Singing For Love And Freedom: Rainbow Voices Mumbai Breaks Barriers As India’s First LGBT Choir

Hosting and conducting a standalone concert after our early days of just performing at events was a great learning experience!

Rainbow Voices Mumbai (RVM) is India’s first and only LGBT choir. With members from all over the country, the group’s super-talented singers are frequent performers at LGBT events, charity concerts and festivals across the country, and even beyond it — earlier this year, they teamed up with the Pink Singers to perform at the London Pride!

Speaking about the birth of the group, RVM founder Vinodh Philip had said, “In 2013 the Supreme Court reinstated Section 377. So it all went back to square one – police extortion, couples being harassed, forced marriages… I felt sick in my stomach, because, to think that the country I was living in did not accept me for being honest and truthful about myself, made me feel sick! While this was happening, I had moved to Bombay. And around that time too, my mum who used to encourage me to sing as a child and made me join the church choir, kept on pestering me (to join one again)! I love to sing, of course, but I didn’t want to join a church choir and hide my sexuality. I wanted to find a gay-friendly choir in Bombay, but there wasn’t one. And that’s how Rainbow Voices Mumbai was born.”

Gaysi interviews RVM’s Ashish Pandya, one of the key members of the choir. Make sure you check their work out online and follow their performance during the Mumbai Pride 2018!

Q. Tell us a little about Rainbow Voices!

Rainbow Voices Mumbai was formed in the summer of 2014 by Vinodh Philip and Sibi Matthen with an aim to be the voice of the oppressed and give a platform to talent within the LGBT community.

Q. Could you elaborate on this aim?

RVM is intended to be a voice of the LGBT movement in India and be an advocate for equality, compassion, and inclusion. RVM aims to create awareness, sensitize people and spread the message of love to the world through the transformative power of music.

Q. What was RVM’s beginning like?

I remember RVM’s first performance at the Dirty Talk (an open-mic event hosted by Gaysi) in 2014. It gave us a perfect launch pad by bringing us in front of a very inclusive, accepting and diverse audience who enjoyed our music. [Around this time] We also performed at the Kashish International Queer Film Festival.

Q. Is RVM inclusive and diverse?

Yes, very much. We have a lot of regional, cultural, ethnic, lingual, gender and sexuality diversity in our 40-member choir now. And we are still looking to be more inclusive and diverse in all possible ways!

Q. You hosted UK’s longest running LGBT choir, the Pink Singers! Tell us about the experience.

Hosting and conducting a standalone concert after our early days of just performing at events was a great learning experience! We witnessed great diversity of culture, as people from across borders came together to sing songs of love, hope, equality and struggle last January. Emotions ran high and the performance was much appreciated by the packed house at NCPA theatre. This gave us confidence and boosted our morale, and was a life-changing experience for many of us!

Q. What are your plans for the upcoming Mumbai Pride 2018?

Building on the success of our first Pride Concert (2017), in which Rainbow Voices Mumbai performed with London’s Pink Singers (Europe’s longest-running LGBT choir) and our subsequent trip to sing with them at London Pride, this year we have invited individual members from LGBT choirs across the world to join us for our 2018 concert: “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara/Let our Voices Unite”. (Check out the fundraiser here)

Our goal for this performance is to create awareness about the issues faced by the LGBT community to find its identity in modern India. We wish to imagine a future free of discrimination, oppression, ignorance and prejudice, and to encourage compassion and activism.

Our international guests — so far from London, France, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and the United States — provide a global voice to our goal while also showcasing the heart-warming solidarity shared by the LGBT community worldwide.

About the author

priya

The Gaysi Zine Editor