Get ready for a music concert where you’ll be pardoned for drifting off to sleep (but please try not to snore). Sing a Lullaby LIVE, set to be performed on November 5-6 in Bengaluru will feature a curated list of lullabies from across the world. The concert is a result of a year-long workshop series called Sing a Lullaby, conducted at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, by Chennai-based Vedanth Bharadwaj and Bengaluru-based Gurupriya Athreya.
The show will move to Hyderabad on November 12-13. Apart from the live shows, there will also be a workshop where participants can learn the history, importance and meaning of the lullabies. Of the 52 lullabies in 38 language, some have already been released over several streaming platforms. The first to be released was the traditional Urdu lullaby Amna Bibi ke gulshan mein sung by Khatija Rahman, followed by Papanasam Sivan’s Tamil composition Kanne en kanmaniya and the Marathi Niza niza re, both sung by Bharadwaj and Athreya.
The project started as an invitation to a handful of people into a small oasis of peace via Zoom sessions but grew to encourage over 450 people to learn, share, and bond over lullabies. “We didn’t know 52 lullabies then, we just committed to it on a whim. The response was phenomenal. Our community of lullaby-ers kept growing,” recalls Bharadwaj, who has just returned after performing at the Rajasthan Kabir Yatra. “For seven years, we’ve been dreaming of coming out with an album of lullabies,” reveals musician Athreya, who rushed into our conference call after conducting a workshop on Art Practices for Inclusion at Bengaluru’s Snehadhara Foundation.
Both of them parents, and both of them multi-faceted, the musicians use their talents in diverse projects. Athreya was initiated into Carnatic classical music by her late mother Dr. Padmathy Shrinivasen, the much-loved ‘Rs.5 Doctor’ in Malleswaram. Gurupriya learnt Hindustani classical music from Ustad Faiyaz Khan. Moving to Chennai as a teenager, sang harmonies for maestros Ilaiyaraja and A R Rahman, worked with G V Prakash on the Chennai Super Kings first anthem and did voice overs. Her repertoire includes Kula, a contemporary composition of Kuvempu’s poem, and vocals for devotional songs composed by her father and chemical engineer A S Shrinivasen. She hosts The Living Room Kutcheri along with her husband Akhil in their apartment in Bengaluru and with another host in Mumbai’s Bandra.
Bharadwaj started his musical training as a four-year old under Guru Neyveli Santhangopalan. He is equally at home singing Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence with Ananth Menon of By2 Blues, composing and singing classical tunes for the film His Father’s Voice, and with collaborator Bindhumalini Narayanaswamy for Aruvi. He is the director of Chennai Children’s Choir, where he has trained children from economically-challenged backgrounds to represent India and sing at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC. He also runs a music production company Sa Ma, short for Samaveda Sangam.
Together, Athreya and Bharadwaj decided to conduct the pay-as-you-wish workshop. Every Tuesday, between 8 p.m. and 8.45 p.m. participants joined in to learn a lullaby. “We would do our research by getting the right words, meaning and pronunciations of each lullaby,” says Athreya. “We were amazed at the similarities in sleep-words used in different parts of the world, like between Tamil’s araaro ariraro and the aroo aroo in Spanish,” reveals Vedanth. In fact, one of the lullabies created by the duo called Sleepiest Lullaby is made up only of the sleep sounds used in several languages.
The guests artists included The Ghosts, Radhika Sood Nayak, Cheryl Teh, Shruthi Veena Vishwanath, Sikkil C. Gurucharan, Pierre Flasse and Caitlin Laing-McEvoy, Shilpa Mudbi Kothakota, Mir Basu Khan (who taught them a lullaby in the India-Pakistan border language of Sariaki), Mir Abdul Jabbar, Namrata Kartik, Bindumalini Narayanswamy, Pallavi Arun and Ananth Menon.
The collection included lullabies in Bhojpuri, Bidari, Braj, Himachali, Konkani, Maithili and Sindhi, with foreign songs coming from Lithuania, Mali, Sri Lanka, Tonga and Trinidad. The final lullaby written and gifted to them by the students of
V-Excel Education Trust, a school for children with special needs where Bharadwaj's wife Neha Bhalla works.
The duo got some sage advice from the youngsters at V-Excel, “You HAVE to finish making an album of lullabies! Once these online sessions are over, don’t forget about your promise to bring them out!”
The duo are not sleeping over the promise -- they have already released four of the lullabies and are working on the production of the album. But right now, it is time for bringing the lullabies live to people. May be you’d like to carry a pillow?
Mala Kumar is the author of many picture books, including Shunti the Sunshine Cat, and enjoys working with children.