Tonight, the spotlight will be on a Texan singer-songwriter who goes by the name of Tyagaraja. And of course, his gorgeous wife, Gunjan, who is a trained dancer in Indian classical and Western contemporary forms.
Originally Jonathan Welch, the Sanskrit name was given to him by Sri Karunamayi when he was studying and touring with her for about two years (2007-09). His study of bhajans and yoga practice has led him to write songs that are uplifting and meditative, something that many would even call spiritual.
But, why the interest in Indian culture? “My father who’s an amazing singer-songwriter himself was always open to different cultures and I was brought up in that kind of an atmosphere back home,” starts Welch. But the clincher was him having chanced upon Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda which brought him to India.
For tonight’s gig, Tyagaraja is collaborating with local musicians from the Muzic Club interspersed with Gunjan’s dance routines. Tyagaraja is also hoping to use some motion graphics in the background to the effect of “sensory overload explosion”. Back in the US while touring, they’re known to bring in set designers as well.
Over the last few years, Tyagaraja has released two albums – Liberation (‘06) and Open Book (‘10). From an album that was ‘modern’ in its sound, has moved on to incorporate multiple genres – classic, blues, jazz, rock & roll. A new single has been released recently – Meaning of Life.
Post the current tour, Tyagaraja and Gunjan head back to Texas and plan their return to India. They hope to stay here for about two years during which they will be working with NGOs apart from touring the country. “Doing performing arts is fun. Teaching kids the arts is fun too. But we want to do more. Staying with the kids and helping them grow as individuals is something we want to help with. Music is the way to reach out to more people with our words on social issues,” adds Gunjan.
Tyagaraja and group perform at Arc Asia tonight 8.30pm onwards.