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SanKritiLaya started organically in 2008, nestled within the homes of music lovers. “It all started with artists staying with us while they were on tour. We met several artists who couldn’t make it on their own on a tour in the United States,” explains Viji Mani, Treasurer of SanKritiLaya. Mani and her husband, Mahalingam Mani, SanKritiLaya’s President, began exploring ways to help Indian musicians arrange tour logistics, book shows, and develop publicity. “We weren’t into hosting concerts locally. We thought we would just be tour sponsors. But we found some trouble placing artists with local organizations.”
It was at that juncture that Mani and her husband developed the model that drives their non-profit today. “We wanted to focus on up-and-coming artists. But how could we make that viable?” asks Mani. The answer was to develop a concert series that focuses on both famous and up-and-coming musicians. Concerts are scheduled in twos, with a famous artist headlining one concert to attract crowds and another concert featuring promising musicians bolstered by well-known musical accompanists. Ticket holders get the benefit of both, experiencing musicians they know and love as well as watching high-caliber artists they’re unfamiliar with. The model has taken root. Starting in 2011, SanKritiLaya had their first full year of operation. “We go the extra mile to host all the artists we can bring” adds Mani. And the crowds have been showing their support.
“Our main thanks goes to Jayashree Varadarajan. She was our main supporter and instrumental in getting our membership. She’s one who quietly goes behind the scenes supporting what we do.” With Varadarajan’s support, SanKritiLaya blossomed to 250 members last year and anticipates continued growth in membership this year. “It is all spread by word of mouth. We started by recommending upcoming artists. And then the artists started calling us.” For the spring season of 2012, SanKritiLaya has a special set of concerts scheduled for the end of May and the beginning of June.
On May 26th, SanKritiLaya is co-hosting an instrumental jugalbandhi with Basant Bahar featuring Indrajit Banerjee on sitar, Vidwan Neyveli S. Radhakrishna on double violin, Subrata Bhattacharya on tabla and Somnath Roy on ghatam. Mani explains, “This is a unique program that has never been done before.” Banerjee is a famous Hindustani sitarist within the Maihar gharana. Known for his thoughtful and imaginative compositions, Banerjee is also appreciated for the sweetness of his playing. For the first time in the United States, Banerjee is playing with Radhakrishna. “Radhakrishna custom made the double violin himself. It’s like the Siamese twins of violins.”
A classically trained violinist, Radhakrishna worked for five years with a violin maker in Concord, California, to create an entirely unique double violin. His instrument includes ten strings spread across a treble and bass portion and is played with a combination of violin and cello bows. The resulting sound covers the range of violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Banerjee on sitar and Radhakrishna on a double violin promises to be a novel and electrifying performance. Mani agrees, “We do this because we love this art and we want others to be able to hear this.”
On June 3rd, SanKritiLaya is hosting the vocalist Amritha Murali, a “fabulous person as well as a great artist,” according to Mani, with Dr. Hemalatha on violin and J. Vaidhyanathan on mridangam. “She’s an incredibly promising artist. In the next ten years she will be at the same level as the other artists we feature, given the exposure. Bringing her here and featuring her in our season satisfies our mission.” Murali is currently studying with P. S. Narayanaswamy and has received an abundance of awards, including “Isai Chudar” from Kartik Fine Arts, “Yuva Kala Bharathi” from Bharat Kalachar, as well as an All India Radio National Competition Prize. Celebrated for aesthetic appeal of her voice, she’s also appreciated for her adherence to classical values.
“I grew up with art and am passionate about it. My husband and I, with Mani Subramaniyan, of SanKritiLaya, are like-minded individuals. We don’t mind putting time out of our lives to do this.” The heart and passion Mani brings to SanKritiLaya is palpable as well as contagious. SanKritiLaya is run entirely by volunteers, and all proceeds are directed back to the artists the organization supports. “We’re passionate about every single artist we support. And we encourage others to come to our concerts and support our artists as well” concludes Mani.
May 26, 5:30 p.m. Instrumental – north/south jugalbandhi Vidwan Indrajit Banerjee (sitar),
Vidwan Neyveli S. Radhakrishna (double violin) June 3, 4 p.m. Vidushi Amritha Murali, Vidushi Dr. Hemalatha(violin), Vidwan J. Vaidhyanathan (mridangam.) Jain Temple, 722 S. Main Street, Milpitas.
www.sankritilaya.org. Tickets: $25, $20.