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Level of talent in India is mind-boggling: Grammy nominated singer

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New Delhi, April 9: The level of talented musicians in India is impressive, says US-based Grammy nominated singer Anjali Ray, who feels they are creating “true art”.

“The level of talent in India is mind-boggling. What the musicians here are creating is true art,” Ray, who is in the national capital for a string of shows, told IANS in an interview.

Does she believe that besides a niche crowd, music lovers in India are somewhat still obsessed with Bollywood tunes?

“While it has been several years since I lived here, I don’t think Bollywood is going anywhere. In fact, it is gaining serious ground in the United States! But I believe, based on what I have seen, that with the world becoming smaller and more connected, independent original music here will thrive,” said Ray, whose album “Indigo” was released recently.

The singer, who began her ‘Indigo’ tour in Delhi last month, also performed in Kolkata, and will play two more gigs here over the weekend. She said that she would love to return to the country in the future for more shows.

“This tour was at some level designed to lay the ground work for future efforts, meet people in the musician community, and introduce myself. So far, the experience has been better than I could have hoped, and I am definitely looking forward to returning in the future,” she said.

Ray, who was raised in the capital till the age of 10, has an eclectic range of musical influences that include Indian classical and jazz. Her album “Indigo”, she says, is based on her “experiences as a wife and mother, but also on leaving the tumultuous period of early motherhood behind and moving on”.

Musically, she draws inspiration from celebrated names like M.S. Subbulakshmi, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Mark Knopfler.

Being an Indian origin musician living in the US, Ray said that she has both an advantage and disadvantage.

“Ironically, the biggest advantage is also the biggest disadvantage: you’re an outsider in both places. While it takes more open-mindedness and attention span on the part of the listener to get to know you, it’s easy to make a distinct impression because your sound is unique,” Ray asserted.

Talking about the current state of indie music in the US, Ray said that it is “alive and well”, but that varies in different cities.

“I think certain cities are more receptive to independent music than others. I don’t particularly think that Los Angeles is the best place to be a working musician. Everyone wants to be a ‘star’, and that carries with it a certain amount of pressure which turns me off a bit,” she stated, while adding that the Indian scene, although new, is a “much more welcoming place right now”.

“The community is close yet growing, as is the demand. From what little I’ve seen (and I say this without any real knowledge of the challenges here), it seems like a great time to be a musician here,” she added.

Despite the popularity of online streaming and digital downloads, Ray said that she still likes to buy CDs but finds downloading “convenient”.

“I actually still like buying CDs versus downloading music. But you can’t beat the convenience of the download. I think they serve two very different purposes,” she said, while mentioning that it would be a “trip” to see her album on vinyl.(IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)