Deep focus on breathing

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In 2015 we took a deeper focus on breathing – mindfulness of the breath, understanding how our breath is linked to our emotions and exploring how we can breathe more fully and in a way that supports our voices. Singers also practised grounding and opening the posture, releasing our natural voices. And developing gentleness in how we treat ourselves. The songs we sang we a real mix, from spirituals and Civil Rights anthems, to Bollywood, to folk songs from around the British Isles. The most exciting development was that many singers shared songs – from their childhood, country of origin, favourite song that meant something to them currently or one that they had written themselves. Of course we had fun arranging these and mashing them up to forge new creations too.

Shilpa Shah

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Million Women Rise

By Shilpa

Yesterday’s Million Women Rise march in London was phenomenal. It’s an annual march organised by Sabrina and a small team of dedicated volunteers, aiming to stop gendered violence against women and children.

Thousands of women, including loads of Black and Brown women, occupying the central shopping thoroughfare Oxford Street with our bodies, voices and drums. Shoppers looking confused, bemused or curious. A buzzy energy in the air that made my hands and head tingle. I normally feel the cold, but yesterday I didn’t. So many women with tears in their eyes. The march organisers chanted with loud strong voices and we echoed their words right back. A Latin American drumming group led the way. I marched next to Tobi, who was carrying her curious and super sharp 2-yr old daughter on her back – she heard the singing, looked around for a while, then was lulled to sleep immediately by thousands of aunties acting with the wish that her generation won’t have reason to march in this way.

My Heart Sings women rushed ahead at the end to get to the rally at Trafalgar Square and sing songs of strength and togetherness to welcome the marchers in. Obscure, pendatic bullying by council officials and intrusive filming of the event, clamping down on most of the musical contributions, stopped us (and others) from singing then.

Collective singing and other forms of music as part of protest is extremely, potently, powerful (think of the anti-Apartheid and US Civil Rights eras) – it’s clever for authorities to limit the amount of music in protests. So when we heard the march was around the corner, we didn’t sing, we chanted.. Standing shoulder to shoulder on the small stage with a LOUD sound system, with other singers, led by the march organisers…. Power to the Women! Women got the Power! Sister can you feel it! It’s getting stronger by the hour! POWER!

Then the long yellow and black banner and loads of red t-shirts, coats, hats, scarfs, exhilarated faces and placards appeared in front of the National Gallery. Just at that moment the sun came out and time stretched for a moment.. It felt like a huge, love-filled conquering army of powerful women, being welcomed home. They stopped, chanting and drumming, a call and response from either end of Trafalgar Square. Then this sea of red, black, brown, white, spilled into the square and formed a mass to listen to the speakers.