Self-taught musician Bhavik Haria launched a first-of-its-kind devotional fusion bhajan album campaign recently and has already reached 50 per cent of his crowdfunding target of GBP 15,000 from adoring fans across the world.
Through this unique body of art, he hopes to infuse contemporary and traditional musical styles, including drum and bass, Sufi qawwali and classical Indian music. He believes devotional bhajans have the power to support a post-pandemic world restore its sense of normality and peace, and that they're not just for the religious minded.
Bhavik has been singing bhajans from a young age with his family in the UK. "It runs in our blood. My bapuji used to sing a lot. Every Thursday, we'd go with the community at the Jalaram Mandal to different people's houses and sing. I would bring my keyboard which was four times the size of me. There was something about it that made me go back every single week. No one was a professional singer, but it was something we all enjoyed and got a lot out of."
The #KeepBhajansAlive campaign came about to share the gems hidden in India's heritage with the world, especially the next generation. Bhavik became aware early on that there were not many people his age interested in bhajan singing and this compelled him to find out why.
"If we don't continue it, who's going to bring it forward? This realisation was one of the seed moments in my career. Upon further investigation, it seemed that youngsters either didn't know what the bhajans meant or that they associated it with sad occasions like funerals.
“When I started out, I didn't know what all the bhajans meant either as they can be quite complex, but I've grown to understand and appreciate what they mean and how they impact people. “Seeing my friends now, who, growing up, didn't understand or enjoy them, come to my events and really get into it is really rewarding!"
During lockdown, Bhavik has been delivering a series of online bhajans every evening at 9pm on Facebook Live. "It's been so rewarding unifying what I like to call my 'Global Social Family' who have been tuning in every evening. Some include frontline workers, who have been working long shifts, but come and sit with me online and allow me to bring them back to a state of peace. It makes it so worth it.
"A lot of people say when I'm singing, my eyes are always closed, and that's because I can connect more and be more present and emotional with the songs this way. The thing I hear most from people about why they enjoy my music is that it comes from the heart. I don't intentionally do this, but it really does come from somewhere deep, and I tend to go into my own little world."
With endorsements from community leaders like Professor Atul Shah, Bhavik's campaign has seen soaring success in less than one week of launching on Facebook Live with a virtual set.
"Bhavik's music represents the best of the history and heritage of India, and draws upon that ocean of wisdom which combines respect for all living beings, peace and tranquillity and harmony. And when he sings and performs, that music enters our body, every vein, every cell of our body and it helps us to experience peace, here and now, and to experience that sense of connectedness with one another, to experience the possibility that we can all live for one another and we can all help one another. It is a real delight that he has decided to produce this unique album, to fuse the best from the past and bring it to the present generations to inspire them to build a better future for all of us."
Making the album is just one step towards Bhavik achieving his wider missions of keeping bhajans alive. Money raised will go towards helping the album reach “every city, town and village across the world because it really has the potential to be a gamechanger.
“Listening to bhajans helps you to connect to your inner self, to relax in a fast-paced world where there is a lot of stress and uncertainty. It's a way to zone out and regain inner strength and that's what a lot of us need right now.”
by Vidhu Sharma