Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting, the singer and bassist who gained worldwide fame in the late 1970s and 1980s as the lead singer and chief songwriter for British trio the Police, follows in the tradition of a long line of European music artists who are enamored with India and all things Indian.
Sting, who recently performed at the Umaid Bhawan palace in the northwestern India city of Jodhpur for a charity, told the Daily Telegraph that he has been visiting India for half his life (he will turn 62 in October). Over the years, the musician has celebrated the New Year in the coastal province of Goa, camped in the Thar Desert near Jaisalmer, and has joined Hindu pilgrims bathing in the Yumuna and Ganges rivers.
“I’ve been lucky enough to share [India] with my family, and now my children love it as much as I do,” Sting says.
At the invitation of his friend, The Maharaja of Jodhpur, His Highness Gaj Singh II, Sting is attending the maiden Jodhpur One World Retreat in order to raise funds for the Indian Head Injury Foundation.
“A person dies on India’s roads every six minutes or so ... India is the brain injury capital of the world,” Sting said. He added that in the U.S., one in 200 people with such injuries might die, but in India, one in six might expire.
In a broader context, Sting, like many Westerners, is fascinated by India’s massive contradictions and complexities.
“I think it’s essential for any traveler here [in India] to acknowledge its contradictions, its paradoxes: The abject poverty and the extraordinary wealth; the exquisite beauty of its spiritual traditions beside the horror of its religious hatreds; the patient good humor of its people and the Kafkaesque entanglements of bureaucracy,” he said.
“I’ve seen many sides of this country.”
Sting first visited in 1980, when the Police were at the peak of their popularity, for a concert in Mumbai (then called Bombay). But he asked the audience to show more approval for the music than just polite applause.
“So all the old ladies in their saris got up on their seats with their umbrellas and started to dance -- and in the end we had a stage invasion,” he said.
In an interview with Livemint.com, Sting explained his embrace of yoga.
“I took up yoga 25 years ago, maybe because of my interest in India,” he said. “I practice every day, I meditate. I have a very rudimentary understanding of Indian religion, I’m not particularly religious. But I owe a great deal to yoga. It’s given me, maybe, another decade of my career."
Three years ago, Sting attended another cultural deistical on the extreme southern end of India, in Thiruvananthapuram in the state of Kerala, where he performed with friend Bob Geldof, the Irish musician who was a member of the Boomtown Rats and who also organized the Live Aid charity.
“I flew to Thiruvananthapuram to see Bob," Sting said at the time. "It was a high point of my life performing the number with him. I am happy to perform with Bob and it's always a pleasure to hear him sing."