A Western Star Rises On The Karnatik Sky

(As published in India Currents)

Every South Indian growing up in almost every major city between Delhi and Madras has some memory of The Thyagaraja Aradhanai: Melodious singing and rhythmic beats round the clock, the crinkle of rich kanjeevarams, the sharp commentaries by mamas, the reverence on the faces of the audience as maestros ascended the heights of achievement, the performing children looking quite grown up in their pattu pavadais and mundus; the aroma of vadais and kaapi, the ongoing musical discussion at home and enroute.

In a bid to echo that time, and as an initiation ritual for the younger rasikas to broad-based Karnatik music, Indian Fine Arts Academy of San Diego will hots the Indian Festival of Music and Dance. Following in the footsteps of the 30-year-old Cleveland Aradhana, San Diego is going to resound with the performances of 19 artists from India and nine from the U.S., complete with breakfast, lunch, and dinner with down-home flavor.

The festival starts with a violin recital by the popular Sangeetha Kalanidhi M.S. Gopalakrishnan and his daughter, Narmada. Over the weekend, attendees to the festival can look forward to, among others, such vocal maha-rathis as Sudha Ragunathan, known for her “beautiful vocal tapestries, soaring solos, and unusual timbres”; and Bala Ratna S. Soumya.

Bharati Shivaji and Vijayalakshmi, renowned mohiniyattam performers, will enthrall those looking for visual excitement. Bharati Shivaji has performed all over the world including at the  International Edinburgh Festival, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, and the Conservatory Theatre at St.Petersburgh, Russia.

A jugalbandi will crown the festival calendar: On Saturday, Ustad Irshad Khan and N. Ravikiran will have a musical face-off. Khan is one of the world’s renowned sitar players and leading surbahar (bass sitar) player, who’s performed in over 30 countries; and Ravikiran is a child prodigy who continues to scale excellence both as a vocalist and as an instrumentalist.

Lending their own rich tones to those from India will be U.S. artists such as Shoba Sharma (bharatnatyam), Revathi Subramanian (vocals), Nishant Chandran (violin), R. Radhakrishnan (flute), Balu, Cleveland, OH (kanjira), Kalyan Vaidyanathan (mridangam), Raamkumar Balamoorthi (mridangam) and Vinod Seetharaman (mridangam).

We are in the West, so can fusion be forgotten? Southern Californian Prasant Radhakrishnan, a critically acclaimed saxophonist versatile in both the Karnatik and jazz disciplines will present the unique vocal texture of his sound, noted for its expressive complexity and rhythmic ingenuity.

The goal of the Indian Festival of Music and Dance is to recreate the atmosphere that prevails at well established music halls such as the Music Academy and Narada Gana Sabha at Chennai, India. The festival will go a long way in furthering the mission of the organizer, Indian Fine Arts Academy, which was established to create an environment of learning and appreciation of Indian classical music, dance, and arts; and foster Indian culture among the younger generation of Indian Americans.

Since September 2007, the organization has held 22 public benefit concerts featuring renowned classical musicians. Over 6,000 people attended and benefited from these events. In addition, the academy has conducted a music workshop for children.

The first annual Indian Music and Dance festival was held in March 2008. Over 4,000 patrons attended the three-day festival. A similar number is expected to attend this year as well. Say the Gopals, attendees at the 2008 festival, “This festival truly brought the musicians, their music, and the atmosphere of the December kutcheries to San Diego.”

The Indian Fine Arts Academy will also bestow honor on select artists and personalities, in the form of three awards: “Rasika Shiromani” will go to an individual who has made a significant and lasting contribution to Indian classical music and dance; “Sangeeta Acharya” is a title bestowed upon those artists who have made a significant contribution to Karnatik music through their rendition of the art form and through their inspiring role in generating a passion for the art form among the young; and “Samaja Seva Ratna” is bestowed upon an individual who has made valuable contributions toward the well-being of the community.

Priya Das is a freelance writer, tech marketer, and dancer living in the South Bay.

Friday, April 3, 6:30-9 p.m.; Saturday, April 4, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 5, 9 a.m.-8:15 p.m. La Jolla High School Auditorium, 750 Nautilus St., La Jolla. shekar.viswanathan@gmail.com; divyabhinaya@yahoo.com.www.indianfinearts.org

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s