A soulful blend..
You’ve heard Sufi music and perhaps, Gospel music too. Now try thinking of a fusion between these diverse music forms. Unable to process this amalgamation of East meets West? In that case, you should give the Sufi Gospel Project a listen, an initiative by Delhi-based singer Sonam Kalra.
Having trained with Shubha Mudgal and Sarathi Chatterjee in Indian classical music provided a background for this fusion of western and eastern sound. This is an attempt to combine different voices of faith “through song, music and the spoken word.” Having dabbled as a media professional, a theatre actress, a voiceover artist for an international lifestyle channel and a TV anchor as well, Kalra found her true calling with music and has come a full circle saying she’s “finally home.”
Being a Sikh, Sonam’s tryst with Gospel music goes back around four to five years when she heard Amazing Grace, which drew her to pursue learning more about Gospel music. And though she had trained in Hindustani classical music since childhood, Sonam also began to study Jazz and performed Jazz and Gospel music at various churches and events. “In February 2010, I was asked to perform at the birth centenary of the Sufi Hazrat Inayat Khan at the Inayat Khan dargah in Delhi. And there I was — a Sikh girl, singing Gospel music at a dargah! With this experience began the culmination of the Sufi Gospel Project as ideologically, both Sufi and Gospel music are about finding that divine connection. The premise of this initiative is that God doesn’t have a religion,” says Kalra.
Having grown up listening to a variety of singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’day to Begum Akhtar, Kishori Amonkar and Kumar Gandharva, to poems of Sufi saints and poets like Kabir, Paltu Das and Rabia Basri, have influenced Kalra’s music equally. Till date having done around 10-12 concerts, some songs that have been performed are Hallelujah and Abide With Me, infused with verses by Kabir, Rumi, Bulleh Shah along with Indian musical instruments like the sarangi, tabla and the flute.
Besides Kalra, who is the frontwoman of the Sufi Gospel Project, there are accompanying musicians like Alex Fernandes (piano), Ahsan Ali Khan (sarangi), Rajesh Prasanna (flute), Amaan Ali Khan (tabla) and Daniel Paul (guitar). The coming together of all these artists belonging to different faiths is a creative synthesis to produce soulful music. Sonam’s sound is not commercial and she steers clear of doing renditions of Duma Dum Mast Kalandar and Chap Tilak because “you can’t improvise perfection” rendered by great people. She looks forward to opportunities to collaborate with Sushmit Sen of Indian Ocean, Rajasthani folk musicians and Baul singers.
Sonam is also currently in talks to do a music album featuring the songs she has been performing at various concerts and events. Something to look forward to!