When sufi and gospel collide
... only beautiful music gets created, according to songstress Sonam Kalra, who's in town today to headline the Bangalore International Arts Festival with her act The Sufi Gospel Project... only beautiful music gets created, according to songstress Sonam Kalra, who's in town today to headline the Bangalore International Arts Festival with her act The Sufi Gospel Project
She is Sikh. She sings sufi songs and has performed gospel music at a dargah among other spaces. A perfect musical mish mash, you would think.
And that's exactly how Delhi-based 30-something Sonam Kalra's music can be described as. A genre bending blend of sufi, classical and gospel music paired with poetry and prayer. "Sufi music has got nothing to do with religion.
Sonam Kalra flanked by her band of musicians who
collaborate with her on The Sufi Gospel Project
It is the acceptance and love of humanity. Essentially, you, me... we are saying the same thing except our ways of expressing and saying it is different," says Sonam in a telephone interview from Delhi.
Headlining the opening of the Bangalore International Arts Festival in the city this evening, Sonam says that the collaborators and musicians performing with her are as diverse in their religious beliefs as the genres of music they bring to the stage.
"The sarangi player is a Muslim, the guitarist is Christian and the tabla players are Hindu. It is the music that brings everybody together," she says.
Sonam describes her brand of music as a blend of Indian Classical and Western sensibilities. "It is music of the soul and is cathartic, is sure to reach out to the audience and resonate with them.
I weave in poetry by Bulle Shah, Rumi, Kabir and Amir Khusrau into the performance," she says. sufi qata (a form of verse) and Urdu verses will also accompany this 40-minute act.
Music chose Sonam rather than the other way around. Calling it a divine intervention, this former copywriter first found her calling while singing gospel music.
She was invited to perform at the Inayat Khan Dargah in Delhi a year ago. Performing at the shrine gave her goose bumps and was surreal and Sonam found herself researching on sufi and gospel music.
She found several similarities between the two genres - both the genres talk about the beauty and the music of the soul and decided to bring them together.
In her act, Sonam refrains from performing popular Sufi renditions by giants like the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Abida Parveen. "You just cannot dare to touch them. It is no point trying to do a Nusrat or a Abida. Instead I try to bring something of me into the performance," explains Sonam.
The audience in Bangalore can expect an honest performance out of The Sufi Gospel Project. Though music happened to her, Sonam has trained in semi classical under singer Subha Mudgal. She also has a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the Delhi College of Art.
Starting off as an art director and then a copywriter, Sonam has dabbled in theatre, anchored television shows and does voice overs for Travel & Living Channel. She was the official announcer at the recently concluded Common Wealth Games.