“Extremely excited and extremely happy,” is how a smiling Ani Choying Drolma
describes the moment when Indian music composer A. R. Rahman
got in touch with her earlier this year.
For over a decade Ani Choying has brought Buddhist hymns and chants to a mass audience not just in Nepal but around the world. Working with Rahman, who won two Oscars for his music in Slumdog Millionaire, on a song from MTV Coke Studio will propel Ani to global stardom.
“I have been a fan of Rahman since the days of Roja, so working with him was truly a wonderful experience,” says Ani. She got the call from Mumbai just before she was set to leave for a concert in Indonesia, but her initial excitement turned to worry when it looked like the date they wanted her to come clashed with her Indonesia gig. Luckily, Rahman was flexible with the date.
“I have followed him on TV and listened to his music so when I met him, I felt as if I was meeting someone I knew,” Ani told Nepali Times. Rahman wanted a song in Nepali so she sang a few lines of compassion Buddha mantra. Rahman loved it and that is what she performed for the show in a mantra fusion.
“I not only got to work with Rahman, but also with Sivamani, a famous percussionist in India,” she says.
They rehearsed together from 1-6 July and Ani says she found Rahman to be a spiritual person, and quite reticent. “His compositions are really different from others, he creates something that touches your heart and spiritualism is the key ingredient,” she told us.
Ani made headlines in the Indian media and was dubbed 'Nepali rockstar' and 'Rock Nun' after performing at two concerts in Mumbai and Pune. She says the show was “surprisingly successful”. She needn’t have been, her lullaby-like spiritual songs have been a hit in Nepal, America and Europe, India was just waiting to discover her. Many Indian celebrities including actor Jackie Shroff, musician Leslie Lewis and singer Himsika Iyer attended the program.
Ani is also planning to bring out an album for the Indian audience. “My music will be the same, only the language will be in Hindi,” she says of the project. She is talking to Indian lyricist Javed Akhtar to render her hits like Phulko Ankhama into Hindi.
Ani is soon coming out with a new album which will be for children. Ani thinks parents are not giving their children enough moral and ethical education, and wants to supplement this with the message in music.
“It broke my heart to see a little girl at a program dancing, dressed in adult clothes and behaving like adults,” says Ani. “The moral foundation of society is dwindling which is why I want to sing for children.” Her album will be launched in October and have two cds, the first with songs for mothers to sing for their children, and the second will have songs for children to sing. As with her previous songs, the music is by Nhyoo Bajracharya and the lyrics by poet Durga Lal Shrestha.
Ani’s performance with AR Rahman recorded in the Coke Studio will premiere on 15 August on MTV.
Ani's performance with AR RAHMAN
Phul ko aankha ma
Nepalese rockstar nun
UNICEF Nepal has featured Ani Choying Drolma in a public service announcement for its campaign to end violence against children that it is airing over television channels and in cinema halls around the country.
At a function on Wednesday (pictured) Ani recalled how as a girl she and her mother suffered domestic violence from the hands of her father. “I had a lot of anger and violence in me as a child,” Ani recalled, “but I realised that the first victim of violence is the perpetrator himself. My father made me and my mother suffer, but he himself suffered the most.”
UNICEF says violence against children takes many forms in Nepal: corporal punishment in schools, domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, child labour and most of it is unreported. There are an estimated 1.6 million child workers, 5,000 street children and an untold number of children suffer abuse mainly at the hands of their own relatives, teachers, or neighbours.
Ani says in the television spot: “Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not happening.”
[Watch the UNICEF Anthem]