November 19, 2017

Ben Parag- A young voice of hope

By: Anjali Paray

Guyanese diaspora are often bombarded with headlines of political corruption, domestic violence and suicides, however, a young man’s rise to fame is giving his people just the type of hope they were waiting for.
Ben Parag was born and raised in Queens, New York. His parents, Kumar and Savi Parag, hail from Corentyne, Berbice.
At just 19 years old, Ben courageously packed his bags and headed to the other side of the world to participate in a reality singing competition ‘Dil Hai Hindustani’ which translates to ‘the heart is Indian’. Music to Indians everywhere is like air and this would be one of the very first time a network would produce a show that would allow someone from anywhere in the world to compete. They would be the judge of whether the soul of a voice was Indian enough.
While Ben hails from a musical family and started rigorously training from a tender age, Hindi is not his native tongue, nor has he ever spent any physical time in that part of the world, so the odds were stacked against him.
In true Indian style, the very gurus (teachers) who recreated India in New York for Ben to hone his skills, held his hand and dropped him off on the other side of the world. With the blessings and encouragement of Kinnar and Payal Seen, Ben was able to conquer his nerves and win the hearts of the judges week after week. All across the globe, people from the Indo Caribbean tuned in to silently cheer him on, making Ben Parag an instant celebrity. While many thought he would bring the title home, Ben placed 6th.
West Indian media flocked to the Radisson Hotel at JFK, Tuesday night to be briefed on Ben’s premiere feature presentation. Organised by talk show host Lakshmee Singh, Ben showed his poise, maturity and humility as he eloquently answered the media for over an hour and a half. He even sang for them, twice.
The young artist spoke about the hurdles he had to overcome in order to study this ancient artform, what advice he would give to young people hoping to follow in his footsteps and his dreams for his future endeavors. He also spoke about what we can expect from him at York College on Saturday November 11th. He and fellow headliner Fakhrul Rai, have been collaborating on a vibe which ranges from RD Burman oldies to new experimental Arabic pieces.
Time after time newspaper, magazine, television and radio personalities asked young Ben various forms of the same question. What can he do to gap the huge divide that plagues the West Indian people. Ben, who has always lent his now famous voice to charities and various philanthropic endeavors, smiled and with humble confidence answered, “I’ll sing to them and be a source of hope.”