Door Dog Music Productions presents the world premiere of “The Epic Project: Madmen, Heroines, and Bards from Around the World” as part of the acclaimed San Francisco World Music Festival. Live music commissions of many of the world’s oldest epic stories will be performed over four days by renowned masters representing India, Burma, Azerbaijan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Taiwan, Africa, and Tibet, with each of the four days taking a different theme. The first day is designed for youth, focusing on schools of the Bay Area and featuring master musicians, and includes members of the festival’s Youth Orchestra. The second day of the festival is titled “Mad Men and Epic Heroes,” featuring tabla master Swapan Chaudhuri and music and chants from Krgyzstan. The third day will focus on “Heroines,” with four international female master singers. And the last day will highlight epic “Bards,” with Karnatik master Anuradha Sridhar, a renowned Chinese musician, and a multigenerational orchestra.
“People really see the essence of these traditions in their classical renderings,” says music director Jim Santi Owen. “If you let everybody do their thing in the most authentic way, that’s where you find the threads to weave this musical tapestry.”
Highly respected tabla player and teacher Chaudhuri will be accompanied by his students. “I wanted to perform with the younger kids because they are the people who are going to hold the flag later on,” he says. His performance will mark his 30th anniversary of teaching in the Bay Area. Having started playing the tabla at the age of 5, Chaudhuri’s musical expertise is steadfastly rooted in tradition, however, he has collaborated with many musicians, from jazz to popular artists. As well as performing a solo piece from the “Ramayana” epic, Chaudhuri will share the stage with other international maestros for whom he has composed music to be improvised upon in each player’s own cultural style.
The lifetime achievement and teachings of Sridhar will be honored in “Bards,” a celebration of those who have committed their lives to memorizing and telling epics, safeguarding their traditions and culture. The evening will celebrate Sridhar’s mastery as a performer and her unfaltering commitment to the preservation and promotion of Karnatikmusic. She will perform the South Indian epic “Silappatikaram,” the story of a powerful and chaste wife’s devotion to her husband and their triumph over injustice, incorporating complicated rhythmic structures and skillful improvisation.
“This epic is very ancient and we have beautiful literature written about the story, which happened probably in the 2nd century,” she says. “I am going to take certain verses from there and then I’m going to tune it to depict various moods and emotions that are in the story.”
Students from Sridhar’s Trinity School of Music will join her and other international performers, playing a variety of instruments and singing in a host of foreign languages, “to interact with an African singer or someone from Tibet or Taiwan. That is really amazing to give that opportunity to a 10-year-old …. It is priceless,” Sridhar says.
Just as epics have been preserved orally and passed down through the ages, the “Epic Project” aims to preserve the musical techniques, skills, and repertoire that make up our cultural heritage through sharing performances and teaching students at the highest level.
“It is our global inheritance, to inherit these songs, these rhythms and patterns, melodies. We’re trying to raise citizens of the global world,” says Owen.
Chaudhuri acknowledges the task. “I am trying my level best to preserve tradition because that’s how you identify later who you are. To maintain that, that’s our strength, our culture,” he says.
Thursday, Oct. 27–Sunday, Oct. 30. Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California St., San Francisco, 94118. $20; seniors over 60 and children under 12 free. (415) 561-6571, (415) 292-1233.[email protected]. www.sfworldmusicfestival.org.