Indianapolis was visited with a beautiful display of Indian culture; showcasing artistic integrity and exceptional musical accomplishment when award-winning, multilingual Danish singer, songwriter, composer, and voice over artist, Anita Lerche, wowed all in attendance with her brilliant vocal performance during 'An Evening Celebrating Christel House India' held at the Cook Theater at the Indianapolis Landmarks Center on Tuesday, December 17th, 2013. Lerche's performance was part of an awareness building and money raising campaign for the educational nonprofit Christel House India.
Christel House India learning centers are located in Bangalore and Lavasa, India and provide high-quality
education, nutrition, health care, and career development to more than 1,300 impoverished children. The obstacles facing these children are daunting – daily exposure to alcoholism, hunger, abuse, drugs, and negative role models – but every day students come to school, learn, and set their sights on a better tomorrow. They have dreams, and Christel House helps them make those dreams a reality.
Christel DeHaan, philanthropist, humanitarian, and founder of Christel House, a registered, 501(c)(3) public charity, began the evening's festivities, saying "...tonight, we are celebrating Punjabi music and culture. It is not often that we get such an opportunity here in the Midwest, or in 'India'napolis. But, from my many, many trips to India, I tell you, I love the beauty and the intricacy of Indian art form, from music to dance, to the visual arts; there is such an exotic richness that reflects the social and historical fabric of the country. This evening, Anita Lerche will bring a bit of India to Indianapolis." A short video was shown showcasing the work of Christel House India and then Lerche took the stage.
With a sense of great anticipation, compounded by the overwhelming feeling of a celebratory raw energy attributed to the holiday season, it took only a few notes from Lerche's singing voice on her opening number, You've Got A Friend to ignite that instant electric rush of appreciation and approval knowing you were witnessing something special; thankful that you chose to be in this venue on this night. Indeed, Lerche has one of those truly unique voices; strong, powerful, well-rounded, classically trained, and capable of singing any genre of music and in numerous languages. She delivered a wide selection of songs covering a broad vocal range in a well-paced manner and with an effortlessness and artistic aplomb of a well-seasoned performer; one who has a sincere love of her profession and a complete dedication to and passion for her craft. Lerche's remarkable rendition of You've Got A Friend was so powerful that the entire audience was mesmerized and literally glued to their chairs. Lerche then introduced Shivanand Bangar, an accomplished professional percussionist currently living in Chicago, Illinois, whose distinguished musical career has included performances with many of Bollywood's legendary singers, composers, and music directors, such as Hemant Kumar, Khayyam, Salil Chaudhari and Madan Mohan. Bangar accompanied Lerche by playing the Dhol; an Indian percussion/drum instrument.
Lerche's entire performance was indeed the highlight of the evening. Her energetic welcoming song, Aao Ji; her acapella version of the first song she learned in Punjab, Lathe Di Chadar; the colorful dancing on Gori; to Sammi, a traditional Punjabi folkdance and tribute to women who've given so much to Indian culture, was performed in front of the actual music video shown on a video screen; to Mela, a festival song off the album Heer from Denmark and performed on the main floor in front of the stage attracting many audience members dancing alongside Lerche; to Sadke Punjab Ton, a single from the new album and an acapella version of Passport, were all excellently used in introducing the audience to the wonders and vibrancy of Indian culture. But Lerche truly shined when she performed her favorite song Heer, as she said, "a true Romeo and Juliet love story", and also a few lines from her new folksong Jugni, both by far the evening's most vocally proficient, magical, and mystical songs; you actually felt truly transported to the enchanted land. And, the evening was topped off with Lerche singing a stunning version of Time To Say Goodbye.
Nearly sixty minutes of incredible music, however, did have some challenging moments and misses; issues with the sound included times when Lerche's microphone was prone to feedback and the sound of Bangar's Dhol was a bit overpowering from the stage, occasionally drowning out Lerche's vocals. As much as the event was a joyous and festive occasion, and understanding and respecting cultural customs and traditions of others, the throwing of money on or near Lerche by men and women from the audience showing their pride and respect for a great performer and performance was well deserved and well meaning. However, too much of a good thing can be seen as a distraction; especially, when overly exuberant men and women took to the stage to dance and throw money when not invited by the artist. This event was also a celebration of Christel House India and its children, so a single musical number featuring children's accompaniment or even more dancing from children in the audience would have been fitting...a missed opportunity. Even professional traditional dancers would have been a welcome addition...another missed opportunity.
Lerche has been gaining wide recognition singing popular songs in the Punjabi language. And, she is the first non-Asian woman from the West to sing and release a solo album in Punjabi. She has an innate ability to find the emotional heart of a song and convey it through her voice in whatever language she sings. Her latest music video releases have received overwhelming response: Sadke Punjab Ton - over 6 million plus views on YouTube, Sammi - over 3 million plus views on YouTube and Merea Ranjha - nearly 1 million views on YouTube, respectively. Without a doubt, Lerche's instrument is her voice...and on this night, her impressive vocals captured the imagination with an emotion, a passion, and a strength that hit directly into the heart and stirred the soul.
You've Got A Friend
Lathe Di Chadar (acapella)
Sadke Punjab Ton
Time To Say Goodbye