Indian classical musician with a love for avant garde 

Sheela Bringi mixes music at Wanderlust

click to enlarge PHOTOS SUBMITTED - The next level Sheela Bringi says performing live music during yoga classes has an enormous impact on students.
  • Photos submitted
  • The next level Sheela Bringi says performing live music during yoga classes has an enormous impact on students.

Sheela Bringi brings her connection to Indian classical music and a love of the contemporary sounds of jazz to Wanderlust, as the yoga festival returns to Whistler for its fifth summer.

"My first music teachers were my parents. They were immigrants to the United States. They're both musicians, as well as scientists," says Bringi, who lives in Los Angeles.

"When I was five, my mom saw that I had a talent for keyboard instruments and got me piano lessons. Since then, I've been learning Indian music as well as Western music.

"I love to figure out how to play Indian folk songs on a keyboard and how to play the chords to Beatles songs. Things like that."

By the time she was in the high-school band, she was bringing jazz into her repertoire.

"I started to notice the commonalities with what I was already doing," Bringi says.

At Mills College in Oakland, Calif., she studied improvisation and contemporary music.

"My whole world expanded," she says.

"I went through my most free avant-garde period."

The talented musician now primarily sings and plays a 36-string harp, the Indian harmonium and bansuri (Indian bamboo flute).

Now 32, Bringi is well-established with her debut album, Incantations, which came out in 2014.

Earlier this year, Bhakti Without Borders, the album Bringi played on for singers Madi Das and Kirtan Shakti, was nominated for a Grammy as Best New Age Album.

"This was a project produced by Dave Stringer, a Kirpan musician I have been touring with for the last two or three years," Bringi says.

"Madi Das, who I believe grew up in India, wanted to perform the songs he knew as a kid in a new way."

Mentioning the great musical fusion projects of Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar (West Meets East), Bringi says she can understand the beauty of it.

"We don't set out being art music. It's just part of who we are and it comes out naturally," she says.

Wanderlust is an opportunity for Bringi to explore other possibilities.

"I get to explore all sorts of things, it's really fun," she says.

"One of the primary things I've done is go to places where I think people will like the music I do. I grew up with parents who practiced yoga and mediation; transitioning from an Indian community to a yoga community was a big change, but once I made it, it felt like a natural transition."

So today, much of her performance includes playing during yoga classes in L.A. She also gives talks at Wanderlust on Indian music and improvisation.

"I've noticed that playing music live in yoga classes has a tremendous impact. I feel like music has this ability to stir up and soothe and excite. When it's combined with music in yoga and with teachers I've worked with, it really takes the class to the next level," Bringi says.

"It's like live-scoring something.

"And at Wanderlust we've been having these evenings where Indian classical musicians come together with musicians at the festival... and we all make music together."

Bringi is participating in six events during Wanderlust, which runs from Thursday, July 28, to Sunday, July 31.

She will be performing at True North Café on Thursday, July 28, at 2 p.m., and on Friday, July 29, at 12 p.m.

Bringi will be playing during a Hike and Harp hiking and meditation session on Saturday, July 30, at 6 p.m.

She is accompanying yoga teacher Jilaine Beddoe at The Souls Connection session on Saturday, July 30, at 1:20 p.m., and will be accompanying teacher Nico Luce at Pulsating to Nature's Beat on Sunday, July 31, at 1:20 p.m.

Finally, Bringi is accompanying the expressive flow-yoga class offered by Lindsey Smith on Sunday, July 31, at 10 a.m.

For more on Bringi, visit www.shebrings.com. For more on Wanderlust visit www.wanderlust.com/festivals/whistler.

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