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  • Writer's pictureRaymond

Bollywood & the Art of Product Development

Conventional wisdom probably suggests that consequential projects start with an act of intelligent design or profound ambition .... Mine didn't .... the genesis of Singing India and Singing into the Mystic lay in an act of idiocy that was particularly silly even by my exacting standards.

I was in Mumbai on my way to Europe to research an Irish tour, with no intention of crafting a program for India. I entered the Svenska Hotel where I'd been staying for a few days when from behind the reception desk a loud television started playing a particularly bad Bollywood dance sequence. Swept up by the moment, I launched into my own Bollywood performance that was at the same time pathetic and heroic, 'heroic' if only because of the bravery it takes to be that stupid in public.

Added to my incredibly bad dance moves, I added ridiculous hand and face gestures and a kind of ageing male stripper routine which owed more to The Full Monty than Salaam Bombay and involved a large degree of pelvic thrusting. Even at the time I kept thinking 'this is wrong .. this is very very wrong'.

The young reception staff didn't agree. They thought it the best live show they'd ever seen from the Reception Desk. The laughter became clinically dangerous for one of the young girls who seemed to lose the ability to breathe, which, rather than create in me a health and safety concern, spurred me on to even giddier heights of stupidity, halted only by my near exhaustion and a pelvis which could stand no more thrusting.

But here's the thing - the response of the young Indians, and the fact that every time I entered the hotel for the rest of the week the entire staff launched into Bollywood routines, gave me an entirely different perspective on India. I thought -


Why not come to sing, to dance, to celebrate, to have fun and create!

Armed with this vision of Indian travel I presented it to travel agent upon travel agent with passion and gusto, sometimes reprising my dance routine to elaborate my eureka moment, only to be met with the kind of sad facial expressions usually reserved for the village idiot. No one got it. I returned to India for another 6 weeks looking at places to stay and perform, becoming frustrated and despondent, until I met Santiago Lusardi Girelli.

I'd come to Goa where I knew there was a Christian community with a choral tradition and thought that was a good place to try for leads. I was right and Santiago was that lead. He ran the Kevetan World Music Festival as well as being resident composer and artistic director of the India World Choral Festival. He is a Visiting Research Professor at the Goa University and conducts the University choir. His portfolio of work and life experiences is diverse and awe-inspiring. In that first conversation we connected.

When I got back to Australia, Santiago and I continued talking for 6 months online and by What's App. When I came back to India we sat and talked all day for 7 days straight in the little B&B where I was staying. He'd drop his children in daycare and, to the bemusement of the Indian waiters who supplied us with endless chai, we would talk, plan, pontificate, digress, define, and all with emotive hand gestures, and not just from the Italian-born Argentinian composer and choir director.

After Goa I went travelling for 4 weeks into the places Santiago had suggested, Jaisalmer and Rishikesh amongst them, and then, with him joining me, Dharmashala and Varanasi for another 2 weeks. Again we pontificated, planned and visited every single place where this particular musical and cultural integration could meaningfully work. It certainly helped in Dharmashala when we met Tibetan leaders that Santiago had performed an original composition to His Holiness The Dalia Lama just 3 days before. Timing is everything!

In Delhi I met with India's most respected travel agents - Trail Blazers India {TBi}- and finally I had a travel company who got it. Having them doing the logistics gives me what we used to call in the Rock & Roll Industry - CLOUT!

Since arriving back in Australia my web designer Kate Bradshaw, Judy Chapman from Trail Blazers India, Santiago and I brought Singing India and Singing into the Mystic to completion. Both programs incorporate the simple idea that came from my outburst in Mumbai - to not be a passive observer simply absorbing the colours and textures of India like some kind of braindead sponge; but be a giver, a creative energy, a spark that joins in on the deep yearning of Indians to music and celebration.

It is with great pleasure that Singing India with Sue Johnson and Singing into the Mystic with Santiago are now released. In the first week, before even going live, it is clear that this program gives people a compelling reason to travel to India. The response has been staggering. I haven't even spoken about the content of the programs, about how excited I am to hear Sue Johnson's beautiful soundscapes translated into the desert of Rajasthan, or in concert in Goa or Rishikesh, or how beautiful it will be to hear Santiago lead a mesmerising chant in a Jain Temple in Jaisalmer, or with Tibetans in Dharmamshala, or with the classical musicians with whom we will sing. Suffice to say we seek to ambitiously inhabit a space where music is a connective tissue to Indian culture and tradition, and I might even dance a little Bollywood routine for you with one simple guarantee - you've never seen anything like it!



Ps. Enjoy Raymonds images below from his different research trips to India.


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