"Music is the universal language of the world."
That's the motto used by a Morada-based production company using music to bring together varying cultures with a history of conflict.
Some extreme groups who live in rural villages of India and Pakistan have trouble getting along, and they sometimes bring the conflict with them when they move to the United States, said Rajan Patel, one of three leaders of the production company called Five South Records.
Five South Records, led by Patel and two Stockton residents who were born overseas, wants to bring all cultures together through music. And that includes people born in the U.S. along with Hispanics, Pakistanis and east Indians. The idea is to bring together Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and other faiths in a unifying force.
"There are two things they have in common - they believe in God, and they all listen to music," Patel said.
With that combination in mind, Five South Records organized what Patel described as a successful concert called "A World Peace Musical Evening" on Aug. 4 in Stockton. Musicians included people from India, Pakistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Fiji and the U.S.
There were similar concerts during the summer in Fremont and Reno, Nev. Patel said he hopes to organize a multicultural concert for the fall in Lodi.
The group leaders, Patel, SirPunj and Mike Nathaniel, play in the band together under SirPunj's name since he is the lead singer. They also play backup to other singers signed to Five South Records, named for the directions Patel frequently gave people on how to get to Morada or Stockton from Sacramento - as in "Take Interstate 5 south."
The method Patel, SirPunj and Nathaniel (who uses the stage name Overtone) use to bring cultures together is to start with some Hindi or Urdu lyrics and mix in some English, Patel said.
• SirPunj, 29, was born and raised in Pakistan and moved to the United States in 1996. He is half Punjabi and half Pakistani. SirPunj, his stage name, is the lead singer. He recently moved from Sacramento to Stockton.
• Mike Nathaniel, who uses the stage name Overtone, is a guitarist who grew up in Fiji. He is a Franklin High School graduate and lives in Stockton.
Source: News-Sentinel staff
Five South Records is trying to modernize some Hindi hymns with the help of Vijay Benedict, a Christian gospel artist from India. Everything from rock and roll, hip hop and rhythm and blues are combined into a single song.
"Our goal one day is to throw a 'world concert,'" Patel added.
Both of Patel's parents are Hindu, but the family celebrates Christmas and customs from other cultures. He went to Christian churches with his friends growing up.
"I was pulled into Hinduism through music," Patel said. "I fell in love with the culture. They don't tell you to 'do something.' It's more of a culture that embraces your own lifestyle."
SirPunj was born and raised a Muslim.
"I'm probably the least religious person," he said. "I'd rather have fun. I'm pretty much wherever the music takes me."
Nathaniel was raised by Christian parents, but isn't too religious now. People from a variety of Christian and Asian cultures live in Fiji, but they get along fine, Nathaniel said. But when he moved to Stockton in 1978, he noticed that people from these same cultures segregated themselves from each other.
Five South Records works hand-in-hand with another company called Chatney Management, which manages artists, helps book and promote them and collaborates with Five South Records to put on concerts.
For more information on the group, visit http://www.fivesouthrecords.com.