Temple of diverse sounds
Born and bred in the UK, singer Shivali Jai Patel (she prefers to be known by her first name) chucked her career as a journalist at 25 to focus on contemporary devotional singing. Her bhajans reinterpret traditional compositions and incorporate elements from genres as diverse as R&B, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pop.
Her first album, The Bhajan Project, was released in 2010. She’s ready with her second album, Urban Temple, which includes bhajans like Vaishnava Janato, Jai Jai Radha Ramana and Madhura Madhura. Her first album reached the iTunes Top 10 international charts. Speaking about her sound of music, Shivali says, “My devotional music is contemporary and represents the sounds of this generation.”
It was tough to bring out her albums as she had to convince record companies of her ‘non-Bollywood’ music. “Art is not meant to remain fixed; it is fluid and continuous, and shouldn’t be based on what is fashionable because fads aren’t constant,” she explains.
Shivali began work on her first compositions (for The Bhajan Project album) at 15 along with her best friend Arjun (who is now a UK-based singer, songwriter and producer). “We were two 15 year-olds bored on a Saturday trying something new. He couldn’t connect with bhajans while I loved them, and the idea was to draw people who weren’t fans of devotional music to it. The Bhajan Project was born from a complete experiment. When a record company signed me I had a rough demo with five tracks. I built the album to nine and reworked a lot of it.”
She plays several instruments, and has learned ballet and Kathak. She admits that her latest album is more mature in production and sound. “Arjun and I have come a long way since The Bhajan Project, so we experimented in bringing flavours of different instruments. You’ll hear Gujarati songs like Mara Ghat Main Birajtha Shrinathji to chants such as Aum Namah Bhagavate Vasudevaya, a Bengali bhajan called Chandra Bala Shobitham and a couple of popular Art of Living bhajans,” she explains.
Shivali is unpertubed despite the fact that her Bhajan renditions might raise eyebrows: “The album’s modern vibe is meant to represent today’s life. You don’t have to be ‘traditional’ or ‘conventional’ to be a lover of the Lord. The bhajans connect with the never ageing soul. Religion is a relationship between the Lord and you; it’s your right how to establish it or live it,” she concludes.