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SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
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PEOPLEDo you know of anyone who sings qawwalis in Hebrew? Here is a creative soul from Israel who made India his home to carry out such experiments

TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIESShye Ben-Tzur can often be heard at Sufi festivals in the country
TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIESShye Ben-Tzur can often be heard at Sufi festivals in the country

From a rock musician of a band called Sword of Damocles in his native country Israel to a singer who belts out qawwalis in Hebrew: That's the leap Israeli artiste Shye Ben Tzur has taken in the 15 years he has spent in India, the country he made his second home after a concert of Indian classical music left him enchanted.

Leaving an indelible impression on Shye's mind, it spurred him on to undertake a lifelong journey in search of music. It led him to Varanasi, Delhi and Ajmer in search of a music teacher. “Something moved me tremendously. And the fact that I was already a musician helped.” While he took lessons in Indian classical music from Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar, he went to the qawwals at Dargah Sharif in Ajmer, to train in the genre full of gusto. It happened, more in an informal way, through dialogue and collaborations between him and the qawwals. Thereon, Shye began walking on uncharted territory, composing Hebrew love poetry and setting it to qawwali music.

“It was very natural because Hebrew was the language I grew up knowing. Then qawwali was something I could relate to because even in Israel you find people sitting together, singing. In Israel, three dominant religions you find are Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but in India I got to see Islam with flavours of Sufism in it in a different way,” says Shye, emphasising that his love for classical music is still intact.

Shuttling between India — where he lives with his Indian wife and daughter who was born in Delhi — and Israel, Shye is busy performing. He can be seen in many Sufi music concerts held across the country, brings out albums and works on collaborative projects with folk musicians. His first album ‘Heeyam' though recorded in India as well as Israel and the U.S., was not officially released in India. His second album, ‘Shoshan', in which he merged devotional poetry, Rajasthani rhythms, and western sounds, was released by Earthsync in 2009. In the album, he composed music for a bhajan of Mira Bai sung by Shubha Mudgal and also set Sufi poetry to music.

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

Qawwali was something I could relate to because even in Israel you find people sitting together, singing

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