We are all visually impaired in Inner Vision but from very different backgrounds. What could be better than working in the UK where there are many different communities? It was hearing all the different music played by the taxi drivers on my journeys that gave me the idea for the range of music that Inner Vision Orchestra could explore Baluji
The Inner Vision Orchestra was founded in 2012 by Indian multi-instrumentalist and composer Baluji Shrivastav OBE and is the world's only professional ensemble of blind musicians. The orchestra was founded to help address the barriers Baluji faced when establishing his career and aims to see blind and partially sighted musicians fully integrated in the UK music industry. The orchestra has eighteen members and is growing, with musicians mainly London based but able to travel and with a branch in India.
Trained in the Indian classical tradition, Baluji has BMus in Sitar from Lucknow University, BMus In tabla from Allahabad University and MA in Sitar and Vocal from Allahabad University. He has a reputation as a versatile virtuoso performing, recording, and composing in many genres including opera. He has worked with celebrities such as Stevie Wonder and Shakira amongst others and his sitar featured on Massive Attack's Teardrop. His experience as an educator and music director for theatre and dance makes him a superb leader of the orchestra with the goal of supporting and encouraging the talent of its members.
The Baluji Music Foundation fundraises and produces national and international tours and events and smaller ensemble groups, organising all the necessary volunteer and moral support, as well as all the complex practical aspects that are entailed. Members of the Orchestra performed at the Closing Ceremony Of the Paralympic Games in London in 2012 with Coldplay. One of our showcase productions was International Unlimited Commission ‘Antardrishti - Inner Vision’ which was performed to full audiences at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Norwich Arts Centre, The Royal Opera House in Mumbai and The British Council Theatre in Delhi. The orchestra performs set compositions and improvised pieces and have released music on ARC/Naxos Records which is available to purchase and stream. The musicians also give music workshops which are free to attend for all blind and partially sighted people. During the pandemic we presented perfomances and workshops online to keep music alive.
Performing, recording, practicing, teaching and travelling with the orchestra develops the confidence and skills of the orchestra members and has resulted in increased employment in other ensembles for a number of musicians.
The orchestra’s work has been featured widely in the national press and television including the BBC, Radio 4, ITV with coverage in Sunday Times Cultural section, The Guardian, and much more, promoting positive attitudes to blind people and their potential to contribute to society. Look at or listen to our media pages for clips of concerts and more press coverage.
Aims of the Orchestra:
To promote blind and partially sighted musicians in order to address the imbalance of their absence across most of the music industry in the UK.
To develop the skills and confidence of blind and partially sighted musicians
To work with the music industry to find ways of increasing the representation of blind and partially sighted musicians and to find ways of addressing the barriers facing them.
To support promoters and venues encouraging them to facilitate and interact with blind artists and audiences.
To offer opportunities to talented musicians who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to musical experiences given disability, cultural background or financial circumstances
To ensure the musicians are paid fairly and in recognition of their talents
To promote a positive impression of blind and partially sighted people in society and promote positive role models for other blind people
That's the beautiful thing about Inner Vision. Everyone is a conductor - I am presenting my own country with other people from different parts of the world. Ziad
Charles Hazlewood, Conductor, founder of the British Paraorchestra “(Baluji’s) cause, and his work nationally and internationally, are deserving of encouragement and recognition at the highest level. He is an ambassador for his culture, and for the blind and visually impaired.”
Fereshteh Khosroujerdy, IVO member, named one of BBCs 100 women “I am originally from Iran, and I am blind. When I first met Baluji I couldn’t speak too much. People thought I was just blind, just a person with a disability. When they asked me to speak I would start crying. They never thought of me as a normal person. But Baluji gave me a chance to find my confidence, and to be able to talk easily. Now I speak so much people want me to shut up!”
Songlines,“The audience left the auditorium spellbound and humbled”
Dr Christian C Clerk report on the Inner Vision Orchestra tour, “the reception of all performances was very positive. This was reflected in the direct response to programme items, in discussion with audience members, and in the 126 survey responses examined, which showed a largely consistent overall reaction across performances, with 99% of those returning the survey stating that they would like to see more of the work of the group in the future.”
Mainly acceptance is the most important thing [for visually impaired musicians]. The main opportunities that I’ve had are with Inner Vision, the main barrier has been being accepted as a musician’ ZIad Sinno, Oud player with the Inner Vision Orchestra, UK interview quoted in ‘Insights in Sound: Visually Impaired Musicians' Lives and Learning. David Baker and Lucy Green, Routledge, 2017.