When the world was plunged in lockdowns and fear, a few resilient artists rose to the occasion and helped the world lighten its weary load. After all, even scientific studies have proven that certain forms of Indian art, music and yoga have healing properties and benefits. One artist spearheading this movement of healing through music and through the celebration of one’s culture, is violinist, vocalist and wellness professional, Sunita Bhuyan. She does this through her innovative musical offerings and by promoting Indian art and culture on various national and international forums and festivals.
Through her unique practice called ‘Wellbeing, Creativity and Leadership through Music’, Bhuyan has broken the myth that music is merely for entertainment. Instead, she uses it as a medium to heal the mental health of both mainstream and marginalized communities. Her work has been recognised by his Holiness Pope Francis, who awarded her for her music therapy workshops for underprivileged children; and most recently, by the Governor of Maharashtra for her contributions during the pandemic, when she performed with her son Ronojit at 150 virtual events from their home studio, of which 35 to 40 were fundraisers for Covid-impacted communities.
Her latest initiative is her global tour around the world for India@75 Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, which has even garnered enthusiastic applause from the Honourable PM Mr. Narendra Modi. As the ‘Joy of Giving Ambassador’ for Don Bosco Worldwide, Bhuyan has also collaborated with several causes in the USA. These include the Thanksgiving concert for Covid warriors at Tapan Parish New York; a multi-artist ensemble for Sunburst Foundation Montana; a fundraising concert for the victims of the Assam Floods; and the Indo-US friendship concert hosted by the Consulate General of India in New York.
Originally from Assam and currently settled in Mumbai, Bhuyan is the disciple of her mother violinist Minoti Khaund of Assam and maestro Padmabibhushan Pandit V. G. Jog. Other feathers in her cap include an MBA in Human resources and a Master’s degree in Music.
As she prepares for her next tour to the UK for India@75 Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, she joins Sunday Guardian for an exclusive chat. Excerpts from an edited interview:
Q. Why did you enter this field?
A. I’m very attached to my early training in music and my culture. Though I have been based in Mumbai for the last 21 years, I often visit Assam for work and performances. In the last ten years, I have forayed into folk fusion and become the first violinist in India to play Assamese folk on the violin.
I was a full time HR professional, but in 2012 I left my corporate job to create a Leadership Program on Wellbeing and Creativity through Music. I feel I had the right skills to be able to bring these two passions of mine together. So my profession flits form the training room to the stage… and by God’s grace, the entire world’s stage.
Q. Please tell us about your recent tours. How are they different from your previous ones?
A. The recent tours have been focussed on the central theme of India@75 to promote the Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav spirit. Starting with Expo Dubai where we headlined on International Women’s Day at the India Pavilion, before performing for the Honourable PM in Delhi and finally in New York for the India Consulate.
Simultaneously, I have been doing a lot of programs on music and mental health and wellbeing. This subject has been a key focus area for me, especially during the pandemic.
Q. As India turns 75, what is the importance of preserving and promoting our indigenous arts?
A. Indian art forms are so incredibly rich and have such immense depth. I feel there are many lessons of life that we can learn from art and music. I also truly believe that the arts have a significant impact on mental and physical health. Hence, any sort of training and structure helps one to imbibe the qualities of discipline and self-control which should be inculcated in us when we are young.
Q. How can people contribute to the promotion of our wonderful cultural heritage?
A. I think people can do this by first acknowledging that all forms of art are a livelihood like any other, and we must pay to reap their enjoyment. It is unfair to expect artists to keep entertaining for free, in fact, it is even cruel! No other service is received for free, so why do people expect art to be available free of charge?
I also believe that schools must make art and music mandatory in order for our country to be able to create well-balanced citizens. The corporate world too should learn to use the benefits of the arts for wellness and leadership development.
Q. Please tell us about your artistic process from start to finish, especially when you go on tour. How do you prepare for it?
A. There is a whole procedure in place for this and no matter how much you prepare, there is always something new you learn along the way.
As soon as we get an enquiry, we evaluate the host organisation and do our in-house due diligence. Then we evaluate the venue and the audience profile, before exploring budgets to see if we can fly our entire band for the project in question. If that is not possible, we start looking at options to collaborate with local musicians. Next, we plan our travel details and evaluate possible accommodations, as we have to be careful on foreign land. Then we begin to plan our playlist and conduct virtual workshops with our co-artists. Once we land, we go over the venue and sound specs. When our performance is done, we take some time to enjoy the new place and keep a few extra days to explore and relax.
Q. What is your favourite part of being on tour?
A. I think it is the breakfast the day after the concert because by then we are usually relaxed after a successful event! This is also why I always take afternoon flights back and never early morning ones after a show. We are usually so stressed on the day of the actual show as we have to dress up and perform and then socialize with the host. So the next day it is very important to take it easy.
Q. What are you working on next?
A. There is a lot happening at the moment and I am looking forward to it all. Next up, we have a tour to the UK next month. This will be followed by a few collaborations, which will also be in the UK. I also have a big project on music and mental health in the pipeline, and I hope to be able to share more details on it soon.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com.