Devoted to singing bhajan

Brij Deo practises playing the harmonium. Picture: WANSHIKA KUMAR

Growing up, Brij Deo was fascinated by the hypnotising classical tunes of bhajan.

Those early trysts with devotional songs had such a deep impact, he decided to become the first bhajan singer in his family.

The 55-year-old said the death of his maternal grandfather, Mathura Chaudhary, played a key role in advancing and strengthening his interest in bhajan.

“In 1966, I was just months old when my grandfather died,” he said.

“I was told that at his funeral, I slept beside his body and, I believe, that changed my life.

“I believe that something happened that made me this connection because what he enjoyed most in life was bhajan singing.”

He said his maternal grandfather was the only one in his family who used to sing bhajan.

“From childhood, I started getting drawn towards bhajan singing and my parents pushed me a lot by supplying me with the instruments and giving me time to learn it.

“I got my first offer to sing in a grand competition in 1982 where one of my uncles made me sign the contract as he thought it was a good opportunity for me to show my talent.

“I sang my first bhajan at the Naitasiri Bharatiya School on the grand stage with a wellknown bhajan singer of that time, Ist Deo, and it meant a lot to me as before that, I was only singing in front of my family members and friends.

“Considering the crowd, people’s expectations and the fact that it was my first stage performance, I was very nervous but when it started, all the fear was gone as I got so much into singing.”

He said guidance from Parshuram Sharma allowed him to grow in the field of Bhajan singing.

“He gave me the knowledge of what to sing, how to sing, tones and everything which made me understand its significance, techniques and style of singing.

“When I got my first offer, I had three weeks to prepare myself so I started preparing but I only had two bhajan and that made me scared.

“Mr Sharma guided me and around that time, there was a show done by Daya Nand Kanhai so I went to listen to his bhajan and recorded it to learn it for my competition.

“His bhajan motivated me and allowed me to excel in my first stage performance.

“That was my starting point and over the years, I have learnt a lot from every singer I sang with.

“Today, I have sung bhajan all over Fiji and in New Zealand and I also took part in bhajan competitions with wellknown singers like Mr Pushpu who has since passed on.”

Famously known as Julie, Mr Deo said bhajan singing was his only hobby and he sang for fun, to relax or to help those in need.

“I have my own carrier business and operate a small canteen so I don’t charge fees to sing bhajan as it is my hobby. “I sing when people request to conduct fundraising such as for medical treatment, funeral funding or for other things.” The father of four said he started creating his own bhajan in 2016.

“I wrote my own bhajan in 2016 just by sitting at one event in New Zealand and it was inspired by my mother, the late Raj Pati.”

He said fundraising through the platform of bhajan singing, he assisted with the establishment of a community hall in Verata in 2001.

He said the introduction of new technologies and Bollywood affected the creation of bhajan.

“Some people try to mix Bollywood styles and that kills the true meaning of bhajan singing.

“However, it is a great and proud moment when we see youths taking interest in this religious singing.”

Originally from Baulevu, Nausori, he said over the years, he had seen many challenges and COVID-19 was one of the
major ones.

“Not able to complete my educationwas one of the major challenges faced in  my childhood because we were 10 siblings and my parents couldn’t afford to educate us all.

“I went to school up until year four and I thought it was enough as I started to create my own identity in the world of bhajan.

“Today, I have also released my albums with Procera Music and Exotic Fiji.

“Now, I am waiting for this pandemic to end so I can go out, sing and share my knowledge with my friends.

“I acknowledge the support of my father, Shyam Sundar, my 10 siblings, children and my wife for always being there to motivate me when I needed them the most.”

The Verata, Nausori resident encouraged youths to learn bhajan so the style of singing could be preserved.

“There are many people who do not want to learn or encourage their children to learn bhajan because many believe that they will stay out most of the time and drink grog, which is not true for all bhajan singers.

“I want to encourage all the youths to learn it and make their own identity as it makes people really famous.

“You can create new bhajan and also teach others some new ways but my only advice is to not change the tunes or remix it with latest songs as it will change the whole meaning of bhajan.”

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