Vasundhara: An Ode to Mother Earth
Vasundhara ~ Ode to Mother Earth In ancient India, the Vedic sages united their voices and hearts in hymns that express their gratitude for the life-giving abundance of Mother Earth, and their understanding of the intricate and indispensible relationship between living beings and the elements of nature. They saw the earth as the precious abode of one extended, universal family: Vasudhaiva kutumbakam. On October 4th, 2008 this vision was expressed with fresh urgency by the collective voices and music of a huge Hindustani choir in Vasundhara: Ode to Mother Earth. Acclaimed classical singer and composer Rita Sahai led her choir of 40 uplifting voices and instrumentalists of multiple ages and cultures in an evening that offers even more than a fabulous performance. It was an elegant, non-violent protest against the negligent destruction of Mother Earth. This was not the usual benefit concert for the environment, but a stunning musical experience to awaken our hearts and minds to our responsibility to love and protect the earth we walk on, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the source of the food that sustains us. In the universal language of music, Rita Sahai and her choir sang out for Mother Earth. Vasundhara engaged the power of classical ragas and collective voices to elevate our awareness of the consequences of global warming, of the need to resolve conflict and share resources as one global family. Rita Sahai's intention is that the music itself will awaken the power of non-violence in people's hearts, and the ability to see past our differences of color, community and religion. Born into a musical family at the beautiful confluence of two sacred rivers in North India, Rita Sahai began studying classical music when she was nine years old. Her father was deeply dedicated to Gandhi's ideal of non-violence, and Rita often joined him and the huge joint family she grew up amongst in helping with relief work for those struck by harship. They lived placing their ideals before their comforts, and this continues to throb in the splendor of her music today. After moving to California, Rita had the opportunity to study with the world famous maestro Ali Akbar Khan, under whose guidance and inspiration she emerged not only as technically flawless performer but as such a talented and passionate singer that her teacher gave her the title Jewel of Music. Her own compositions have been described as "transcendent, ravishing, gorgeous", her voice "stretching single notes into entire musical landscapes" and "stormy and electric as the coming of rain after a long dry season." In addition to her own CDs, Rita lends her voice to diverse musical projects including vocal tracks for Grammy Award winning blue grass artist Bella Flack and performing on Alonzo King's Sacred Texts, a CD of international music that won the Isador Duncan award for musical excellence. She performs throughout the US and teaches throughout the Bay Area and on the faculty of the UC Davis Department of Ethnomusicology. Her musical compositions are often inspired in her dreams and take expression in her hours of devoted daily singing. And her father's ideals of non-violence and respect for the earth and all humankind are a constant theme in her music and teaching. In Ode to Mother Earth, both youthful and mature voices sang together with thrilling energy to evoke the experience of a journey through the cycle of the seasons. First the colorful joys of spring will dance in the air, a glimpse of fields of wildflowers and baby birds. This will melt into the heavy summer heat and a cuckoo singing soulfully from the shade of a mango tree, amidst the sweet fragrance of it's ripening fruit. Monsoon will break loose with thunder and lightning, torrential rain and peacocks dancing for joy. The rich autumn will unfold with harvest festivals, grains and fruits piling high, and storing up the gifts of the season. Finally the chill of winter will set it, with snowflakes fluttering through the invigorating air, moonlight falling on fresh snowfields. The music will evoke the solidity of mountains, the surge of the oceans. Through the power of ragas, the music and voices will then move through the natural cycle of the day: from the first light of dawn, through the vibrancy of high noon, to the velvety darkness of night. Ode To Mother Earth was born as a prayer to evoke our awe and love for the earth on which we live, and for our fellow human beings. It has been composed in the universal language of music, a language that unifies people and creates peace, both individually and collectively. Their united voices will resound powerfully to stir a collective remembrance that the earth is not a commodity but the source of life for all living beings.
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