And now for something completely different in La Jolla … Carnatic Music
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
When you think of Indian music, you probably think of the sitar, and the intricate beat of the tabla, the drum that accompanies it. This is Hindustani music, from the north of India, first popularized in the West half a century ago by Ravi Shankar. But the Indian Music & Dance Festival in his honor that’s coming to La Jolla’s Jewish Community Center April 13-17 will feature a different kind of Indian classical music. It’s a form that only recently started attracting Western attention — Carnatic music, from the southern part of the subcontinent.
Though both forms are largely improvisational, Carnatic music includes more singing, and lacks the Persian and Islamic influences of northern music. Also — surprisingly — one of its featured instruments is the violin.
The 4th annual festival, celebrating Ravi Shankar’s 91st birthday, includes
five days of events, beginning with a musical workshop/demonstration Wednesday evening. As always, the festival is produced by IFAASD, the Indian Fine Arts Academy of San Diego, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Indian classical music.
Most of the artists will be coming from India, and most of the festival’s attendees will be members of San Diego’s large Indian community. But IFAASD board member Divya Devaguptapu said that everyone will find plenty to enjoy in the concerts. “We’d like to attract as diverse an audience as possible, because we’re showcasing so many different and wonderful artists, all top in their fields,” she said.
If you want to choose just one concert, consider the Friday night performance of the great vocalist M. Balamuralikrishna, who is famous worldwide not only for his mesmerizing voice, but also for his numerous compositions, and his consummate musicianship on drums, violin, and viola. A recipient of many honors, he is the only Carnatic musician to be awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
But Ganesh/Kumaresh, Saturday night’s dynamic duo of violin-playing brothers, are said to be fantastic, too.
And what would a festival honoring Ravi Shankar be without the presence of the honoree, who still lives part of the year in Encinitas? He’ll be there on Saturday evening at 6:30, at a special ceremony honoring living legends that will also include M. Balamuralikrishna. No music at this one, but a chance to see the great man in person.
Last but not least: Another festival attraction is the food. Each event will feature tasty vegetarian dishes from a different region of India, prepared by volunteers and local restaurants. Come early, for a real taste of India before the music starts.
If you go
What: Indian Music & Dance Festival
When: April 13-17
Where: Garfield Theatre, JCC, 4126 Executive Dr., La Jolla
Tickets: From $25
Opening ceremony: 7-10 p.m. Thursday, April 14, with Shashank, a bamboo flute player known for his distinctive technique and nominated for a Grammy in 2009, accompanied by violin and mrindigam
• Friday, April 15, 7-10 p.m. M. Balamuralikrishna: Legendary vocalist performs with chitravina player Ravikiran, who combines classical Indian melodic principles with Western harmonics, and collaborates with musicians around the world. They’ll be accompanied by violin, mrindigam, and ghatam.
• Saturday, April 16, 7:30-10:30 p.m. Ganesh/Kumaresh: Internationally hailed violinists with an innovative approach to Indian classical music, who have also composed film scores. They’ll be accompanied by thavil and mrindigam.
• Sunday, April 17, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Lavanya Ananth: One of the leading exponents of the dance form called Bharathanatyam, this award-winning artist presents her performance as a soulful offering.
Carnatic Music Glossary
Bansuri: Bamboo flute
Chitravina: 21-stringed instrument, somewhat like a lute
Mridangam, Thavil, and Ghatam (musical clay pot): Different types of drums
Bharathanatyam: Form of dance originally performed in ancient Hindu temples
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