Inner Vision Orchestra, led by Baluji Shrivastav, presented Antardrishti inspired by the Hindu philosophical epic the Bhagavad Gita in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday 7th September, commissioned by Unlimited (delivered by Shape and Artsadmin). Review by Stephen Portlock
Antardrishti is a sanskrit word for inner vision or divine sight. It may come as a surprise to those familiar with the work of gifted multi-instrumentalist and blind sitarist Baluji Shrivastrav that in this concert he explores the concept using the mediums of music, dance and film.
The idea conveyed by the InnerVision Orchestra with an endearing lack of irony has up to now been that optical sight is not of primary importance. As the publicity email announced “What is worse than having no sight? Having no vision!”
This new work, according to the accompanying notes “examines the complex interplay between light and darkness, what sight and sightlessness are, and the power of music to transport you to inner vision”.
Baluji and six InnerVision Orchestra members, together with four Indian guest musicians were teamed up with four classical Indian dancers from Arunima Kumar Dance Company. Whereas previous concerts by the InnerVision Orchestra have been either instrumental or else song-focused, this time around there was a mostly spoken (though occasionally sung) text derived from chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita, elegantly performed by award-winning blind storyteller Giles Abbott – mostly in English but with elements of sanskrit. That stated, references to Rumi, William Blake and Isaac Newton suggested a theology that was less Hindu than interfaith.
They were also teamed up with electronic duo Addictive TV (Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler), known for their work as samplers and remixers. For Antardrishti the duo shot and then sampled footage shot in India such as temple bells, market scenes and dancing feet.
Physically taken to private locations such as the beach, an alleyway or onto a roof, the musicians and singers were encouraged by Addictive TV to improvise by themselves – and then snippets of this new work was filmed, looped and placed alongside other new recordings in order to create an aural collage. This formed part of the final performed piece with the live musicians improvising alongside recordings. Visually Addictive TV consciously made it clear in the video editing where a particular musician or singers voice had been looped and repeated again and again.
This, then, was in some ways a far cry from Baluji’s’ previous performance at the 2016 Unlimited festival when he performed a delightful ‘East meets West’ concert with viola player Takashi Kikuchi.
What was on display this time around felt far more ambitious, more experimental and less intimate, and it must be said, considerably more visual. For the first time at a concert by Baluji Shrivastrav I had the distinct feeling of being at a disadvantage for being near-totally blind. While a pre-show touch tour was rewarding and allowed for a deeply satisfying conversation with Addictive TV, the heretical thought still sprang to mind that an audio description track through headphones would have helped if just to give some background to what was happening on stage.
Baluji first worked with Addictive TV through their Orchestra of Samples project. He is one of over 200 musicians in 30 countries throughout the world whom the duo have filmed in order to create “a supergroup of artists that have never met”. The excellent resultant album features Baluji in a track “Sitar Hero”. Having performed in a number of Addictive TV’s shows, Baluji asked them to collaborate on Antardrishti.
Following from the performance in London, Antardrishti transferred to Norwich, Delhi and Mumbai. Please click on this link for more information about The InnerVision Orchestra
The Baluji Music Foundation present a live performance and screening of a film following five blind musicians from different backgrounds, giving an insight to life & music in Post-War Britain. ‘THE LIVES + MUSIC OF BLIND MUSICIANS IN POST-WAR LONDON’ is a free event at the RichMix, London on Sunday 14th October at 3:00pm.