Music beyond borders

Universal sound

Music beyond borders
It’s hard to classify her musical project into any category, just as it’s hard to describe her itself.

Through her strong foundation in a variety of genres and her angelic voice, singer Sonam Kalra has constantly reminded the world of the true purpose music can serve when one overlooks the boundaries of the artform created by man.

‘Sonam Kalra And The Sufi-Gospel Project’ reiterates a world beyond the possible, as they constantly strive to promote the message of oneness of faith through their music, prayer and poetry. As she seamlessly blends Amir Khusrau’s verses and the Christian hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, weaves Sant Kabir’s couplets into ‘Abide With Me’, applies her Hindustani theories to gospels and inextricably melds ‘Hallelujah’ with an evergreen Urdu prayer; the audience traverses a journey to a higher force.

Her project was born out of an objective to spread the message of equality, truth and faith through the organic blend of Sufi tunes, gospel songs, jazz improvisations, Bhakti music and contemporary beats. What amazes the audience is her mastery over both genres (Western and Indian), her knack at being adept in timing and diction at Western harmonies and her skill to improvise in Indian classical.

Sonam says that the idea came about when she was asked to sing gospels at the birth celebration of a Sufi saint in Delhi.  The thought of a Sikh girl singing Christian music at an Islamic space made her realise that certain boundaries are only created by man. It urged her to start a project which promotes the music of unity.

She says, “My objective is to work at a universal sound rather than a pan-Indian sound. Sufism is all about acceptance of humanity, the way they are and that is what I promote through my music. There are also influences of Irish, Punjabi and Parsi culture in my music.”

Her compositions, arrangement of harmonies and patterns are original and it’s the constant research and creative exploration that pushes her project forward.

She adds, “I haven’t faced a challenge in transposing a mystic theme or subject to music. I believe that people say the same thing in different ways. If I bring a verse of Khusrao and a text by Rumi together, the message is the same. Every genre that I sing has common grounds but I don’t look at them in terms of technicalities. Yes, jazz and Hindustani classical have a lot of space for improvisation. It’s more about training my voice differently to suit different genres and learning how to project my voice when I practise. However, all genres are about singing from the soul and that is where they meet. The message of music is the same.” 

Commenting on today’s music market, Sonam says that there is plenty of space to coexist with different genres and there is an audience for all.

“There is plenty of space to coexist. Bollywood is a popular form but I don’t think about it. I don’t worry about where I stand as a classical musician or a Sufi singer as otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to focus on my job. Many say that ‘Sufi’ music is a loosely used term. Many times, there is the use of Sufi music in Bollywood too. Many people listen to Bollywood songs and then go back to the traditional or original song which is a good thing.” And without worrying about competition or the market around, Sonam will concentrate on her creative renditions and try to speak to everybody through her sound.

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