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From India with harmony and culture

THE Shillong Chamber Choir's performance on Saturday is part of a range of Indian cultural events in July and August that includes art and film. Sam Riley digs into the treasures.

A chamber choir singing both traditional folk and classical Western music will launch a two-month celebration of Indian culture at Shanghai's Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday.

The Shillong Chamber Choir performed earlier this week in Beijing and will give a free concert in MOCA's Art Lab where they will play traditional music from their home state in India's northeast.

The choir's performance is part of a range of Indian cultural events in July and August that includes a major exhibition of Indian contemporary art, a rare performance by a virtuoso Indian classical musician and an open air screening of a Hindi film in People's Park.

The Indian Consul General in Shanghai Riva Ganguly Das says the events are an effort to promote the relationship between India and China through increasing awareness of the deep cultural traditions of the two countries.

"Cultural relations and people to people contact is a very important aspect of a relationship between two countries," Ganguly Das says.

"We want to promote shared understanding and friendship through culture."

In keeping with this aim the Shillong Chamber Choir's motto is "Building world harmony through music."

The choir was started by Neil Nongkyurih in 2001 when he returned to the picturesque hills of his home state of Shillong.

Nongkyurih, an accomplished pianist, had spent 13 years performing and studying music in London and wanted to start a small choir in his home town.

The choir has 20 members touring to Shanghai and the choir takes in underprivileged and disabled children as members. It has a small home school and offers students an education and extensive musical training.

Some of the Shillong's best classical singers have been members of the choir which began in a very small way. But from that small group of dedicated members, it has become an international phenomenon, touring India and the world.

The choir has visited Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain and Italy and will represent India at the first World Choir Championships in South Korea this year.

On July 15 the India Xianzai exhibition featuring 21 internationally recognized contemporary artists will also open.

The biggest collection of contemporary Indian art to ever visit the city, the exhibition contains almost 60 works including paintings, videos, photography and installations.

As part of the exhibition there will also be a panel discussion with artists and the co-curators of the exhibition, Alexander Keefe and Diana Freundl on July 16.

MOCA will also stage a performance by the renowned Sarod player Pandit Debojyoti Bose and a screening of the Hindi film "Umrao Jaan" directed by Muza Farali, which depicts life in India during the 18th and 19th centuries.

For more information on the upcoming Indian events visit the MOCA Website at

The Shillong Chamber Choir will sing at the MOCA Art Lab on Saturday at 7:30pm. Admission is free.


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