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If Music be the Food of Renewable Energy

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Sudha Kheterpal is a British-Indian musician who has played with Spice Girls, Kylie Minogue, Melanie Williams, Mark Morrison, Ian Brown, Talvin Singh & Dido to name a few and is best known as the percussionist in Faithless.

The talented artist has found a way improve the lives of people living in remote locations in Kenya, Africa with a unique innovative device, a musical instrument that generates electricity when shaken up to create music. Sudha was recently invited to talk about this device called SPARK which is promoted through the initiative aptly titled Shake Your Power as a speaker at TED X Gateway Mumbai on 2nd November. The CSR Journal’s Nidhi Singh caught up with Sudha and found out more about about the invention and her plans of lighting up lives in Africa and India.

What is Shake Your Power?
Shake Your Power is my new initiative that brings clean energy to places in the world without electricity through the power of music. For the last year, I’ve been developing a prototype musical percussion shaker that converts the energy from playing it into electricity. It’s called SPARK and it enables people to generate electricity so they can plug in a light or charge up a mobile phone, simply through having a music jam.

How did you first come up with the idea?
I’ve been playing on the pop music scene for over twenty years, having toured with the likes of Faithless, The Spice Girls, Dido, Kylie Minogue and Talvin Singh. I have been very lucky to perform in front of some incredible audiences all over the world, including Madison Square Gardens in New York, 17 consecutive nights at the 02 here in London, and headlining twice at the Glastonbury festival. Such shows require a huge amount of energy to run and also a huge amount of energy to give out as a performer. For many years I’ve wondered whether these huge amounts of energy created from performing could be harnessed and used. Alongside this, came the realization that there was something wider; that music has the power to cross paths of inequality and to bridge gaps of power imbalance on a global level. It made sense to combine the two things and what has resulted is this new creation called SPARK.

Where are you from – tell us about your background, childhood, education, travels- things that led you to create this concept.
I was born into a Hindu Punjabi family in Nottingham in the UK. As far back as I remember, I’d always desperately wanted to play the drums. I remember going home to my parents and begging them to let me have drum lessons at school. They realized just how passionate I was and I ended up having 6 years of lessons. I carried on playing throughout college and university and took a year out afterwards to continue pursuing my love of music. I got lucky and met a pop band who were looking for a percussionist – they went on to be pretty successful and that was the beginning of my career as a professional pop musician. It was around 1996 that I met one of the founders of Faithless and subsequently played as the percussionist and heartbeat of Britain’s multimillion album-selling dance band for 15 years. With a desire to do something more socially conscious and feeling the urgent need to protect our planet, I took time out from music a couple of years ago, went to teach in an orphanage in Cambodia after which I sat in silence for 10 days in a Thai monastery. This cleared the way for something new; it allowed me to ?connect the dots’ and turn the concept of SPARK into a reality.

hat is the current status of the Project?
After having recently run a successful crowd-funding Kickstarter campaign, we are now taking the SPARK prototype to manufacture. We are currently looking for distribution routes throughout Africa and Asia.

Are you planning to bring this Project to India? Tell us about the Indian chapter of Shake Your Power.

We are most definitely planning to come! After launching in Kenya, India is next on our list. We are particularly interested in distributing educational assembly kits, where children can build their own instruments whilst learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Music. Children can build their own power, both metaphorically and literally. It’s been exciting talking with Aliya Curmally about the potential for SPARK in India and she has a few things up her sleeve to make the impact as big as possible, whilst staying aligned to the mission of the project. Watch this space. I am also delighted to have been invited to share more of my personal journey and talk more about Shake Your Power as a speaker at TED X Gateway Mumbai!   Follow Sudha’s journey on: Twitter: @Sudhaha Facebook: Shake Your Power