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Rita Sahai.

Rita Sahai and her Vasundhara Choir presented “Jalaranjani: The Moods of Water” at Ohlone College’s Smith Center Theatre in Fremont, Calif., Nov. 21.

Sahai is a senior disciple of the late Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan Saheb. She is known for her soulful compositions, which are full of emotional depth, healing and harmony, according to a press release. Through her compositions, Sahai brings harmony to individuals, communities, the environment and the planet.

In her concert “Jalaranjani,” Sahai captured the various moods of water — the pure, undisturbed and clear water of a lake; the flowing water of a stream that can invoke deep inner longing; and the raging of water from a storm that is destructive, yet creates new life thereafter. These various moods of water create a series of feelings in our journey of life.  The concert was a truly remarkable experience — a Hindustani classical concert in choir form.  

The concert began with a short ‘Ganesh vandana,’ with salutations to Lord Ganesh, the remover of hurdles in our life, followed by “Jalaranjani Pranaam in Raag Desh,” invoking the mood of gratitude, and salutations to Goddess Saraswati, who is celebrated as a deity with healing, purifying powers of abundant flowing water. Raag Sohini depicted the storm, ever destructive, creating a feeling of despair and helplessness but in the midst of destruction, birthing new life, and bringing peace and calmness. Raag Malgunji was a plea to the boatman to take us across the river through the journey of life. Frozen river, Himanadiyaa was in Raag Alhaiyyaa Bilaawal and Bhup Kalyaan, which described the results of global warming and gave a plea to save Mother Earth. Raag Jalaranjani, a new raag by Sahai was a request to the clouds to carry the message of love. “Shaanta Sarovar” in Raag Mishra Pilu depicted the meditative sound of a peaceful lake. Raag Shyaam Kalyaan represented the sound of waterfalls descending and tumbling. The last performance was in Raag Sindhi Bhairavi, which provided a message to quench our inner thirst. The message and notes hovered in the air for a long time.

Sahai was accompanied by well-known Bay Area instrumentalists Nikhil Pandya on tabla, Kanwaljit Kalsi on harmonium, Vikram Shrowty on slide guitar, Daniel Kennedy on tabla and percussion, Peter Vangelder on sitar, and John Wubbenhorst on flute. The Vasundhara Choir consists of 40 musicians between the ages of five to 75.  

Sahai’s compositions were truly a perfect union of the rhythm and sounds of various instruments and talented singers. The young singers between the ages of five and 13 performed with full confidence and vigor, which was very impressive. It was a seamless interaction between the adult singers and children, which sounded like a combination of the flowing sound of the strong wind and the gentle divine sound of soft wind, or the steady sound of ocean waves and the gentle sound of the flowing waters of a river all coming together.

Sahai’s melodious voice was breath-taking. She indeed captured and embraced the journey of water. The concert was truly an invigorating experience.

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