Prague, Czech Republic

May 2009


Prague_Concert'09We were due to perform in Czech Republic some years ago but it didn’t work out, ever since then my dear friend Akshaya has been reminding me that we owe her country some concerts! For various reasons we ended up touring France and the Baltic countries before honouring our debt to Czech but all that was put right with our two and a half (explanation coming) concerts in May.

Akshaya invited us to perform at their annual Meditation week, quite an honour as they only have one concert during the course and all other nights feature different lecturers. We arrived the day prior to the concert and started the daunting task of getting musically ship-shape — we hadn’t practised together since April — but things came together nicely and by late afternoon the next day we felt we were ready to give a concert.

The hall was lovely and the stage beautifully decorated, there was even one of Sri Chinmoy’s original Jharna Kala Bird paintings. During the first half of the concert we found the audience very peaceful and respectful but at the same time we struggled to make that real connection which adds to the joy of any concert. All that changed when we begun the second half with the song Sri Chinmoy composed for the Czech Republic, at once the hall came alive and for the rest of the concert we felt energised by the audience. I had never heard this song before, I was familiar with the his powerful Czechoslovakia song (very beautiful but maybe a little inappropriate more than a decade after separation),

Akshaya faxed it over less than a week before we departed but in this short time Eshana came up with a piano arrangement and Cello part which highlighted the beauty and power of the song. The lyrics are in Bengali and we didn’t manage to find a translation until shortly before the concert, as I read it I was once more struck by Sri Chinmoy’s ability to divinely ‘hit the nail on the head’, the song sums up the unique qualities we see in our Czech brothers and sisters, the two words that really hit home were Virtue and Knowledge-Light.

Czech Republic, Czech Republic, Czech Republic

In knowledge light and virtue delight you transcend all, you far surpass all,

Everywhere your victory banner the world beholds.

Sleeplessly you march forward, on you march, on you march,

With a confidence heart and life, on you march.

The next day we combined performing with sight seeing, Abhisar had organised a mini concert at Hluboká Castle — all turrets and fairy tales — we were blessed by clear skies and curious but respectful tourists, plus a look inside at the full coats of armour and serious looking ancestors. After that we headed to Budweiss and just about managed to get set up for our last concert before the audience arrived. That night we returned to Prague and the next morning everyone headed back to their respective countries, a little tired but happy and fulfilled.

All thanks to the super Czech organisers, especially Akshaya (the perfect host), Kritartha, Pavel for lending us his synthesizer and Abhishar for organising things in Budweiss.

– Shankara



Nancy, France

6th November 2008


france-08-1-1I wouldn’t usually prepare for a concert tour by helping out at an ultra race, but as the French branch of Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team was holding its inaugural 24 hour race in Marseille the weekend before the concerts, it seemed crazy not to go over early to help. The race went well, the promised downpour had the decency to wait till the race ended, and the efforts and performances from the competitors were truly inspiring.

Travelling on to Montpellier, we spent the next day preparing for our first concert. Gambuja had booked a small theatre which was blessed with decent acoustics and an intimate feel, the concert went well and the 80 strong audience were lovely to perform to. It was a relief to find that we still had that feeling of group oneness after a two month break and the supportive audience helped our confidence.

Next morning saw an uncomfortably early start, in the pouring rain, to make a 5.30am train to Paris, but things looked up when we arrived to sunshine and warm hospitality from Francoise, who went out of her way to ensure we were well looked after. A delicious lunch at Madhupa’s La Victoire Supreme du Coeur restaurant left us energised for the concert in a beautiful Japanese Centre. Once again we had a lovely audience and the added benefit of a grand piano. Once again the audience was easy to perform to and everyone seemed to really enjoy the evening. Most impressive was Gambuja’s grandmother, who at 93 made it up two steep flights of stairs to the room and listened attentively throughout.

Next day we were off to Nancy, where Francoise and Christophe welcomed us to their idyllic house in a farming village just outside the city. Here we practised and even managed to prepare a new song for the concert that night. We were delighted to find our last concert would be held at a beautiful church with voice flattering acoustics. We sang and played our hearts out and really felt the uplifting and purifying effect of Sri Chinmoy’s songs. Afterwards we all offered gratitude for the wonderful experiences we’d had and for being able to share Sri Chinmoy’s music with others.

I want to say a big thanks to all our French brothers and sisters who made this tour such a success.



February 2007

Ten years is a long gap between tours but that’s what it had been since our last concert tour, so we were excited and a bit apprehensive as we made our separate ways from 4 countries to Belgrade. I was very happy to be returning to Serbia and Macedonia as we’d had lovely experiences there years ago, I was also curious to see how much things had changed.

February probably wouldn’t have been the month of choice to visit Serbia, confirmed by the pilot announcing, as we readied for take off, the temperature in Belgrade to be -10C! But it was gloriously sunny when we landed and the frosty temperature rose steadily during our stay.

It was great to be back in Belgrade, we were royally looked after by the ever generous Belgrade friends, fed to bursting point and given the space to practise the day before our first concert. It was an intense day, starting with a TV interview at 9am followed by hours of practising (so necessary as we all live in different countries and only meet up a few times a year) and then the concert.

Unfortunately our visit coincided with some political unrest and there was a degree of tension on the streets (though none of ever felt remotely unsafe) so the audience numbers weren’t as high as had been hoped for, but none of that mattered, the people who came seemed to really appreciate the music and identified with the abundant peace that Sri Chinmoy’s songs embody. We loved being back on stage and singing our hearts out.

After the concert it was off to Sladja’s new restaurant, a great little place in the heart of the city, for a delicious supper of rice and dal. We were all so impressed with the way she had put the place together and wish her great success, people are bound to love the food, it was very yummy!

The following day we were due to perform in Novi Sad but there had been a devastating fire in a local club and 7 people had perished, so the city announced a three day morning period and our concert was cancelled. As sad as this was for us we were touched by a community spirit so strong that it collectively mourned the loss of its citizens. We thought this meant a night without a concert but we underestimated the Serbs! Within less than 24 hours, they arranged a substitute concert in the beautiful city of Subotica and managed to find a small audience too! The concert was probably my favourite of the tour as we really felt the audience entering into the music and it seemed everyone was meditating, the feedback from the audience was so peaceful and they made it very easy to perform.

Next we were off to Nish where the concert was in a puppet theatre. It was great, all these amazing puppets in the wings and a very atmospheric hall. Then it was off to the Bulgarian border and a concert in Sofia, everything went smoothly – and we fought through the endless Sofia traffic to a big concert hall with a lovely grand piano. It’s so great when we have a real piano to perform with rather than a synthesizer pretending to be a piano!

The concert went very well, 200 people came, and we only wished we could have spent more time with our Bulgarian friends, but the next morning we had to be across the border once more, into Macedonia, and at a TV station in Skopje for 8.30 am. No joke considering the drive is a good three and half hours and you have to add on time for the border crossing.

After a inhospitable starting time and a very scary drive down the mountains after the border, we screeched up to the TV station just after 8.30, were rushed straight onto stage and promptly interviewed by a charming lady with impeccable English. Then we were treated to a full spread breakfast at a little hotel owned by a member of the Skopje centre. It was a beautiful place with a touch of old England in the decor, very comforting and perfect after a 4am start!

The concert that night was in a proper concert hall and Eshana, our pianist, was over the moon to find she’d be playing a Steinway – talk about being spoiled on our last concert! The hall held 500 and demand for seats had been so great that we were asked to give two concerts, one at 8 and one at 10pm! It was a great finish to the tour, the hall was amazing to sing in and the audience was full for the first concert and fairly full for the second.

Come midnight we could barely stand but were very happy; to sing Sri Chinmoy’s songs is rewarding in itself but to sing your heart out and share the music with an audience brings something extra alive in the songs. I left the hall that night so grateful for the experiences we’d had over the week, each concert had been different, rewarding in unique ways, we had been in the countries we love so much, and we’d experienced the great hearts of Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria once again.

Driving back over the border the next day (to Sofia airport) we had time to appreciate the great beauty of the region. Our tour had been quite different to the ones we remembered 10 years ago but the satisfying feeling at the end was the same, and maybe more precious after such a long break.

So now I’m busy dreaming of the next tour!

– Shankara