One cannot get enough of a good thing, especially a great music festival. Arts-loving South Indians in particular, have proliferated their enthusiasm to put on a classical music show—kutcheri—to wherever they happen to live. Even cosmopolitan Mumbai has regular Karnatik music festivals in concert halls and neighborhood squares. Little wonder then that California has its own in the garb of the Indian Fine Arts Association’s annual Indian Music and Dance Festival.
Already boasting a participation of over 5,500 rasikas (music lovers) in only its fourth year, the festival draws energy from the yearning of older NRIs to feel the magic of the Indian music season in their own backyard, and a wish to inculcate an appreciation of the classical arts in the younger generation. Shekar Viswanathan, organizing chairperson, says, “It is the enthusiasm and support for classical programs expressed by the community of San Diego that continues to drive the IFAA board to put on outstanding programs and concerts.”
The IFAA has outdone itself this year with 58 artists from India, twice the number as last year. These artists will be joining U.S.-based musicians, to make the event a star-studded one. In keeping with the tradition of honoring musicians, IFAA will be honoring living legends sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, M. Balamuralikrishna, vocalist R.K. Srikantan, and flautist N. Ramani during the expanded five-day program this year.
The two main performances this year are the “Generations of Genius” and “Mesmerizing Melodies.” The first is where the veteran Balamuralikrishna is partnered with the much younger Sangeet Samrat Chitravina Ravikiran. The two will be accompanied by Nagai Muralidharan on the violin, Mannargudi Easwaran on the mridangam, and A.S. Murali on the ghatam. In the second, Srikantan will be joined by vocalist R.K. Ramakanth, violinist M. Narmadha, with Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan on the mridangam, and Cleveland Balu on the kanjira.
A unique homage will be paid to Pandit Ravi Shankar by Karnatik singer-Bollywood sensation Shankar Mahadevan, who is expected to perform three songs during the felicitation ceremony. All the living legends will be felicitated by a distinguished panel, including V.V. Sundaram, president and founder of Cleveland Aradhana (a music fesival that has been running for 34 years in Cleveland), Geetha Bennett (veena exponent), T.S.R. Krishnan (well-known harikatha exponent), and Sherri Lightner (La Jolla city council representative).
The festival has always featured dance, though this year is extra special. A tribute to Ramiah Pillai, the pioneer of the Vazhuvoor style of bharatanatyam is planned, since this is the centennial year of his birth. The Vazhuvoor tradition will be commemorated in two special dance presentations: a Ramayana dance drama comprising 13 artists and 11 instruments; and another called “Nritya Samarchita” by critically acclaimed artist Lavanya Ananth.
Two more highlights in this seemingly endless array of delightful musical treats, are “Remembering K.V.N.” and “Recreating Semmangudi Bani.” K.V. Narayanaswamy, nicknamed “The Gentle Perfect Knight” by a prominent arts critic, was widely considered to be among the finest Karnatik vocalist of the 20th century. Strict adherence to Shruti (musical pitch), lyrical purity, and a poignant rendition were distinctive features of K.V.N.’s music. Vocalist Pattabhirama Pandit, violinist Amritha Murali, and percussionist Vaidyanathan will take the audience down the K.V.N. memory lane. The late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer is considered to be the master of niraval (improvisation) in Karnatik style of music. While technical brilliance in swara (note) rendition can be achieved by most, the artistry required for raga improvisation while keeping the basic bhava (emotion) of the piece has to be in equal parts inborn and self-learned. The rasikas can look forward to a stylistically coherent Semmangudi bani (mucisal identity) in the presentation by vocalist Sherthalai Ranganatha Sarma, violinist Narmadha, and percussionists Easwaran and Murali.
The program ends with a concert by sitar-star Purbayan Chatterjee and “Tabla Prince of India and Pakistan,” Tari Khan.
April 13, 6-8 p.m., Neurosciences Institute, 10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive, San Diego; and April 14-April 17, David and Dorothea Garfield Theater, Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. $15-$110; members and children under 3 free. (858) 638-0744, (619) 427-1086. [email protected], [email protected]. www.indianfinearts.org.