Friday, September 28, 2012

Indian Classical Music Festival in Los Angeles

In an era of head banging Bollywood remixes the profound, transcendental nuances offered by Hindustani classical music can never fade away. Audiences eager to experience the doyens of Indian classical music will not be disappointed with the upcoming and one of a kind all day festival entitled Raga Spirit 2012.

Film maker Gita Desai who won acclaim for her comprehensive documentaries Raga Unveiled and Yoga Unveiled along with Irvine based Ektaa Center’s President and Executive Director Harish Murthy are fusing arts with academia as they unify their efforts with the support of the Department of Ethnomusicology within the Herb Alpert School of Music at the University of California, Los Angles (UCLA).

Pandit Vijay Kichlu
Honorary coordinator Pt.Vijay Kichlu who has committed his life to preserving the traditions of classical music will inaugurate the festival. Now in his 80s, Kichlu is traveling a great distance to simply support the purist ideology and “love for an authentic cause” he shares with Desai.

The first presentation of the morning begins with Thumri Ki Kahani, a lecture-demonstration symposium by Kichlu who will guide the audience through the style’s romantic and evolutionary journey. In terms of classical vocal forms, thumri has been labeled as semi-classical by orthodox followers of classical styles, as the beauty of the composition often overrides the mechanic perfection of ragas.

Kichlu will also present rare recordings of the earliest thumri composers and the “greatest thumri performances.” He serves as executive director of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy, a classical music academy that possesses a rich and priceless collection of music in its archives built up over half a century.

With ease and grace, Kichlu has laced together the presentation of two gharanas of thumri called Poorab Ang and Punjab Ang. Live recitals of the different schools will be contrasted and interspersed during the lecture which will be presented by accomplished vocalists Sanjukta Biswas and Shantanu Bhattacharyya who are accompanied by Durba Bhattacharyya (harmonium).

Aruna Sairam
Each session’s design and musician selection by Kichlu is likened by Desai as a work of art “where every flower grows in the right place, with lots of love and humor.” Kichlu afforded the same reverence for each performer he personally selected with Desai’s consultation, categorizing them as the “finest that our country has.”

In the afternoon session, an array of instruments and vocal choices representing Hindustani styles are synthesized with tabla artists Samar Saha and Calcutta’s Arup Chatterjee, Durba Bhattacharyya (harmonium) and Debashish Bath (slide guitar).

The evening performances feature a juglabandi duet with Tejendra Majumdar (sarod) and Kushal Das (sitar) and Subhanker Banerjee (tabla). Karnatik vocalist Aruna Sairam will be accompanied by H.N. Bhaskar (violin) and Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam).

The evening will end with vocalist brothers Rajan and Sajan Mishra and their accompanists.
Rajan & Sajan Mishra

Thoughts on the state of Indian classical music were expanded by Kichlu, who called it a “marvelous blend of academics, science and artistry.” He is wary of modern tendencies in music that seeks thrill and excitement created by skill. “Our music is not skill only, it has a deep academic background we call it Raga music, which is not just a scale, it is rules, melodic notes, and the artist’s inner condition.”

On the idea for the festival, Desai was partly inspired by the total immersion festivals people experience in India which are “common in Indian pockets such as Madras and Calcutta and often stretch as long as 10 days.”

Attendees “soak themselves till late night as the festivals begin with new comers and end with the very best.” Such an experience is like a “yatra and pilgrimage of the arts” says Desai.

Murthy, who is also keen on establishing the festival as a tradition in Los Angeles understands the complexities, “this is an introductory effort in Los Angeles, and we must take into consideration, the audience here.”

Murthy encourages lovers of world and Indian music to come and enjoy “the finest exposition of Indian classical music, vocal and instrumental where one can garner awareness and understanding of the different styles and genres of Indian music.”

Saturday October 20. 9:30 A.M. – 12:30 A.M. Ucla Schoenberg Hall, 445 Charles E. Young Drive East, Los Angeles. Tickets: All Day Concert Series Passes: $60-$125, Individual Concerts: $15-$35.Www.Ragaspirit. Com, ektaacenter.Org.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Yoga Gives Back

10 Children supported by YGB
Just $25 can buy a Justin Bieber “Boyfriend” t-shirt for the average American, but for India’s destitute, the very amount is a path to transformation from poverty to hope manifested through collateral free micro-credit programs and education funds initiated by an unexpected source, the Los Angeles based organization Yoga Gives Back (YGB).

YGB will hold its second global event called “Thank You Mother India,” which is a call to action within the universal yoga community to repay India for affording the ancient gift of yoga to millions world-wide. Spearheaded by founder Kayoko Mitsumatsu in 2007, the organization realized the potential of the six billion dollars per year yoga industry, to help the poorest people in the world.

Mitsumatsu and her small troop of volunteers diligently worked to assemble nearly 100 yoga studios in 14 countries including Belgium, Portugal, Singapore and others to host a special class this September. Mitsumatsu’s credo “for the cost of one yoga class you can change a life,” resonated through grass-root ambassadors or teachers from various yoga studios. The ambassadors will offer the proceeds from the donation sessions to YGB which works with local NGO partners in India to fund struggling women with little access to capital.

Kayoko Mitsumatsu
Women are the bulk recipients for such micro loans as YGB research shows that they “are more likely to use the profits from their businesses, not just to feed their families, but to improve their families’ nutrition and living conditions, as well as to send their children to school thereby giving the next generation a much better chance to climb out of poverty.”

YGB’s inspiration is drawn from Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus’ revolutionary micro financing breakthrough in Bangladesh. YGB began by supporting micro-loan programs in India and partnered with the Grameen Foundation USA.

By 2010, in addition to supporting the Grameen Foundation, YGB sought to build direct relationships with its fund recipients, and developed a direct funding program called “Sister Aid” with NISHTHA in West Bengal and Deenabandhu in Karnataka which provide educational, vocational training and micro-credit programs to help ailing women and children in India build sustainable lives.

Mitsumatsu recalled her visits with one such recipient named Jayshree in Bangalore, who lived in a one room house with her husband Ramo and two children. Jayshree recently qualified for her fourth loan for Rs. 30,000 (About $550) from YGB affiliates, after successful repayments of her prior loans. The current loan will be fully utilized to pay for medical school for her eldest son who dreams of becoming a dentist.

Back in 2007, Ramo’s rented rickshaw barely provided food for the family. After Jayshree’s discovery of micro-loans through neighbors, she received Rs. 7,000 Which funded the rickshaw business and tripled their income. Jayshree paid back her initial loan in one year and doubled her second loan amount to purchase a sewing machine to make custom bags for clients. With a third loan Jayshree expanded her business to include a snack shop from which she continued her ongoing sewing business.

The average funding commitment is for 5 years and $25 is the usual loan amount to start a business for many recipients, which according to Mitsumatsu has ushered a positive impact in many recipients’ lives. Last year’s fund raiser raised $27,000 with 50 studios participating from 10 countries and resulted in “doubling the number of our fund recipients in India, which is now funding 103 women and children” adds to Mitsumatsu. As an example, Mitsumatsu explained nishtha is now funding 44 mothers with micro loans and 44 daughters with education funds so that they can remain in school.

By the second year, out of the 44 women, 22 women who received the loan in 2011 have reported an income increase of 400% on average. Nearly half of the daughters have remained in school to date. Loan repayments increase chances of new future loans and YGB affiliates are reporting a high success rate of roughly 90% and above in loan payback rates.

This year’s Indian themed fundraiser is geared to raise awareness within the Indian community as well as the local yoga community and aims to raise at least $50,000.

The event will take place at philanthropist Dr. Amarjit Marwah’s 14 acre ranch in Malibu. The evening’s entertainment will feature Kirtan music and Odissi dances by Sharanya Mukhopadhyay and her dance group, dinner, a silent auction, guest speeches and video presentations.

Top yoga celebrity and Mitsumatsu’s trainer and YGB ambassador Jorgen Christiansson who taught Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sting will be in attendance amongst other yoga celebrities and guests.N

Saturday, September 29. 6 P.M.-10 P.M. Pre-buy tickets through www.Yogagivesback.Org/tymi.