Songs of the Heart: An Indo-French project as part of Bonjour India

Since 2013, Akadêmia has expanded its field of action to include new partners and artists from major Indian cities. In 2016, the production Tales of the Night brought together singers from Delhi and Bangalore and the concert went on tour to Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi.

Thanks to a new partner – Prakriti Foundation (Chennai) – and thanks to old friends like the Poona Music Society, with the continuing support of Institut Français, Alliance Française Network and the Société Générale in India, this time 13 singers from Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Delhi (thanks to Situ Singh Bühler, Patricia Rozario, Neecia Majolly and Adam Greig) joined 5 singers and 2 musicians from France to celebrate sacred and profane love in Songs of the Heart.

Our project is based on a dialogue : a dialogue between Western music of the Renaissance and early Baroque and Indian classical poetry, between the spoken voice and the singing voice. We hear the same passion taking hold of a devotee for their god and a lover for their beloved. The sensuality of the Song of Songs, a poetic book of unknown origin from the Bible, which celebrates the mystical union of Jerusalem and God, finds an echo in the spiritual literature of Rumi and Kabir, and later devotional songs of Mira Baï.

Texts from Sangal poetry evoking states of love find a special resonance in the music of Monteverdi, who is one of the first composers to set to music a variety of feelings related to love such as the awakening of desire, passion, jealousy, indifference and separation.

Each Akadêmia project in India has two goals :

• to create a dialogue between our two cultures
• to develop the talent of young Indians who choose to express themselves in the field of Western music and give them the opportunity to participate in a fully professional Indian chamber choir by 2020. This choir has a key role to play in developing Western classical music in India along with the SOI.

May this last wish be fulfilled to render justice to the efforts of one and all!


Sopranos : Sparsh Bajpai, Nilima Buch, Harmonie Deschamps, Faye Monteiro, Shreya Nayak, Nikhita Venkatesh
Altos : Usha Aron, Jean-Christophe Clair, Gaythri Subramanian, Marilyn Thomas
Tenors : Prabhat Chandola, Jean Delescluse, Paco Garcia, Lijo K.Jose
Basses : Rahul Bharadwaj, Philippe Roche, Nimish Shah, Bhanu Sharma
Instrumentalists : Sylvia Abramowicz (viola da gamba), Marc Wolff (archlute)


Chennai : Alliance Française (17/12/2017)
Pune : Mazda Hall (19/12/2017)
Mumbai : Godrej One (20/12/2017)
Mumbai NCPA : Experimental Theatre (21/12/2017)

Regarding the concerts

Songs of the Heart, and Akadêmia’s work in India in general, represent exactly what we want to do with Bonjour India’s latest edition, dedicated to innovation, creativity and partnership between France and India : emphasise long-term partnerships, commit to working with India in spaces that allow respectful and mutual enrichment of two traditions.

Bertrand de Hartingh, Counsellor for Cooperation and Cultural Affairs, French Institute in India – Country Director, Bonjour India 2017-2018 General Curator (French Embassy in India)

Songs of the Heart has been a wonderful experience in terms of learning, collaboration with singers across India and France, travelling, and performing. The four of us feel that we have updated ourselves musically to a great extent. In all performances in Chennai, Pune and Mumbai, it was fascinating to see how focused and interested the audiences were, while listening to Western music, which gave us all the more energy and passion to perform for them. The magnanimous beauty of the compositions and their harmonies were amazing. We wish for more such concerts to happen in different parts of India so that this music can be experienced by many. – Nikhita, Gaythri, Nimisha and Lijo

It was for me a great opportunity to discover India not as a tourist but as part of a common project mixing the French and the native musicians. As different as our cultures may be, playing baroque music together proved to be an easy way to get to know each other. It was a strongly moving experience for me as a lute player to feel this evident complicity with the indian singers from the first rehearsals to the last concert in Mumbai. The relationship between them and Françoise Lasserre was really amazing, all of them gathered around her and following her directions as if under a spell. Something else I found remarkable was the fact that the public was very spontaneous in their reactions, coming to us after the concert to share their impressions. – Marc

The concerts in each city were distinct from each other. Françoise is an amazing conductor and at no point in any concert, were we given a moment to be detached from the music. She made sure we were aware of every word that we were singing in French, Latin, and Italian. Apart from the lessons in musicianship, we were imparted with, she also made sure that we had fun. The variety in voices and personalities made the group lively and vibrant. All this paid off in the performances. Needless to say, we definitely expanded our hearts to more music and more projects for 2018! – Faye and Shreya

I would like to talk about the chance to be part of a real and intense human and artistic experience, to share moments on and off stage with a rare generosity. This project represents for me first and foremost, meeting artists from all parts of France and India, each one more passionate, talented and versatile than the other, under the demanding, determined but always benevolent direction of Françoise Lasserre. Singing in India also means pushing one’s limits and becoming an “all-terrain” artist! But the adaptability and the capacity of concentration of each one is a treasure that makes each performance special. Regarding the program “Songs of the Heart”, which was a particularly delicate program for all of us, I was really impressed by the palpable desire of all musicians and actors to give their best, the only goal being that of collective fulfilment. The true work of a professional ensemble, in short. And the alchemy having operated in a rather magical way, I think I can say that a sincere friendship binds each member of this project, as well as a very strong desire to renew the experience, as many times as possible! – Harmonie

Delhi singers had a very fulfilling experience this time during the tour for ‘Songs of the Heart’.

This project was special for us because it brought singers from all over the country under one banner of Akadêmia for the very first time. The camaraderie was infectious and each of us was completely engaged in the one single activity of making great music. Every singer took care of the other through minor helps and guidances. Some of us had studied music together before or worked together earlier and thus it also turned into a reunion. The highlight of this project was that each singer conveyed the exact same feelings expressed by the Indian poetry as well as the text of the songs sung by them. All of us are already looking forward to another such musically fulfilling project. – Nilima, Sparsh, Marilyn and Prabhat

Akadêmia would like to thank :

• Bertrand de Hartingh, Aruna Adiceam, Alice Brunot and her team, Gwenaëlle Dubreuil and Isabelle Jaitly, Emmanuelle Houles from Institut Français
• Evelyne Collin from the Société Générale in India and her team
• Ranvir Shah and his team at the Prakriti Foundation
• Binaifer Malegam and Jehangir Batiwala from the Poona Music Society
• Nadir Godrej and his team at the Culture Lab
• Pierre-Emmanuel Jacob and Anne-Marie Thuillier at the Alliance Française in Chennai and Pune
• Jesus Clavero Rodriguez from Instituto Cervantes
• Justin McCarthy and Renuka Narayan for their help
• Our French partners for this project: Spedidam and Bureau-Export