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Classical choir brings the sound of India alive

Malhaar teaches young Indian children in the UAE about their rich and ancient heritage. (SUPPLIED)

By Keith J Fernandez

In a world where Indian culture is equated with Bollywood, 30 adults and children have come together in an attempt to showcase the country's rich musical traditions.

Malhaar, which bills itself the first Indian classical music choir, will present a show of Indian classical and folk music at Global Village tomorrow, with another event at the Indian consulate on January 26, the anniversary of the day the country declared itself a republic.

Director Jogiraj Sikidar says he wanted to serve up India's tremendous musical diversity to audiences in the Emirates, while teaching young expatriate children growing up here about their heritage. "Malhaar unites a lot of people in one goal," he says, a reference to the country's many different cultures.

With several hundred languages and customs and traditions that vary every 200km or so, India has several distinct musical, dance and literary traditions. But for expats, there is often no exposure to that rich tapestry and ventures such as Sikidar's can help bridge that gap.

"Children here don't know the Indian national anthem," he says, "so we're exposing them – and everyone else living here – to Indian national values." Malhaar, he says, developed on the back of music tuitions he has been giving at his home for the past year.

"I started teaching the children of a few friends, and that expanded into teaching their parents," he says.

"Then I thought, why not start a choir?"

Sikidar has trained in Indian classical music, which he has adapted to a Western choral music style for Malhaar. About 30 people, aged five to 40, make up the choir.

Tomorrow's show, called Swaraj, attempts to present this musical heritage, he explains. On the bill are two classical compositions, one of which, Raag Mia Malhar, Sikidar has contemporarised into a choral work.

Also featuring are Assamese, Bengali and Malayalam folk songs, and works by legendary musical geniuses such as Salil Choudhury, Dr Bhupen Hazarika and Vinay Chandra Mudgalya.

On January 26, Malhaar has two shows at the Indian consulate. The first, in the morning, is open to everyone, and is part of the traditional flag-hoisting celebrations, while the second is an invitation-only event that does feature some Bollywood.

"The Indian consulate was very keen we sing some Hindi film songs, so we're going to be doing old Bollywood numbers," he says.

- Malhaar performs at Global Village at 8pm tomorrow. For more information, e-mail malhaar.choir@gmail.com or call 050 521 9668


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