Vocalist Ila Paliwal launches symphonies dedicated to Earth


New Delhi: Co-produced by Grammy winner Ricky Kej and featuring three-time Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir, a new album by vocalist and composer Ila Paliwal launches Monday. Named after the Sanskrit meaning of ‘Ila’ – Earth – the album and its songs celebrate the “beauty of the planet we inhabit while also reminding listeners to co-exist in peace with every earthly being”.

Agra-born, New York-based Paliwal’s childhood has been all about music and poetry, that also taught her to value the environment. “Music and poetry were a constant influence. We used to have all-night musical festivals in the city where the great stalwarts of Indian classical music would perform. I was very fortunate to have been in the audience; it was a very special environment. It was there that I began developing a taste for the arts. Both my parents, too, were patrons of the arts. They were Hindi and Sanskrit scholars, as well as nature lovers.”

“Nature has a place of prestige in Vedic scriptures and all Indian festivals and traditions are closely linked to the Earth. So, I grew up celebrating those traditions and singing folk songs about rivers, trees, rain and nature. A memory that strikes me, in particular, is of when my mother would play the radio at home and classical music would fill the air. There has been no looking back since and I learned everything – from playing the sitar to Kathak to painting,” Paliwal told IANSlife in an interview.

At the age of 12, she began vocal training with Pandit Sitaram Vyavhare of the Gwalior Gharana, and later, received a Master’s degree in music. She has learned classical music from noted names of Jaipur Gharana.

From a music-filled house in a historical city, to performing at international locations, it’s been a whirlwind journey for Paliwal. “From performing in India to launching my debut album ‘Navaratna’ – executive produced by Oscar and Grammy Award-winning composer A.R. Rahman – at New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall, I’m awed by the love my music has received all over the world. I’ve also performed at iconic venues such as the Kennedy Center, DC; Dubai Financial Center; Microsoft Theater, LA; and NCPA, Mumbai to name a few. My music has always been rooted in India, while bearing a global heart. I’m thrilled I get to share it with the world,” she shared.

Asked about her album, ‘ILA- The Earth Symphony’, she says: “As the world grapples with a pandemic and the climate emergency, I wanted to bring people closer to Earth’s call; to open their ears to nature. It has a very pertinent global message for the times we live in. Every song celebrates the beauty of the planet we inhabit while also reminding listeners to co-exist in peace with every earthly being.”

The album is particularly special to her as she banded together over 150 artistes from all over the globe to contribute to the project, including the legendary Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London and Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa, as well as several noted Western and Indian classical musicians. Her new single Vande Mataram is the full rendition of the national song of India — featuring all six verses.

‘ILA- The Earth Symphony’ has been co-produced by environmentalist and Grammy Award-winning composer Ricky Kej and also features Grammy winner Wouter Kellerman and Grammy-nominated Lonnie Park.

“That the best names in music believe in the message of the album is a message in itself too, and I hope this truly universal project encourages every soul to turn their ears to the emergency on Earth. Let’s celebrate and preserve our planet,” she said.

As ‘Ila’ means ‘Earth’ in Sanskrit; Paliwal says it was only natural for her to find her driving force in nature. “I’m at my creative best when I’m surrounded by the canvas of the environment. There’s nothing more inspiring than the Earth. I believe our planet is worth celebrating and preserving, and I believe it is our duty to uphold our responsibility towards nature. My music is a diverse dive into the many sounds of the world and I hope it leaves everyone with the message of peace and co-existence,” she concluded.