NEW DELHI, (IANS) – She just ‘started’ singing one day…also a dancer, playwright, and former equity trader, UK-based Shivali Bhammer whose latest album ‘The Bhajan Project 2’ released recently, says she loves all expressions of the arts, which she thinks is a combination of karma, divine intervention and her mother watching ‘Pakeezah‘ 15 times when she was pregnant.
Post the success of ‘The Bhajan Project’, the new one flaunts a collection of mantras, including ‘Mahamrityunjaya Mantra’, ‘Shanti Paath’, ‘Om Jai Jagdish Hare’ aarti, and other classics like ‘Paayjo Maine’ and ‘Raghupati Raghav’. The album, produced by singer, and songwriter Arjun Coomaraswamy is a modern expression of spirituality with a collection of Indian bhajans blended with a mix of beats and rhythms inspired by classic R&B, rock, and pop.
The singer says, “The greatest gift of my life was the release of my devotional album, ‘The Bhajan Project’. Now a decade later, much has changed and altered in my life, successes, failures, losses, and gains — ‘The Bhajan Project 2’ encapsulates all of that because there is one thing that never changes, it is faith.”
She stresses that it is not ‘fascination’ that attracts her toward bhajans.
“It is more of an appreciation. I sing about what I love, and I love bhakti. We are so scared to say these things. I am not dogmatic by nature. Bhajans are a wonderful way to express love — and you find it in every faith whether it’s Sufi songs, Christian hymns, or in a Jewish home. I feel bhajans vibrate at a higher frequency as they inspire you to be your best self.”
Talk to her about reactions from purists and she stresses everyone is free to have an opinion. Believing contemporary music is a pure form of music and hence if it doesn’t fit the conventional bracket of what is a ‘purist’, it is still an evolving art form with great production and sound.
“I feel an honest purist will be happier with the fact that the bhajans are coming back and reaching the younger generation. If the point is to hear God’s name, then surely the more people who take to Bhajans, the better, no?”
In times when culture has become a victim of ‘left and right’ binaries, Bhammer feels it is high time we stop trying to box and brand people, and the arts.
“What is right-wing about culture? It is conceived from beauty, philosophy, and rituals. It is sad we are trying to politicize it. Just because someone is passionate about their culture, does not mean they are unaccepting of other cultures. Yes, I represent my culture in music and dance — however, I was born and raised in London. I grew up singing Christian prayers and hymns, my best friend is Jewish, and one of the closest couples in my life is Muslim.”