Kale himself bridges multiple worlds, having completed two Masters degrees in engineering. Yet on the cusp of a successful career in Silicon Valley, he hesitated. “I always wanted to do this [classical music] but I was always good at studies. It got to the point where I had to choose between music and a job where I would simply be able to maintain music,” reflects Kale. Eventually the time and passion he had devoted as a student of Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki won out. “I was trained by one of the masters of Indian classical music. It seemed a shame to pursue music part-time,” he says. Kale embarked on concerts across India, Europe, the Emirates, and Southeast Asia. Now in Silicon Valley, Kale teaches 150 students and has a dedicated volunteer team of 70 for ICMA.
“It started with friends visiting and performing, and I hosted them. But this is what I’ve been doing full-time for the past five years. This is not a part-time thing,” explains Kale. And on the heels of a successful concert in June, Kale is busily planning another extravaganza for October. The event is entitled “Melange” and showcases the evolution of Indian classical music, spanning Vedic, Persian, and folk forms of music from Northern India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The concert features Mahesh Kale as vocalist and lead artist, Pt. Ramesh Misra on sarangi, Salar Nader on tabla, and Ashvini Bhave as MC and narrator.
Billed as “from Khayal to Tarana, Thumri to Ghazal, Sufi to Bhajan,” the performance crosses numerous musical frontiers and boundaries in its quest to trace the development of Indian music. “Thankfully I’ve been trained in all these genres, however there’s still a couple that I’m developing. I will sing qawwali and ghazal for the first time,” explains Kale. Kale is also developing an audio-visual component of the performance, and plans to have art, rangoli, and mehndi at the event to create a complete experience.“Dress is formal or festive Indian, so everyone will be dressed up” notes Kale as he flips through the myriad details of developing a top-notch script and carefully choreographing audio-visual cues to create a moving performance.
Kale has an impressive team backing ICMA, many involved in the tech industry in Silicon Valley, “It’s the charity part of what we’re doing that’s exciting. The concert is just the public piece.” ICMA directs a number of programs, including a scholarship for upcoming rural artists in India, allowing an increasing number of talented artists to pursue a life of music. ICMA also provides support to senior musicians and celebrated teachers. One of the projects Kale is most excited about is developing a publically accessible archive of Indian classical music. “I have hours and hours of VHS tapes from the 1960s and 1970s that I’m working on digitizing and making publically available. And there’s many more artists and performances that I’d like to procure and make available as well,” says Kale.
But the major focus of ICMA is to support active artists.
“Music flourished in India during the time of court patronage,” Kale explains, “and musicians don’t get that kind of support any more. We give them space to think about themselves as musicians and to develop.” And finally, because he’s in Silicon Valley, Kale is passionate about ICMA’s technology initiative. “Traditional arts is a bit shy of technology, and we want to leverage technology for the arts,” Kale opines. He’s harnessing his ICMA team to develop a web interface to make music-related information accessible to the public and is also working on a mobile app that allows audience members sitting in a concert to learn more about the artist performing, what song they’re playing, and the history behind the type of classical music they’re performing.
Although rooted in a traditional presentation of classical Indian music, ICMA is nourished by the intellectual and entrepreneurial environment of Silicon Valley. “I chose music because of a sense of joy beyond the material world, and that’s what I want to share,” reveals Kale. It’s the mélange of those two worlds, and that sense of joy, that will animate his upcoming performance.
October 20, 4 p.m., De Anza Visual and Performing Arts Center, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. Tickets start at $22. firstname.lastname@example.org. (408) 692-ICMA.