Britain’s first orchestra for the blind performs live for the first time since the pandemic
Britain’s first professional blind orchestra is back live for the first time since the pandemic.
Inner Vision, founded by ‘star sitarist’ Baluji Shrivastav, performed at South Bank in London on Friday evening.
Subsequently, Baluji, who has performed with Annie Lennox, Stevie Wonder, Shakira and Coldplay, said, “Last year a lot of our performances were canceled and although we did a few online, we weren’t paid for them.
“As an independent, the coronavirus has had an impact on our musicians but it’s so good to be back live.
“Even though we can’t see each other, we can hear each other and feel each other’s presence and that in itself is wonderful, especially with the great and appreciative comments from the crowd.”
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Baluji, 70, has been blind since the age of eight months following a tragic accident in his home village of Usmanpur in Uttar Pradesh, northern India.
He developed an eye infection and a poisonous “healing” potion from a well-meaning neighbor burned his optic nerves.
Still, Baluji enjoyed a lifetime of success, recording albums with the biggest names in pop.
At the age of six, he was sent to a boarding school for the blind where he showed his talent for music.
He said, “As soon as I held the sitar, I was able to play it.”
After going to France in 1981 to teach music, Baluji met his wife Linda Shanson, a poet, and moved with her to London.
The talented songwriter slowly built his multi-instrumental career and eventually pop stars lined up to work with him including Oasis, Boy George, Soul II Soul, Kaiser Chiefs, Doves and Madness.
Baluji performed with Coldplay and the British Paraorchestra at the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
He said: “When the song ended, I took off my headphones and heard the applause. There were 80,000 people cheering on us and I never heard anything like it. wonderful.”
A father of two, Baluji founded the Inner Vision Orchestra in 2012 and received an OBE in 2017 for services to music.
Now he says, “I want everyone in the orchestra to be famous. Do you have stars like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, both Americans, blind and famous everywhere, but who’s British, blind, talented and famous like that? And why not?”
■ Baluji’s Voice of Flowers album is on Apple, Spotify and Arc Music. Visit baluji.com for more information on inner vision.