Blind Highbury musician shares power of inner vision
Most people consider blindness to be a life-restricting disability, but for Baluji Shrivastav, losing his sight has helped him to fulfil his dreams.
After being blinded by an eye infection at eight months old in the Indian village where he grew up, the Highbury resident has used his condition to find music and travel the world.
Baluji, who has lived in Northolme Road for 30 years, is one of the world’s most respected sitar players having first picked up the Indian instrument in his school orchestra, aged eight.
And he believes his destiny would have been far different had he not lost his sight.
He said: “I don’t know if the music would still have been in me if things had happened differently, but I know I wouldn’t be here.
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“I would probably still be in India as a doctor, lawyer or a prison guard like my brother. It is because I am blind that I am where I am today.”
His amazing musical ability has enabled him to work all over the globe, release albums and work with music stars such as Boy George, Annie Lennox, Massive Attack and Noel Gallagher.
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His recent achievements include the creation of the Inner Vision Orchestra, which has just completed a London tour.
The group comprises 13 other blind and partially sighted musicians, and Baluji hopes they can get more exposure and acceptance in the music industry.
He said: “The problem with a lot of blind musicians is that they have very low confidence.
“They aren’t often booked for gigs because people can’t be bothered with the expense of having to look after a blind person, so this makes the performers think they aren’t good enough.
“By being part of the Inner Vision Orchestra, I hope this will build up their confidence to go out and book the gigs they want, as well as raising awareness about how to treat the blind.
“We did a few performances and workshops in India and already two of our performers were booked for work, so it shows that it can be done.”
The group will tour theUK – with Baluji’s ultimate aim being equality and exposure for blind performers.
“I really hope that one day blind musicians can be completely integrated and respected, as fully sighted musicians are,” he said.
Baluji performs next month at the Orchestra in a Field concert in Glastonbury with the British Paraorchestra.
He runs weekly workshops with Islington Outlook at the St John’s Day Care Centre, St John’s Way, Archway, on Friday evenings and blind musicians are welcome.