MAJOR DRAW: This year’s festival will feature a specially commissioned dance
THE annual IndianRaga festival returns for another action-packed edition at The Bhavan Centre in London on October 2.
The brainchild of US-based Sriram Emani is driven by the vision of bridging the classical arts with popular forms to engage the next generation. That drive to make classical heritage relevant to the youth has resulted in a festival filled with music and dance featuring new talent, acclaimed maestros, masterclasses and specially commissioned pieces.
Eastern Eye caught up with festival director Meera Vinay to find out more.
Tell us about the IndianRaga festival?
IndianRaga Festival 2021 is a celebration of music and dance and a delightful experience for cultural aficionados. It’s the biggest platform for Indian classical music and dance with more than 100 million views on YouTube. We take pride in supporting more than 3,000 artists in 60 cities globally. The IndianRaga Festival’s first edition attracted more than 10,000 people online and over 500 people attending the immersive festival in person.
What can we expect this year?
This year’s event, supported and funded by the Arts Council England, will see unique music and dance productions created by UK-based artists guided by maestros and award-winning choreographers, such as Sujata Banerjee MBE, Chitraleka Bolar, Divya Ravi, Vamshi Krishna Vishnudas, Prathap Ramachandra, along with IndianRaga fellows Mahesh Raghvan, Chiinthu Sarvan and Eshani Sathe. A specially commissioned dance Samaja Vara, conceptualised and performed by Ashwini Deshpande, Pranita Chaudhary, Anaya Vasudha Bolar and Ami Jayakrishnan, will be showcased at the festival.
Tell us about the musical element?
There will be three unique musical performances featuring Apurna Jeggannathen, an oncologist by profession who plays the veena. Denis Kucherov will play the hand-pan drum and tabla. Both their works were produced as part of Raga Jam 2020, a series of special productions conceptualised and filmed during the pandemic. Finally, accomplished violinist Balu Raghuraman will enthral audiences with a jugalbandi featuring some rare ragas.
Tell us about the masterclasses?
IndianRaga Festival 2021 will feature career-defining masterclasses by Chitraleka Bolar, Sujata Banerjee and Rekesh Chauhan, as well as IndianRaga producer Mahesh Raghvan, who are renowned globally for their rich contributions to Indian and western classical art forms.
What is the biggest challenge of organising this year’s festival?
Uncertainty! There is a looming anxiety of curating and hosting this year’s festival. There are so many factors to consider, like Covid, isolating and government guidelines. Luckily, we have excellent support from the venue people who have helped ease our fears by being very proactive and putting adequate safety measures in place. The IndianRaga team has been planning meticulously and considering every eventuality. There are challenges but thinking up solutions ahead of time has helped immensely.
Is there one highlight you are looking forward to at the festival?
Artists thrive by collaborating with other creative people. This year’s festival, like every other IndianRaga Festival, will be a catalyst for creativity, exchanging of ideas and providing that high-quality platform where they can thrive without any bias or discrimination. I am so looking forward to curating and hosting this beautiful event, which will bring people together.
How important is it to keep classical Indian cultural traditions alive?
It’s a deep sense of responsibility and a legacy that needs to be passed on to the next generation. This can only happen when custodians of such cultural nuances speak to the youth in a language and medium they can relate to.
Why should we attend this year’s IndianRaga festival?
IndianRaga Festival this year is a sincere endeavour to bridge the gap between artists and audience who cherish classical arts closer than ever before. The UK arts sector has seen an unprecedented level of despair during the pandemic. This festival is a step in the right direction to bring more joy into people’s lives, infusing that sense of confidence for artists to collaborate and perform on stage, in real time.