Britain’s first orchestra for the blind performs live for first time since pandemic

Baluji Shrivastav has achieved a lifetime of success recording albums with pop’s biggest names. (Image: Redferns)

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Britain’s first professional orchestra for the blind is back performing live for the first time since the pandemic.

Inner Vision, founded by “sitarist to the stars” Baluji Shrivastav, did a gig at London’s South Bank on Friday night.

Afterwards Baluji, who has played with Annie Lennox, Stevie Wonder, Shakira and Coldplay, said: “Last year many of our performances were cancelled and though we did a few online, we didn’t get paid for those.

“Being self-employed, coronavirus has impacted our musicians but it is so good to be back performing live.

“Even though we can’t see each other, we can hear and feel each other’s presence and that in itself is wonderful, especially with the great and appreciative feedback from the crowd.”

Have you see any gigs since the coronavirus restrictions were lifted? Let us know in the comments.

Inner Vision played with Coldplay in the 2012 Paralympic Games ceremony

Baluji, 70, has been blind since he was eight months old following a tragic accident in his home village of Usmanpur in Uttar Pradesh, northern India.

He developed an eye infection and a toxic “healing” potion from a well meaning neighbour burned through his optic nerves.

Yet Baluji went on to achieve a lifetime of success, recording albums with pop’s biggest names.

At the age of six he was sent to a boarding school for the blind where he showed his talent for music.

Baluji Shrivastav was always interested in music from a young age
(Image: Lacunavoices.com)

He says: “As soon as I held the sitar, I could play it.”

After going to France in 1981 to teach music, Baluji met his wife Linda Shanson, a poet, and moved with her to London.

The talented composer slowly built his multi-instrumental career and eventually pop stars were lining up to work with him, including Oasis, Boy George, Soul II Soul, Kaiser Chiefs, Doves, and Madness.

The orchestra played their first performance since the pandemic on Friday

Baluji starred with Coldplay and the British Paraorchestra at the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games in London 2012.

He said: “When the song finished I took off my headphones and heard the clapping. It was 80,000 people cheering for us and I’ve never heard anything like it. It was wonderful.”

Baluji Shrivastav received an OBE in 2017 for services to music
(Image: Lacunavoices.com)

Dad-of-two Baluji founded the Inner Vision Orchestra in 2012 and received an OBE in 2017 for services to music.

Now he says: “I want everybody from the orchestra to be famous. You have stars like Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, both American, blind and known all over, but who is British, blind, talented and famous like that? And why not?”

■ Baluji’s album Voice of Flowers is on Apple, Spotify and Arc Music. Visit baluji.com for info on Inner Vision.

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