Naresh Sohal – Contemporary Composer

Naresh Sohal is a unique voice in contemporary classical orchestral music of the Western world:
It combines what he acquired as a young Indian transplanted to England with his cultural background intact in the mores and literature of India’s classical language, Sanskrit.

Born on September 18, 1939 in the pre-partition province of Punjab, there was a strong folk music tradition in the region, but there were no musicians in his family.

Naresh’s father, however, besides being a civil servant, was a renowned Urdu poet and the boy developed an ear for the spoken word through serving tea at poets’ gatherings.  From an early age, he showed an interest in popular music, his tastes being influenced by the broadcasts of All India Radio and Radio Ceylon.

Young Naresh arrived in London in an era of black and white T.V., and black and white attitudes to employment and accommodation. He moved from one grisly room to another in London’s most unfashionable quarters. After a few gruelling months, he landed a job as a copyist with Boosey and Hawkes, the music publishers, on the strength of his skill.  At Boosey’s, he was immersed in light music – copying, among other things, material for the music for Lawrence of Arabia.  In the evenings he attended various educational institutes to learn Western music theory and began writing his own work.

Sohal’s work spans two cultures. As a British composer, he writes fluently in the Western idiom: as an Asian composer, he draws heavily on the insights of Indian philosophy. A notable example is on YouTube – Bhagavad Gita: “Song of the Lord”, it is often referred to as simply the Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata (chapters 23–40 of the 6th book of Mahabharata). Listen to some of it, if you may, in order to catch an aural ‘glimpse’ of his grand schemata of orchestral sound. In this video, you will also hear renowned India-born conductor Zubin Mehta commenting on the composer’s work.

Sohal combines musical passion with technical brilliance to further his main purpose, which is always the elevation of the human spirit. His music has been performed worldwide. In 1987 he was awarded a Padma Shri by the Indian government
for his services to Western music.

References: Naresh Sohal’s recently published Website; Wikipedia

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