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Mahabharata - Why Not Theatre/Shaw/Barbican

Working with co-composer/bandleader Suba Sankaran, we created the music for this two part retelling of Mahabharata for Ravi Jain's Why Not Theatre, the Shaw Festival and the Barbican. Such a privilege and honour to work on this piece. The first part, Karma, involved Suba and I onstage with a six piece band performing live with the actors and the second part was recorded but also included a 15 minute aria in Sanskrit we wrote sung by the lovely Meher Pavri.

A bit of what the press said:
A fantastic six-piece band led by guitarist John Gzowski adds plenty of nuance along the way.

The centrepiece of the entire show is a mesmerizing opera sequence with Meher Pauri, achingly showing us the inhumanity of war.

Part 2 contains the Bhagavad Gita opera sung in exquisite stillness by Meher Pavri. She is dressed in a gold gown (kudos to Gillian Gallow for the beautiful costumes) and sunburst head covering. She slowly moves cross the stage singing the opera, her hands are by her sides. There are no gestures for emotion. It’s all in the singing. Stunning.

The beautiful score by John Gzowski and Suba Sankaran underscores the telling of the story without ever distracting from it. It always enhances the story and accentuates the power of war.

For me, the focal point of Karma is the musical ensemble, comprised of Dylan Bell, Gurtej Singh Hunjan, Hasheel Lodhia, Zaheer-Abbas Janmohamed, Suba Sankaran, and conductor John Gzowski. The music, composed by Gzowski and Sankaran, is a beautiful accompaniment, perfectly timed and tuned to the tone of the piece: and just as impressive are the sound effects created by the instruments and the musicians themselves. Crackling fires and slithering serpents, a fishing net being thrown into a river — every sound is precisely calibrated. Just as the direction of this Mahabharata involves both contemporary and classical forms of storytelling, the blend of instruments represents varying cultures and traditions, from guitar and keyboard to bansuri and tabla.

Part Two also includes an original Sanskrit operatic adaptation of The Bhagavad Gita, the most renowned, influential and significant passage of The Mahabharata. London, Ontario soprano Meher Pavri, 2007’s Miss India Canada, takes the spotlight with her powerful voice in a show stopping performance here.