Rekesh Chauhan is a world-renowned pianist, an accomplished artist and an inspiring TEDx speaker. He has been harnessing lockdown and "using art as a medium to help those who are vulnerable during this period".
In conjunction with the British Asian Trust, Kathak and contemporary dancer Vidya Patel, film director Sima Gonsai and classical vocalist Salee Talwakar, Rekesh is driving an important project on mental health, and the four stages of schizophrenia, in particular.
At a recent virtual launch of his latest mental health endeavour titled Covid-19: The British Indian Perspective?, hosted by the Nehru Centre in London alongside Lord Rami Ranger CBE, Dr Raj Patel MBE and Piali Ray OBE, and moderated by Anila Dhami, Rekesh spoke about his interest in combining visual arts with music to tell a profound story.
As we know, Covid-19 has affected our community disproportionately and mental health is already a topic we don t speak about enough. I realise the power of music as a means of release. I have consulted psychiatrists for the production and will be using the project to raise awareness on how people from our community can get help.
According to the Centre for Mental Health, at least half a million more people will experience mental ill health as a result of Covid-19. As there is going to be a big increase in the amount of people facing mental health issues, I wanted to focus my efforts on spreading positivity in the only way I know how through music! It is also important for me to involve people who are within the diaspora. We have so much talent to tap into!?
Alongside this new mental health project, Rekesh has recently founded and chairs the Global Indian Creatives? (GIC), to help to build bridges between established and up-and-coming artists in the UK and India.
GIC will identify 50 emerging creatives and pair them up with 50 established artists for a year-long programme of mentorship and support.
There's not a lack of talent, there's a lack of push, education and network within the British Indian community. We are looking at artists of quality, where there is real potential to turn them into the next Gurinder Chadha's, for example.
At an international level, the story is very different. There are quirks in the arts industry and this etiquette has to be taught.
The core team includes award-winning journalist Anila Dhami, pop artist Ketna Patel, digital content creator Parle Patel and Reema Jadega, and has recently onboarded advisers such as Amish Tripathi with the initiative term coined by Lord Jitesh Gadhia.
I could continue playing a plethora of concerts a year, but that's not the point. Collaboration is key. It doesn't matter what level you are at, you can learn something from everybody. I teach music, and even when I teach, I learn.
The more you learn, the more you realise how deep the ocean of learning is. It's a paradox that people in the middle feel like they've made it, but people at the top are really disciplined and always strive for more.
Rekesh reminisced about being introduced to popular Indian playback singer Asha Bhosle, and how he was particularly struck by her professionalism and quest for learning: It became clear very quickly why she is as successful as she is. Artists at the top have a certain dedication. They appreciate the talent they have but they also want to learn and do more. They take the time to nurture you. These are the most important parts of success in this industry, and these are the values GIC hopes to push forward.
Rekesh has been touring and playing music with the greats, including Nobel Peace Prize performer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Hans Raj Hans, for over 15 years. Outside of music, he is also an advisor on the UK government's Economic Service. In 2019, he was an adviser for Chancellor Rishi Sunak during his tenure as Local Government Minister, and has been involved with research initiatives with the University of Oxford. He is keen on harnessing the power of art for positive change across industries and on all levels.
If lockdown has taught us anything, it is that art should no longer be seen as a soft power. The value that it adds economically as well as emotionally is unparalleled it is for everyone!
by Vidhu Sharma