BALUJI SHRIVASTAV-“virtuoso multi-instrumentalist”-The Times
Baluji Shrivastav, OBE is one of the greatest instrumentalists India has produced excelling in sitar, surbahar, dilruba, pakhavaj and tabla. Amazingly he was not born into a well known musical dynasty and was not guided by famous gurus. The traditional guru - shishya (master - disciple) system of passing on knowledge assumes that the shishya performs various duties and favours for the guru which is impossible for a totally blind person to do. Apart from his initial instruction at blind school he is mainly self-taught and his success has been due to a combination of natural talent, hard work and passion for music. His quest for knowledge has dispelled many of the myths that surround the process of mastering Indian classical music. As a result he stands outside the conventional establishment of Indian music, often struggling against prejudice, to take his place amongst the greatest in this field.
Baluji was born in Usmanpur in Uttar Pradesh. He was tragically blinded as a baby and was sent away as a young boy to live at Ajmer Blind School where music was a compulsory subject. His talent soon became apparent and he won many prizes for the school. While still a child he graduated from Lucknow University with a B.A. in Vocal Studies and Sitar going on to gain a further B.A. in Tabla and an M.A. in Sitar from Alahabad University. Supporting his whole family from a young age he toured India playing with the National Ballet Troupe. This exposed him to the rich variety of regional musical styles which have become a lifelong fascination.
The outstanding characteristic of Baluji’s musical career is his versatility. His ability to concentrate on sound as his primary mode of interaction with the world has enriched his musicality and his courageous attitude to life is reflected in his approach to music. Firmly established in the Hindustani classical tradition he is happy to explore music in all its forms. As a result he has made an impact in contemporary music, with jazz, pop, and other forms of world music. As an Indian classical musician he has performed and recorded with some of the greatest tabla accompanists such as Anindo Chatterji and Ustad Fayaz Khan. He has composed and played for some of the best Indian classical and contemporary dancers such as Akram Khan. He has written music for films, theatre and television and has pioneered the contribution that composers with an Indian classical perspective can make to contemporary music through his series of commissioned works including “Portraits of the Dark”, “Sitar-Guitar Suites”, “Indian In London”,”Song Celestial”, “Taal Zindagi” and the world’s only Urdu oratorio Sohini and Mahival which he composed together with Oscar Winner Dario Marianelli.
He has performed and taught all over the world and has recorded many albums with a wide variety of artists and bands such as Stevie Wonder, Massive Attack, Annie Lennox , Madness, Andy Sheppard and Guy Barker. He has formed his own Jazz ensemble Jazz Orient which has produced five albums to much acclaim.
Baluji has founded the Baluji Music Foundation which is a registered charity. One of it’s aims is to encourage the participation of disabled people in music. To this purpose he has founded the Inner Vision Orchestra of blind and visually impaired musicians. He is also actively involved in the British Paraorchestra founded by Charles Hazelwood. They performed at the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic Games 2012 with Coldplay.
For further information about Baluji Music Foundation www.balujimusicfoundation.org