CHENNAI: Sweet young voices could be heard singing the much loved I Have A Dream early in the evening last Thursday in the ancient Headquarters Hall of the Theosophical Society in Besant Nagar. The quaint space nestled amid the greenery surprised us with great acoustics and rang with their joyful enunciation as we got carried away with the simple beauty of the moment during the golden hour. All 48 members dressed in white, the motley group of students of different ages and different schools were part of the LEAP Foundation music programme and they were all delightfully cohesive as they sang their way through the Dream-in-Beauty music show.
A thematic showcase by LEAP Boundary Breakers led by creator and founder Srinivas Krishnan, they are known for their repertoire of music from across the globe. “We are not here to produce musicians. We like to believe that we are creating people who have a better understanding of life, and appreciation of beauty and the arts,” said Srinivas. Offering us a panorama of world music, we found ourselves spellbound as we listened to Sufi, folk, classical, and selections of AR Rahman along with a wide selection of American Broadway Musicals, all held together with the spirit of ‘Dreams’. And the experience was taken up a few notches with Srinivas introducing each song with rich stories that were colourful with history and trivia like, how a folk melody was inspired by the thumping sound made by the pounding of turmeric by tribal folk and woven into Kabir ke Dohe by the composer.
This team has travelled and performed at venues including MIT, World Bank, Columbia University, Kala Ghoda Festival, Piramal gallery, IIT Madras, CRPF, and featured in collaborations with AR Rahman, SNL star and percussion virtuoso Valerie Naranjo, African drum virtuoso Paschal Younge, as well as sold out shows at venues around Varanasi, Siliguri to name a few.
Srini (as Srinivas is fondly called) tells us that their bond with the Theosophical Society is a special one. “We have performed at all their international conventions, at their Founders Day — not just in Chennai but also at their world conferences where we had 1,500 spectators in Varanasi, two years ago.” This year, they three shows under their belt — the first at DakshinaChitra, the second at Theosophical Society, and the third in Puducherry.
What stood out was the beauty and ingenuity of representing music in all its interdisciplinary glory. It started with a Tamil song (Rasathi) and went on to enthral us with a Bengali folk, and the final segment had a charming offering that included the wildly popular songs from The Greatest Showman musical. This year LEAP has Bridget Handkins in her LBD waving her tattooed arm as she conducted the group, cajoling a high note here, a smile there and a powerful chorus in another. LEAP Foundation has collaborated with 293 artistes from across the world till date. Bridget is visiting from America and promises us a spectacular American Broadway Musical soon.
Accompanying the singers and sometimes holding up the renditions with their own voices were sought-after vocalists Nidhi Saraogi and Abinav Sridharan, and musicians Srinath and Rijul Chakraborthy. Giving physical form to some of songs, were classical/contemporary dancers Hamsa and Mayura Balagurunathan, Sneha Mahesh, Lekha Prasad, Aishwarya Rajukumar, Varshaa Ramesh, among others who weaved in and out of the choir, adding delicate gestures to the melody with their graceful moments. They took a Bengali folk song beyond the realms of mere music and it became a cross cultural and inter-disciplinarian expression when the dancers flung imaginary colours on each other and merrily pranced around. What made this “dream-based” presentation compelling was this intersection of diverse musical traditions and cultures.