The Melbourne benefit concert providing much-needed relief for the suffering in India

The Melbourne benefit concert providing much-needed relief for the suffering in India

Image by Anthony Rodriguez
Words By Tammy Walters

Organised by renowned sitar player Dr Sarita McHarg-Borliya, Sounds of Yarra is driven by an inspirational cause – for McHarg-Borliya to support India and to support her father.

History has shown us the power of music in bringing people together and fighting for causes close to our hearts. In 1971, Ravi Shankar, with the recruitment power of George Harrison and UNICEF, proved this at Madison Square Garden where the world-first benefit concert, Concert for Bangladesh, was held, and in 1985, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure followed in their footsteps with the monumental benefit concert, Live Aid.

On our side of the world, Dr Sarita McHarg-Borliya is undertaking the same mission – to host a benefit concert for India.

“India is still suffering, their artists are suffering – if I want to make changes, it has to start with me,” the musician hailing from Ujjain, India says.

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Her hometown is one of many in India that’s been ravaged by COVID-19, with poverty levels high in the area and many members of the community struggling. McHarg-Borliya’s 87-year-old father is one of them.

It’s been three years since McHarg-Borliya has seen her parents and with her father’s birthday approaching she wanted to give him the gift of music through the benefit concert, Sounds of Yarra.

“His birthday is on the 12th of June so last year we did the concerts and I wanted to give my father a present. I want to keep him alive through his music and his journey and what he’s given to people,” McHarg-Borliya explains.

“I come from a musical family. My whole family are musicians and I learnt music from my dad, and every day musicians would come to our house to rehearse and practice for concerts. My father was always thinking, ‘What can I do for other people’, so he was always giving and wanted to bring everyone together and teach through music and lift them up – doesn’t matter if it’s a hard time or not. That’s what I got inspired by.”

This is the second year McHarg-Borliya has held Sounds of Yarra, an event organised in conjunction with iconic multicultural organisation The Boite, however this year’s concert is larger with fifteen musicians and dancers joining the cultural and life celebration. A renowned sitar player, McHarg-Borliya recruited talented friends within the music community across Indian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic and Celtic backgrounds to use their unique instruments and movements to raise funds for her hometown.

That list of musicians includes Aseel Tayah and Bonnie Smith on vocals, Corey Romeo on guitar/mandolin, Amla Peri playing flute/violin, Phil Gunter on oud and guitar, Rosco Heck as a percussionist, Harb Gill playing harmonium, Brandon Lee on koto, Richie Williams performing the didgeridoo, Josh Licht playing uilleann pipes, Manmit Singh on tabla, and Camille Feghali playing the Arabic flute, the ney and a Middle Eastern harp, the kanoon.

Feghali is excited to bring his Lebanese traditions to the Sounds of Yarra stage.

“Sounds of Yarra is a collective of musicians coming from different parts of the world and representing different musical cultures. I am personally representing the Arabic musical culture,” he explains.

“It is a great chance for me to represent my culture and learn a lot about other cultures. Sarita is a good friend of mine as well and it is a real pleasure for me to celebrate her father‘s birthday and support her community back home.”


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The event, which will be held live Saturday June 19 at The Auditorium at 75 Reid Street, Fitzroy North, as well as being streamed live for both Australian and Indian audiences, is more than just about fundraising. It’s a chance to witness the blending of cultures through music, as well as assist these artists to preserve their musical heritage.

“Music shaped my life in many ways but most importantly it helped me learn a lot about my cultural identity. Having grown up between two worlds (western and middle eastern) it was common for me to feel alienated in both. Music helped me get closer to the people of my culture and to understand it better. I decided to play those instruments because they’re not that common and their use has been declining over the last few decades. It is the way for me to participate in the preservation of this musical tradition,” explains Feghali.

Dr Sarita McHarg-Borliya agrees, “All of the music we play is a story, it’s a culture, it’s a legacy, it’s where we learn from and all of the songs we learn are coming from a long line of history and we’re giving back strength to that artist.

“Music is freeing and when we play together and where we come together, we know where we come from, but we forget where we come from, because we are one. Music is one language.”

To join in the birthday and cultural celebrations and give much needed monetary assistance to India, buy tickets for the Sounds of Yarra livestream here. The physical concert is now sold out.

If you won’t be available to watch the livestream but still want to help the Sounds of Yarra cause, you can donate here.

Sounds of Yarra is happening on Saturday June 19 at The Auditorium, Fitzroy North (sold out). More info here.