Bengaluru: Walking in to a music shop in Europe or the United States is a revelation for the novice: books of sheet music exist for every song written, from the classical composers to the great show tunes and the icons of contemporary music. India, on the other hand, is known and appreciated the world over for her rich, musical heritage but very little of this, especially in the case of Bollywood, makes into archives where it can be studied and re-interpreted. “It’s time for a Great Indian Songbook, don’t you think? A South-Asian Songbook, even!" laughs former Ambassador Nirupama Rao, the evening before her new Trust, the South Asian Symphony Foundation, is launched in the city. This will give the region its first major platform for international and regional collaboration, using music as a means to form alliances of empathy and peace. The event will be flagged off with a concert, one that includes a curated list of songs, from compositions by Rabindranath Tagore (Anandaloke) to Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns and the Ella Fitzgerald classic Cry Me A River. One of the highlights of the evening, however, is Peace is My Dream, written by Ambassador Rao herself.
The formation of the South Asian Symphony Foundation is special for two reasons: One, it encourages cultural integration within the region and second, music happens to be a long-time love for former Ambassador Nirupama Rao and her husband Sudhakar. The inspiration, Ms Rao writes, comes from her "years in diplomacy" and a growing need for providing a platform to promote more dialogue, cultural synergy and friendly understanding among the youth of eight countries in South Asia.
“This is our way of attempting to forge empathy in regions that have not always been at peace. War and misunderstanding will always continue, we have to remember that striking relationships of peace can happen alongside. We’re choosing Western Classical music at the moment, in part because it is so well documented and also because much of it is written specifically for orchestras. That is absent in Bollywood music, unfortunately, even though their creations are so very beautiful. There is a misconception, really that the genre is ‘Christian’, but they sing of war and peace and loss and gain too. Much of it is secular and it is our heritage to preserve too,” she says. Documenting Indian compositions and expanding the symphony’s scope to indigenous music are part of the long-term agenda too.
Ms Rao's tryst with music goes back many decades and her passion for performance has resurfaced over the last few years. In December 2017, she released her first album, Peace is My Dream, produced by the Peninsula Studios in New Delhi.
The South Asian Symphony Foundation will be launched this afternoon along with a concert, Songs of Peace, Songs Sung True....