Luna Yaden, founding member of the little-known Delhi-based Ao Naga Choir, talks about their performance at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
This is the chance of a lifetime,” remarked Luna Yaden, a member of the Ao Naga Choir, as they were preparing to perform for the First Citizen of India and his guests at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday evening.
The choir, part of the Delhi Ao Baptist Church, comprises university students and working professionals from Nagaland’s Ao community who reside in Delhi. Having won several competitions earlier, the rather humble choir reached the Rashtrapati Bhavan only on the basis of word-of-mouth publicity.
Members of the choir, who had prepared an exclusive combination of choiral, contemporary and band music for the occasion, performed a 45-minute set of 15 songs to kick off the Christmas mood at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“We have practised for a few weeks. The auditorium at the Rashtrapati Bhavan has state-of-the-art facilities,” said an excited Yaden. Not to leave the common people out of these Christmas joys, the choir is performing the same set at the Catholic Redemption Church in Delhi today.
But cliched as it may sound, the choir’s journey to the top hasn’t been easy. Formed in 2009, the choir has 30 members of the Baptist church, who got together after discovering their common love for church music.
Their repertoire contains Western classical songs, broadway musicals, Moroccan Renaissance music, Christian church and Ao Naga music, besides choruses from opera and operetta. Many of the choir members work as music teachers in various schools in Delhi. But the setback, Yaden pointed out, “is not being able to find enough time to perform or rehearse”, since many of them are either students or working professionals. “So, we practise only two hours on Sundays, before the church proceedings start,” he said.
Financially also, the choir is not adequately loaded. They are given a certain amount of money by the church, which is not enough for all their performances and other related arrangements.
“We have amazing singers in the choir but one can’t call them professionals because they are not paid,” said Yaden. The choir, which has not gone commercial or has had any media exposure, mostly sings “acappela” (without any accompanying musical instruments).
However, the choir is “self-sufficient” in terms of human resources — with many of its members being budding instrumentalists, photographers and composers.
Finding positivity in everything with the help of their happy songs, Yaden said they don’t deem these issues as major problems. “One of our main aims is to revive hymns in church music.
These days, the ‘Christian rock’ sort is dominating the music scene in church. But even the western classicals have emerged from hymn music; one can’t forget the roots,” he added.
The choir also performed at the wedding of the Air Chief Marshal’s daughter on Friday night. “We don’t usually perform at weddings except on special requests,” said Yaden. The choir, with a couple of invites from abroad for 2013, is hoping the finance will settle in by then as they are expecting some more money from the church.
“Choiral music is not encouraged in India even though the atmosphere for this kind of music is great in other South East Asian countries such as Phillipines and Indonesia,” said Yaden.