The earliest memory that UK musician Tanya Wells has is as a five-year-old in the foothills of the Himalayas where she and her sisters would start the day with meditation at a school, with Hindustani classical music at the heart of its Sahaja Yoga meditation practice.
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, founder of the International Sahaja Public School in Dharamshala, named her Bhakti and her twin sister and fellow singer Nicki Wells as Shakti – setting the course for Tanya’s lifelong love for devotional music.
Now, in her late 20s and as a new mother to a baby daughter, Tanya is based in Uberlandia in central Brazil – home to her husband and Seven Eyes bandmate Paulo Vinícius. But the Indian influences in their yogic lifestyle and music continue to tour with them all over the world, blending diverse cultures, languages, and genres.
“From a very young age, we were immersed in a very Indian cultural experience and that had a lot of influence on my attitude towards the arts,” shared Tanya in an interview with PTI from her studio in Brazil.
“I’ve always felt an affinity to the name Bhakti, in every sense, especially musically. Listening to the amazing qawwals, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahib, Abida Parveen – the Sufi singers who set a standard of music that really calls upon the divine to heal humanity and to bring humanity up to a higher consciousness has always been something that I’ve been drawn to,” she said.
It is no wonder that Tanya’s rendition of the Sufi song ‘O Re Piya’ has attracted millions of views across social media. The vocalist is currently working with her husband on their band’s next album, which will be a compilation of ghazals including some composed by Tanya’s Nagpur-based teacher Pandit Prabhakar Dhakde ‘Guruji’.
Meanwhile, the young parents continue to tour with their “little trooper” of a daughter, who has already clocked 10 countries at just 15 months old.
“As musicians, we are used to having this kind of gypsy life of travelling and now we have the new experience of travelling with our baby. Home is where the heart is, as they say. We’re very happy in Brazil for now but we have always desired to have a leg in Europe. My family is in London, which is home to me, and I adore returning there,” said Tanya.
India also remains firmly etched on her list of destinations that will always be an intrinsic part of the young family’s life, the roots of which trace back to her doctor father and counsellor mother who met at the Sahaja Yoga meditation centre and chose its school as the ideal setting for their young daughters’ early upbringing.
“My parents’ decision to allow us to experience this spiritual education from a young age has definitely had an influence on us as we grew older because it did shape our leanings in terms of our interests as we grew older,” reflected the musician.
“Without this Sahaja Yoga meditation, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I have been given in this life to go to India, to study in India, to have an exposure to Indian classical music,” she added.
The vocalist is currently refreshing her Hindi and Urdu with lessons and also learning Portuguese to converse with her husband’s family. Her mother’s French heritage means the singer-songwriter has a wide array of linguistic influences to draw upon in her music, besides instrumental expertise having had guitar and piano lessons growing up.
“Music was just such a part of our upbringing and as I’ve grown older, my musical tastes have been eclectic because I’ve been interested in music from different parts of the world. This is reflected in our band Seven Eyes, complete with Brazilian musical influences inspired by my husband,” she said.
The band is now focused on completing their third album and then plans to set off on a tour around the world, including India.