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The living arts of music and dance come alive at the 7th Annual Indian Classical Music and Dance Festival (IFAASD), gathering world renowned maestros and disciples of Hindustani and Karnatik music and dance to treat its festival goers to the best instrument and dance ensembles.

The six-day event draws thousands of enthusiasts in what has evolved into the largest of its kind on the west coast (outside of India), and similar to the popular Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival (CTF) hosted since the late 70s in Ohio, according to Shekar Viswanathan, founding member of IFAASD.  The festival has received city-wide recognition by the San Diego City Council, which has declared April 8-13 as India Fine Arts Festival days.

Apart from its regular roster of classical performances, this year’s festival will amplify its schedule with its three part feature presentation of the Mahabharata, as a dance drama in conjunction with CTF, which will present the full five-part series in late April, explained Viswanathan. The three parts to be shown are Karna Sabatham Sakhyam on April 8, Aggnatha Vasam on April 10 and Bhavad Gita Gnanam on April 13.

Bharatnatyam, kathak, kuchipudi, yoga and theater traditions will be presented in dance ballets and fused with chants from ancient scriptures to the rhythm of the violin, veena and the flute by an international cast of over fifty dancers from the United States, Canada, India and Singapore.

The dance dramas include contributions from some of the greatest modern Indian composers such as the child prodigy, Chitravina Ravikiran, R.K. Shriramkumar and Neyveli Sri R. Santhanagopalan, who have written lyrics for dance masters and choreographers C.V. Chandrasekhar and Birju Maharaj who are joined by other notable choreographers Kishore Mosalikanti, DivyaSena, Rhadha and Anu Guha. Both Chandrasekhar and Birju Maharaj will also perform in their select pieces.

A number of must see events at the festival include a jugalbandi concert called Soul to Soul, that will showcase the virtuosity of two well-known artists M. Balamuralikrishna and Sudha Ragunathan on April 9. A melodious vocal concert exploring classical traditions by the Trichur brothers is on April 12.

Other vocal performances are by octogenarian, T.V. Gopalakrishnan, a well known Karnatik and Hindustani vocalist on closing day (April 13). The musical presentation will be followed by the finale event by Karnatik vocalist Sudha Ragunathan.

The musical legacy of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman will be celebrated on April 12, where 120 Indian-American children from San Diego will perform with Lalgudi Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, children and chief disciples of Jayaraman. The violin duos who are “thrilled to perform” recalled playing at the first festival six years ago and now are excited about “being chosen to come again,” explains Viswanathan.

Felicitation ceremonies to honor the queen of melody, Lakshmi Shankar, as well as the birthday celebration of her late brother-in-law and sitar maestro Pt. Ravi Shankar will be celebrated on April 11.

Pt. Birju Maharaj along with his chief disciple Saswati Sen will provide a tribute kathak performance for the special ceremony. Maharaj’s relationship with the sitar virtuoso dates back to his formative years as a dancer under his father’s apprenticeship.

Maharaj’s performance will be followed by a vocal performance by Ashwini Bhide, famed vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli Khayal Gayaki.

The festival will also present some of some of the most engaging Indian percussionists such as Cleveland Balu, Yashes Srinivasan, Naveen Basavanhally, and Trichur Mohan to name a few who will be playing on diverse instruments such as the kanjira, tabla, ghatam, and mridangam.

The week long event will also give voice to about twenty local artists from North America including California-based dancer Mythili Prakash, protégé of Viji Prakash. Under the directorial auspices of Gowri Ramnarayan, Prakash will perform Yashodhara, the journey and inner evolution of the abandoned wife of the Buddha on April 12. On April 13 Prakash will also perform in Sarpa Sutra an allegorical revenge cycle from the Mahabharata.

Other local dancers and winners or runner ups from CTF who are due to perform are Divya Devaguptapu and Suman Nayak. San Diego based Revathi Subramanian and  Venkatachalam will also showcase their students at the festival.

April 8-April 13. David and Dorothea Garfield Theater, 4126 Executive Dr., La Jolla. Time varies by day. $40-$25. http://www.indianfinearts.org/concerts/festival-all-events.

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