For those of you who know me in my other writing guise, you may well have read my book "Get a life!- The guide book" or my blog on all matters mind, body and spirit. Often, I make references to words and draw from different languages, spiritual practices and from all beliefs. So when I came across the name of Ursula's duo, on recommendation of a good friend and Ayurvedic teacher of mine, Sunita Passi , I wanted to find out more.
The Shanti Duo ( Shanti meaning "Peace") sounded like just my type of musical magic. For those of you who read about my own wedding , you'll know that it was an eclectic fusion, with rich Asian colours, mandalas, Sanskrit favours, Buddhas and floral arrangements including a touch of the far east with orchids. It was a real mix of influences from India, Thailand and old English traditions.
When I heard about The Shanti Duo of course it appealed to my own draw to the beauty and vibrancy of the East.
Speaking to Ursula I find that she's actually from a local town , one that I lived in not so long ago and have strong ties to.
"My home town of Grantham, Lincolnshire couldn’t be further from the world of Bollywood themed weddings. As a young person, I always craved the aesthetics of Eastern cultures – the colours, the food, and most pertinently, the music. What can I say, Eastern songs just tug on my heart strings quite a bit more than Celine Dion. My journey to becoming a Bollywood wedding violinist was a long one. I knew I was musical from a young age and chose to take up the violin after free lessons were offered in school at the age of 7. As I grew older, my family were naturally concerned that music was not a secure career path and so I chose to take a more conservative education route. I succeeded academically but my heart was never really in it. I just lacked the confidence to do what in my heart I knew was right as I simply didn’t think it was possible to earn my living through music.
After school, I studied a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and an MA in International Affairs at the University of Exeter. Graduating with a distinction, I moved to London and got a job in international financial conference production. Around this time, I physically lost my violin by leaving it on a London bus. I was lucky and it came back to me, but I realised that I had almost lost my ability. I made the first decision my heart had made in years and vowed never to lose my violin again. Within a year I quit my job to move to Serbia to join a Gypsy Punk band that I toured Europe with in a van for several years.
At 21 years old, I made my first trip to India as part of a 2-month long Human Rights Law internship that spanned the entirety of the monsoon season (human rights law was one of the many career paths I considered whilst avoiding music). It was here that I first discovered Bollywood, and I returned with a DVD of Swades and a firm understanding of why so many people around the world adore this industry. The pure injection of fantasy served by Bollywood films is the ideal antidote to the hectic and challenging day-to-day reality of living in India. You can fill your heart for days after watching these films and no amount of monsoon rain can bring you down.
I moved to Nottingham in 2014 after returning from Eastern Europe, where I freelanced as a conference producer whilst continuing to play violin in various world music projects. I met a Kashmiri flautist who suggested that I played Bollywood songs at Asian weddings as the pay was good and I was well suited to it. I did not treat this seriously at first as I was still committed to the idea that I was not good enough, but after I lost my savings and home to a deceptive career scheme, I suddenly became wholly reliant on my violin for income. Penniless and living with my parents in Grantham again, I went busking and realised I could earn £50 an hour simply playing in the street. I remembered what the Kashmiri flautist had said and I decided to form The Shanti Duo with a guitarist I had met the year before and who I found very easy to work with, Dmitry Fedotov. Dmitry agreed and we got to work immediately. I’m pretty adept at online marketing so as soon as we had a product, the bookings came in. One year on and we are now next door neighbours and full-time business partners.
I can wholeheartedly say that I honestly love my job as it ticks every career box I could have ever asked for. Not only do I make money through my passion, but my office is the celebration of love between two people. As an energetically porous person, this is the first job I have ever had that doesn’t drain me of energy but uplifts me to a better place every time. It’s a genuine honour to be chosen to be part of the aesthetic tapestry of the most significant moment of a couples’ life together. Additionally, as a person with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of other cultures, I couldn’t be better served. Much of my job involves waiting to play, at which point I become an observer. I now know so much about the nuances between different Asian cultures. As an added bonus, 80% of the weddings I play don’t involve alcohol and finish early which is a BLESSING when you’re a musician as this means I’m usually in bed at a reasonable hour.
Oh, and the food is pretty good".
Wow, what a journey Ursula has had, It seems her true calling was intent on being heard. And what a blessing that is to the World!
To find out more about The Shanti Duo visit:
M: 07972 903 671