Indian folk beats rock Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Gallop Through History

Singer Pritee Varsani
Singer Pritee Varsani

A Gallop Through History, an equestrian extravaganza at Royal Windsor Horse Show on the grounds of Windsor Castle, kicked off a series of events planned for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations over the coming weeks.

The Indian flavour in the star-studded event over the weekend, headlined by Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise and Dame Helen Mirren, was injected by popular British Indian folk singer Pritee Varsani, who enthralled the audience and the 96-year-old monarch with popular Gujarati numbers – an experience she dubs not only a personal milestone but one for the entire Indian diaspora community in the UK.

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She said: "Mind blowing experience! It was amazing that we created history first time in like the 70 years of Rani ka Raaj (reign of the Queen) and that we were able to showcase our culture on this huge platform.

“So for me, it wasn't performing for myself but representing our community and culture to the rest of the world. It was the most touching thing for me that the Queen now knows this form of music and style (Gujarati folk). So it's a proud moment for me, and it's something I will cherish for life."

The celebration on the grounds of the royal castle in Berkshire brought together over 500 horses and 1,300 performers to create a slice of spellbinding arena theatre, including actors and artists, musicians, and international military displays from the UK, Commonwealth and Europe.

The diaspora element of the show also involved London-based dance company Bollywood Co, invited to represent Indian culture in all its pomp and glory. The dance troupe presented a vibrant and energetic dance performance, bringing together the folk dance forms of Punjab and Gujarat.

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Nileeka Bose, head of Bollywood Co, shares: "We had 50 dancers, and it was a combination of our class students and professional dancers, but we wanted to give the opportunity to everyone to represent South Asian dance.

“It has been overwhelming, and I think last night [May 15] I was getting used to seeing it as it was a five-night show. So the only thing that was different last night was seeing the Queen a few feet away from me, which was overwhelming. Of course, all of these are for her. Still, to see her in real life, it hits home how big the scale of this event is!

“It was an extremely prestigious moment for us to come in as a completely independent company to be given a place like this."

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The production was designed to take the audience on a gallop through British history from the times of Elizabeth I to the present day. With moments of humour, great theatricality, pomp and pageantry, this was designed as a mega spectacle celebrating the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s service to the nation. Leading the narrative was ‘The Queen’s Players’, a group of actors and artists especially brought together for the event and based on the travelling players of the Elizabethan period.

Further diaspora highlights will be interspersed through the course of the royal celebrations, including the special Jubilee weekend in early June.

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