In 1973, Ravi Shankar and Harihar Rao started The Music Circle with the sole purpose of promoting Indian classical music and dance in the Los Angeles area. In the ensuing years, the organization has presented approximately 400 concerts with musicians who have since made indelible prints in musical heritage, such as Shankar, the late Ali Akbar Khan, Zakir Hussain, and Swapan Chaudhuri. The Music Circle’s upcoming concert, “New Generation Masters,” will feature Indian vocalist Mahesh Kale and Afghan tabla player Salar Nader.
Paula Rao, The Music Circle’s secretary and wife of Harihar Rao, says, “We have done this work for 38 years as volunteers and we get great satisfaction from successfully promoting Indian classical music and dance, and from the appreciation of our artists and audience. We have devoted ourselves to presenting tomorrow’s masters.
“Our audience loved Kale so much when we presented him last year, that we invited him back,” she says. Kale is a Hindustani classical singer who is equally at ease singing bhajans (devotional songs), bhaavgeet (emotional songs), and natyasangeet (music arranged specially for stage-dramas, popular in Maharashtra). Marathi music lovers will recognize him as the lead from the recently revived legendary and perhaps the longest running Marathi drama, Katyar Kaljaat Ghusli (The Dagger Pierces The Heart), which played several shows in India in 2010. Kale has also toured the U.S. and abroad in recent years.
Kale’s musical journey began in his childhood in India, where his mother, herself an accomplished singer, held classes at home. Later, Kale would learn from Purushottam Gangurde and Jitendra Abhisheki. However, he claimed his musical career in the U.S., when he arrived to pursue a degree in Media Arts and Technology in California. He went on to do a master’s in engineering management before dedicating himself to his music. In addition to concerts, Kale gives lecture-demonstrations at universities including Stanford and Harvard, and he teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Salar Nader has been a Bay Area resident since he was 5, and started learning with Zakir Hussain almost immediately. “It was like learning a new language,” he says on his website.
“I spoke Farsi at home, English outside, tabla bols at night with my lesson book,” he says. His professional career started in his early teens, when he accompanied renowned Pakistani singer Salamat Ali Khan. Since then, Nader has worked with several greats spanning the percussion, vocal, and dance world, namely his own guru Hussain, Ghulam Ali Khan, and Chitresh Das.
Nader’s parents steered him into channeling his early success to donate generously to the aid efforts and concerts supporting Afghan causes. This brought him in the company of famed Afghan singers Farida Mawaash, Ahmad Wali, and Homayun Sakhi. Sakhi is one of the great exponents of the 18-stringed rubab, the national instrument of Afghanistan, and Sakhi introduced Nader to the nuances of playing Afghan music. This partnership continues to occupy an important place in Nader’s life—Nader and Sakhi founded the musical group SARA (the Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan), featuring percussion, dance, vocal, and instrumental elements. The group debuted in December 2009, playing to internatoinal crowds including in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Nader also gained popularity among dramatic-arts lovers when he composed music for the stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s acclaimed novel The Kite Runner. Families of the two have known each other —Nader first played for the author at Hosseini’s engagement party, and later the two connected at a book signing event in San Ramon. The production, featuring Nader’s composition inspired by Afghan folklore and music traditions, has been staged in cities around the world.
With so much in common between Kale and Nader—Hindustani classical music lineage, drama, Asian heritage, “new generation” titles, tutelage of grand masters—one can look forward to an evening of transcendental highs.
Many thanks to The Music Circle to have sustained an agenda for almost 40 years that allows for the making of musical history, one concert at a time.
Saturday, Feb., 18, 8 p.m. Herrick Chapel, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles (Eagle Rock). $35 general, $25 basic members, children and students $5, sustaining members free. (626) 449-6987. [email protected]. www.musiccircle.org.