Ragamalika, an institution established by Asha Ramesh to promote Karnatik music, is gearing up to celebrate its 20th anniversary by staging a production of Alankritham. The daylong event will feature several musical presentations that will help first-timers and seasoned connoisseurs enjoy many facets of Indian classical music at its best.
Alankritham literally means “ornamentation” and the musicians will show aspects of embellishment inherent in the musical form. “The whole musical presentation will showcase the school’s 20-year journey, and will feature 45 students of the school. The study of Indian classical music demands rigorous discipline, and the students will present their maturing prowess and musical ability through the various songs. The younger students will show their command of the traditional repertoire while the older students will have an opportunity to show their prowess in kalpana, the highest goal for any aspiring musician,” says Asha Ramesh, Artistic Director, Ragamalika. Asha Ramesh is a stellar musician whose early training under renowned gurus Nanganallur Ramanathan and D K Jayaraman helped her develop a passion and a penchant for excellence that she has endeavored to transmit to her students.
The program is presented in three sections, in the first, young students of the school present the musical format of the varnam, showcasing the musical ornamentation that can be explored here. They then present their prowess in manodharma or creative exploration by singing krithis composed by the famed trinity of composers-—Thyagaraja, Dikshithar and Syama Sastri. These compositions are about 150 years old, and continue to take center stage in Karnatik music concerts, since they have great lyrical and musical complexity that can be improved upon by succeeding generations of musicians. A musical presentation by senior students celebrating the universality of various musical forms from around the world is next on the agenda. “Music is a form of spontaneous worship in every world religion, and this piece in various genres of world music will bring that truth home to the audience,” says Asha with conviction.
The highlight of the evening will be a presentation by Asha, featuring songs strung together in various ragas, a tribute to the name of her institution, Ragamalika. Every raga in the Karnatik system has a musical scale, with a corresponding melody evoking a range of emotions in listeners, and this finale will help audiences experience a whole range of emotions through melodies sung in a strictly classical tradition.
This 20th year musical celebration celebrates a phenomenon that needs to be applauded—first-generation immigrant artists like Asha have carried on a centuries-old musical tradition with dedication, helping the next generation of students to take pride in their artistic heritage. Asha adds, “Once the student has mastered the technique, then, the challenge is to go deeper into the tradition, using the vertical dimension for artistic exploration.” The 20th year celebration of Ragamalika will indeed showcase the breadth and depth inherent in Indian classical musical compositions.
Saturday, June 16, 1 p.m. McAfee Theatre, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Avenue, Saratoga. $20. (408) 274-3241, (408) 253-2816, (408) 255-8526.