Mangaluru, July 13, 2016: Music as a channel to spiritual uplifrment and to spread God has been there in India for long. Rev Charles Vaz, a Catholic priest titled as the ’singing priest’, is engaged in this noble work through the medium of music for the last 30 years at least.
Charles was born in 1944 at Meramajalu in Bantwal, he had a great deeo penchant for Indian classical music, after listening to legendary Hindustani vocalist Kumar Gandharva on radio. He said he used to take part in the local church singing. He cheerfully mentioned that he often got small tokens of money for singing and drumming at local weddings, while he studied in the local school.
He joined the Minor Seminary in Indore and completed his pre-university education. He also learnt the nuances of Western music. Rev Vaz pursued his BA in English Literature from the Bombay University and underwent three years of training in Philosophy in Pune. He was ordained priest in Bombay in 1976.
The quest for classical music drew Rev Charles Akhila Bharatha Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Meeraj. He secured the degree of Visharad in Hindustani classical music in 1977. He was trained by Ramakrishna Joshi, a disciple of Vishnu Digambar Paluskar and Prof Vasant Rao Raja Upadhyay.
Music, dance academy : Rev Vaz said he launched the Sangeet Abhinay Academy to realise his dream of spreading the Gospel of God through music and dance.
The academy, started in Mumbai in 1980, began composing music ballets on various themes. The artistes in the ballet were from various religions. Live horses, elephants and even chariots have been used on stage to give a touch of reality to the ballets. Some ballets had 1500 artistes.
Rev Vaz has composed 28 major ballets. The ballet ’Prem Ragini’ has seen more than 500 shows in India and abroad. It was also performed in the Vatican in the presence of Pope John Paul II.
’Desh Hamara’ is another famous ballet composed by Rev Vaz. It was performed in Germany on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Indian Independence.
’Ghar Ek Mandir’ is a ballet with a social theme. His latest composition ’Ma Tujhe Pranam’ is dedicated to Nobel laureate Mother Teresa.
Fr Vaz said Indian music is based on melody and Western music emphasizes on harmony. "I blend both in my compositions. However, the base of the compositions will be Indian Ragas and my ultimate goal is to project the Indian culture." "Bilaskhani Thodi, Jog and Bhairav are among my favourite ragas" he stated.
This musical priest has brought out 40 music albums and audio CDs. Artistes like Bhupindar Singh and Kavita Krishnamurthy have lent their voices to these melodies. This ’singing priest’ has been awarded with Alankar Shiromani and Kolakar Puraskar and is now based in Mumbai.
He is currently working on a two-year project of a music album containing 10 bhajans. Each bhajan is based on a Hindustani raga. Rajeesh Johri has written the lyrics while Kavita Krishnamurthy and others will sing for the album.