28 June 2022 22:32
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An Indic Muslim exploring Vedic knowledge and cultural heritage through music

“A few years ago, I happened to listen to Shri Hari Stotram, an ode to Lord Vishnu written by Adi Shankaracharya. I was blown away by the lyrical beauty, the rhythm, the thought and the timelessness of the composition.”

Omer Ghazi, who grew up in the cities of Aligarh and New Delhi describes himself as “an Indic Muslim who is exploring his cultural heritage through music, science and philosophy”.

He caught our attention when we saw his video on Twitter playing Adi Shankaracharya’s Nirvana Shatakam in the lap of Mount Kailash.

Omer Ghazi told The Australia Today, “A few years ago, I happened to listen to Shri Hari Stotram, an ode to Lord Vishnu written by Adi Shankaracharya. I was blown away by the lyrical beauty, the rhythm, the thought and the timelessness of the composition.”

“I started exploring the life and works of Adi Shankaracharya and discovered a treasure of ancient wisdom. It was mind-boggling that complex concepts of consciousness, human experience and the nature of reality were beautifully depicted through rhythm and poetry. Everything I had ever loved was suddenly at one place, it felt like coming home.”

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Further expounding on the works of Adi Shankaracharya Omer Ghazi mentions that Adi Shankaracharya was one of the founding fathers of Advaita Vedanta, a school of philosophy built upon the Upanishads and the ancient Vedic knowledge.

“The Advaita Vedanta states that all reality in the experienced world has its roots in the unchanging consciousness, i.e. Brahman.

He writes in Nirvana Shatakam:

Without hate, without infatuation, without craving, without greed;

Neither arrogance nor conceit, never jealous I am;

Neither dharma, nor artha, neither kama nor moksha am I;

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I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.”

Omer Ghazi told The Australia Today that he also discovered that the cosmic dance of Shiva denotes constant creation and destruction, it depicts that reality, at its fundamental level, only exists as multiple postures at once and it requires a conscious observer to take a form.

“Modern physicists see it as a beautiful metaphor for the constant creation and destruction of subatomic particles and how fundamental reality exists as quantum fluctuations and probabilities. This is the reason that a huge statue of Shiva Nataraja is installed at the CERN facility in Geneva, which casts its shadow on the building where scientists attempt to understand the dance of subatomic particles.”

Omer also strongly feels that today, Indians are largely unaware of the pearls of wisdom hidden in the ancient Indian texts that have survived for thousands of years.

“The reason that Indian civilization is the oldest living civilization of the world is that it has timeless knowledge, poetic beauty, colourful depictions and universal stories all fused into one historical tradition.”

Omer also came across musical legends like Manish Vyas and Prem Joshua who have rediscovered the storms and poems written by Adi Shankaracharya and composed them with modernistic musical elements. He started playing their compositions on djembe and other percussion instruments.

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(Image source: Omer Ghazi)

Describing how he felt while playing the Nirvana Shatakam in the lap of the Himalayas, Omer Ghazi gave The Australia Today a moving and vivid description,

“When I visited Kalpa, a small town in Himachal Pradesh, in the summer of 2021, I found myself surrounded by the beautiful valleys with brooks running through them and colourful flowers dancing to the light breeze.”

“One glance at the majestic Kailash Parvat told me why this mountain peak holds central importance to the Hindu faith. It looks both intimidating and inviting at the same time and there is certainly a mystical air about it which can hardly be missed.”

Since I always carry my djembe on my mountain trips, I found a solitary spot in a meadow nearby and started playing “Shivoham”, a composition by Manish Vyas based upon Nirvana Shatakam written by Adi Shankaracharya.”

“For a moment, I felt one with the surroundings, connected with thousands of years old spiritual tradition. The words of Adi Shankaracharya, the voice of Manish Vyas and beats on my djembe echoed through the valley.

It seemed as if the trees and the mountains are themselves swaying with the rhythm of Shivoham:

I am Shiva, I am Shiva, I am Bliss, I am Bliss…”

Kalpa 2
(Image source: Omer Ghazi)

Omer’s video playing Shivoham garnered a lot of attention on social media with hundreds of comments appreciating and applauding the effort, which he says was very encouraging.

He also took the opportunity to play Shri Hari Stotram, also written by Adi Shankaracharya and sung by  G Gayathri Devi, S Saindhavi and R Shruti. This was the composition that introduced him to Adi Shankaracharya and the gems of Indic philosophy.

Omer says that he aims to explore and unveil more and more of this ancient knowledge through his music and writings so that the seekers in the new generations get aware and are able to seek guidance for the times to come.

Omer is a student of philosophy and had always been fascinated by the ancient wisdom of thinkers and philosophers across human history.  

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(Image source: Omer Ghazi)

He also felt drawn toward music from a young age and started writing raps in high school. He discovered that hip-hop originated as a political movement and being a philosophy buff himself, started writing and performing raps on social and philosophical themes under the stage name “MC Square.”

Since RAP stands for Rhythm and Poetry, he found himself exploring the rhythm part of the music even more and taught himself multiple percussion instruments including Drums, Cajon, Djembe, Tambourine and Congas. He is the co-founder of a multi-genre band called “The Mixtape”.

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