors after which ‘The Sufi Gospel Project’ took over the evening.
Sonam began with a rendition of the popular gospel hymn Abide With Me blended beautifully with Kabir Das’ bhajan Moko Kahan Dhoonde re Bande. The audience swayed to her tunes on Chal Bulley–a piece by Bulleh Shah which talks of brotherhood and equality. She proceeded to sing her excellent Urdu translation of the Amazing Grace prayer combined with a Sufi couplet, again expounding the message of pluralism.
This was followed by a rendition of Kabir’s Haman Hai Ishq Mastana… Haman ko Hoshiyari Kya? Sonam explained that she likes to sing to lesser known pieces of sacred poetry which need to be heard, unlike the more popular numbers like Damadam Mast Kalandar which has already been performed to perfection.
She also sang a 100-year-old gospel hymn speaking of one’s closeness to God In the Garden followed by another number inspired by Ray Charles’ Hallelujah and I Just Love Him So. She then went to sing a traditional Irish blessing A Theerna blended with Indian instruments like the sarangi and flute which give it an Indian leaning. Her rendition of Kabir’s Naiharwa was a personal favourite among the audience.
The choice of songs displayed an in depth research into sacred poetry of all faiths and her voice, evidently trained over years, easily transcended the territories of English gospels, Sikh hymns and Hindu bhajans. All through the concert, the lyrics of the songs that Sonam sang were projected on a big screen in the auditorium. This was not only informative but also helped the audience connect with the music.
Sonam said, “This cause is close to my heart as my mother suffered from cancer too. We tried to bring together a healing and soothing music here today. Sacred music is always therapeutic. Besides, the blending in of the sounds of different faiths shows that different religions can also coexist in blissful harmony.”