Bette Midler Inspires At 7 Years Old

York Region
African trip inspires teen to pursue singing
By Kim Zarzour
Published on Sep 24, 2009

Not many seven-year-olds walk around listening to Bette Midler on their earphones.

That never bothered Prita Chhabra.

She’d happily tell her playmates what she was listening to on her Walkman, and laugh when they replied “Oh I know who that is – my mom listens to her!”

Even in Grade 2, the budding musician was marching, and singing, to the beat of her own drummer.

Today the Thornhill singer/songwriter has drummed up her own unique sound, a blend of east and western pop that is gaining her fans worldwide.

And while the Divine Miss M was her first inspiration, it was a trip to AID-stricken African that really moved her along her meandering musical path.

Born in Montreal, Ms Chhabra moved to Orlando, Florida at the age of 15, and back to Quebec again seven years later to obtain her degree in psychology at Concordia University. Wherever she lived, music was never far from her heart; she’d been singing and composing since childhood, including the orchestra score for her high school graduation.

But it was in Mulawi, southeast Africa, where she vowed to take the dream seriously. Like many who pursue a humanitarian journey, she went to change the world, and changed herself instead.

Ms Chhabra was one of six students from Vanier College picked for a trip overseas to learn more about the global impact of AIDs.

“We did some some field research, visited hospitals, orphanages, politicians and villages,” she recalls. For the city girl who’d never even been camping before, the experience was an eye opener. “We lived like the villagers – no electricity. We had to bathe with a pail of water.”

But what impressed her most was the discovery that despite the hardship, music still brought pleasure to the simple village life. “Everyone sings and dances there.”

An invitation to sing in the local church re-ignited her passion for music and she returned home determined to make a go of it.

Which she has – with dizzying speed. She’s performed for more than 2,000 people at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Museum, 1,000 people at Ottawa’s Confederation Park, 5,000 people at Toronto‘s Yonge and Dundas Square and for key ministers and dignitaries at Parliament Hill.

She moved to Thornhill and produced her debut CD “Spread the Word” which just debuted on iTunes, Amazon and all major digital retailers, with shipping to retail scheduled for later this year.â?¨Currently, she’s in-studio recording her next CD with Montreal fusion group JoSH, one of Canada’s most successful music exports who often perform for tens of thousands across India and Pakistan (and are frequent collaborators with singer Nelly Furtado).

With influences ranging from Punjabi to Our Lady Peace, Ms Chhabra’s pop music taps into the mushrooming interest in Indian culture but hasn’t lost its African spark. She continues to spread the word about HIV/AIDs, donating a portion of proceeds from the debut EP to the village and is recording a Malawi song to raise awareness.

Writing and performing, she says, are spiritual experiences.

“Music is my passion and always has been. It’s the blood the runs through my veins. I can’t not do music,” she says. “I love it, and it’s the only thing in this world that makes me feel alive.”

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