Starring role in Paralylmpics closing ceremony for blind Highbury musician

Two years after creating an orchestra made up entirely of disabled musicians, a blind Highbury sitar player has performed alongside Coldplay at the Olympic closing ceremony.

Baluji Shrivastav, who created the Inner Visions orchestra, was invited by conductor Charles Hazelwood to be one of the founding members of the British Paraorchestra and play in front of Sunday night’s 85,000-strong crowd at the Olympic stadium.

The Northolme Road resident said: “The closing ceremony just came about. We went along for an audition and then we were invited along. Hearing the noise of the crowd was a wonderful experience.”.

“We established Inner Vision about two or three years ago, and then the Paraorchestra came to be, and that included all kinds of disabled musicians, not just the visually-impaired.”

“Actually, I have learned much more in this orchestra.

“You have people who cannot move their bodies beneath the neck, for example, but can still play music, which is amazing.”

Mr Shrivastav, who lost his sight aged just eight months, has lived in Highbury for 30 years and has been playing the sitar since he was eight.

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He believes that while the positive attention that has been directed toward disabled musicians as a result of the closing ceremony is appreciated, the orchestra should not be defined by disability.

“If you are differently-abled then you can produce different things.

“You have different value and that’s what I want for disabled musicians – to be valued equally like everybody else, not pitied.”

Paraorchestra creator Charles Hazelwood shares Baluji’s sentiment: “I don’t want this orchestra to be about how well people do in taking part; I want it to be about the highest level of music-making.

“The driving factor is the desire to make world-class music.”

Mr. Shrivastav also runs a workshop for disabled musicians called Inner Visions Music, held at Outlook Islington, in St. John’s Way.

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