x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Chitra Roy to perform in the UAE

The renowned Indian singer talks about her concerts in the UAE this weekend, which will raise funds for The Art of Living Foundation.

The renowned Indian singer and Guinness World Record holder Chitra Roy is promising to take UAE residents on a celestial journey to ring in the new year.

With her performances often described as "spellbinding" and "enchanting", Roy will lend her musical talent for the first time in the Emirates for an evening of Sufi, devotional and soft Ghazal songs to an expected audience of at least 750.

The event, titled Celestial Melodies - Celebrations for a Cause, will be held tomorrow at the Indian Islamic Centre in Abu Dhabi and at the Emirates International School in Dubai on Saturday. All proceeds will go to sponsoring volunteers of the global NGO The Art of Living to attend the Women in Technology conference in India next February.

Ahead of her performance, Roy spoke of how she hopes to be welcomed in a place she has never before experienced.

"We only expect love," she said. "When I perform, I feel very at home wherever I go and to whomever I am performing for. Being a part of The Art of Living, we don't behave like commercial singers. We belong to everyone."

The Art of Living Foundation is engaged in numerous service projects worldwide, including stress elimination programmes in more than 150 countries.

The educational and humanitarian non-profit organisation was founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual leader and peace advocate, and is guided by his philosophy on peace with a focus on stress management and inner harmony. In 2010, Forbes named him the fifth most influential person in India.

Through techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga and meditation, The Art of Living claims to have helped millions overcome depression and violent tendencies. The company's humanitarian efforts include disaster relief, prisoner rehabilitation, education and women's empowerment. The three-day Women and Technology Conference will be held at the International Art of Living Centre, Bangalore, India, with an aim to explore the role of women as creators, as users of technology and the connection between spirituality and technology.

"These days, the world is different. Today, people understand women have a lot of talent and they can do whatever they want to do," said Roy. "When one person achieves something, it becomes a source of inspiration, which is why such conferences are very important for women."

It was clear to Roy from an early age that music was her true calling. At just six years old, she enrolled in classical vocal music training. Later, she went on to complete a master's of philosophy in Indian classical music.

Roy has performed worldwide and has won numerous awards, including the Pride of Nation Excellence Award 2005 by the Indian Society of Creative Arts. Her Guinness World Record recognition came in 2008 for the largest sitar (plucked stringed instrument) ensemble in the world.

Roy took her relationship between spirituality and music to Brahm Naad, a symphony of more than 1,200 sitarists, while taking on the challenge of conceptualising and directing the event in Delhi.

"I am about spirituality. I sing for God in various shades of music, for example, through pure Sufi and Ghazal songs, which are about yearning and longing. It could be longing for a special person or for God," said Roy.

When comparing this type of music with that which is commercial, Roy explains it is "a different type of feeling, which is not mundane".

"There is a lot of interest between me and the audience. I involve them and let them feel what I am feeling. I am their own," said Roy.

Alok Puri, chapter coordinator for The Art of Living in Abu Dhabi, said the concerts were focused on "the empowerment of women".

"The Art of Living conducts many programmes to make people stress free - one of which is called Making a Divine Society. We believe that if we can work with an individual to make them stress free, it will create a happier family unit, which will in turn promote a happier society," said Puri.

It was through this programme, held during the recent UAE National Day, that the idea to involve Roy came about.

"She is a very popular singer and is very versatile. She has been involved with us for the past 12 years," said Puri. "There are many women who would not be able to afford the conference in India, so we hope to send at least 20 through the funds raised by the concerts."

The Art of Living will send at least 20 women who show potential in playing a key role in lifting their society, who in their circumstance otherwise would not be unable to afford attendance, according to Puri.

The women will mainly be from Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia.

mel-shoush@thenational.ae