Hindustani music celebrates 30 years in the Bay Area and Basant Bahar’s grand festival will celebrate it in style.
Basant Bahar is a non-profit organization that aims to promote and preserve Hindustani classical music and dance. Founded in 1982 in Sunnyvale by Narayan Sardesai, Arun Londhe and G.S. Satyanarayana, they brainstormed about creating an organization that would the benefit both music lovers in the Bay Area and talented visiting professional musicians from India. In fact, the first Basant Bahar concert took place in Satyanarayana’s home in San Jose on June 3, 1982 and featured Lakshmi Shankar, who suitably sang the raga Basant Bahar.
To this day, Basant Bahar is managed by a team of dedicated volunteers, each one a passionate music lover and/or musician as well. Surinder Chowdhury has always been an active member of Basant Bahar, has served as the organization’s President and occasionally plays the tabla. He states, “We are one of the longest running Indian culture organizations in the Bay Area. We have a core group of volunteers that has strived to keep [Basant Bahar] going. We hope we can continue our efforts because there are a lot of artists who depend on us to give them a platform. Performing with Basant Bahar means something to their careers.”
Chowdhury has also been a part of a core group of active members that constitutes a working committee. Among its many tasks, the committee meets to vote on Basant Bahar’s officer-bearers and participates in the process of choosing the performers for its monthly concerts. “We select artists purely on the basis of merit and promise. While other organizations just try to get the ‘big name’ artists, we feel that art is bigger than the name. We [especially] don’t want to give up on promising young talent. We have tried to stay away from the biases that can exist in the industry,” insists Chowdhury.
Basant Bahar is particularly thrill when meeting promising new artists. Whenever they encounter new artists/performers that they feel would be a great fit for Basant Bahar, they contact their sponsors in India. Alternatively, artists (and/or the representatives who arrange their tours) who feel that their talents can be showcased best at a Basant Bahar concert may contact the organization directly.
Thirty years mark a milestone that Basant Bahar and its members are proud to commemorate. Thus far, the organization has presented over 300 concerts and hopes to bank on its momentum to continue to grow and persevere. Chowdhury believes that “The key is [in] creating a core audience that has some stake in preserving this heritage and I think we have been successful in accomplishing that. Now, there are many people in the Indian community whose children are learning classical Indian music and it’s bigger than what it used to be. In the future, I think it’ll be a great idea to go beyond the Indian community to see if we can increase the audience base for this art form.”
The unique concept behind Basant Bahar’s success is that it offers a certain ambiance that is conducive to interplay between the performers and the audience. Hindustani music works best in an intimate setting and as long as the basic scales of the ragas are in place, approximately 90% of the music is improvised. The performers revel in their ability and freedom to improvise in front of a receptive audience; especially because the audience provides instant feedback by audibly expressing their appreciation of or, in some cases, their indifference toward the performance. However the audience reacts, the artist can garner inspiration.
Basant Bahar’s mission is to present artists of outstanding merit to audiences all over the Bay Area and to provide a platform for up and coming artists to showcase their talent to a discerning audience. Membership to Basant Bahar is open to all music lovers, and covers a major portion of their revenues, all concerts are free for members and their immediate families. At the upcoming anniversary festival, Basant Bahar members will also receive an archival DVD of clips (approximately 2-2 ½ hours in length) from all past concerts.
The anniversary celebration is divided into two parts, the first of which will take place between 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and is free to all. Performances will include Partha Chatterjee (sitar); Labonee Mohanta (kathak) accompanied by live music; Subhangi Sakhalkar (vocal) accompanied by Vivek Datar (harmonium), and Nikhil Pandya (table).
There is a $25 general admission fee to attend the second part, which takes place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Kalapini Komkali (vocal) accompanied by Sanjay Deshpande (table) and Raya Korgaokar (harmonium).
Since its inception, Basant Bahar has offered high quality musical programs. Chowdhury hopes for a big turnout at the anniversary concerts and says that “Basant Bahar will continue to serve the interests of Indian classical music and contribute in a humble way to the preservation and progress of this great cultural heritage.”
More information about Basant Bahar, its monthly concerts and its upcoming 30th anniversary celebrations can be found online at basantbahar.org.
Saturday, october 13. 1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Free. Concerts at 5:30 p.m. Tickets: $25, Basant Bahar members: Free. Jain Temple Auditorium, 722 South Main Street, Milpitas. www.basantbahar.org.