Themes of Democracy through music

I had the pridvilge to listen to the disciples of 2 amazing classical Indian music masters. Here is the link to the article I wrote on this and below is the text.

Embodying themes of Indian democracy, liberty and justice through music

Two disciples of world renounced classical artists Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia performed at the Embassy of India in a soulful musical event called the “Colors of Breath” on April 29. The concert by Deepak Ram and Anirudh Changkakoti embodied the themes of Indian democracy through music.

The themes of liberty, justice, equality and fraternity were performed by Ram, a disciple of Chaurasia, on the basauri. He was accompanied on tabla by Changkakoti, a budding young artist and disciple of Hussain.

The basuri , a classical Indian flute made out of bamboo ,is a very soulful instrument, especially when played by a seasoned musician. Playing the raags Upali, Jhinjhoti, and the Carnatic Raag Kirwani, Ram was able to evoke the themes of Indian democracy using the meditative sounds of the bansuri.

Raags have their own beat and pace, creating a distinct mood with each change in Raag. While the basuri was soothing and peaceful, the tabla was energizing and uplifting, offering a perfect balance to the powerful performance. Though young in years, Changkakoti showed that his talent and training are on par with the most seasoned musicians. His hands move to a pace that the eyes can’t keep up, producing an invigorating sound.

The performance was without any practice, in an unscripted manner, where both musicians were just speaking the language of music with each other, and delivering a mesmerizing sound in perfect harmony. While listening, it was clear that Ram is extremely talented and his maturity flow through his music. Though still young, it’s evident that Changkakoti has a successful career in music, and with his talent, truly the sky is the limit for this amazing artist.

Ram has lived in several countries and has toured the world performing his melodious music. A local to the Washington, DC, area now, he has composed eight albums and performed in dozens more. In addition to his training on the basuri, he is also a tabla player and vocalist, and teaches music theory.

Changkakoti is currently a college student at James Madison University. He started playing the tabla at the age of 3. In his young career, he has played at a number of prestigious venues, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Over the last 6 years, he has been training under the watchful eye of Zakir Hussain.


Grammy Winning Performace

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to mesmerizing classical Indian music in a very traditional form called Jugalbandi – where there is a free form of play between the musicians.  The performance was lead by Grammy Award winning musician Pandit Viswas Mohan Bhatt.  It was a moving performance in a very intimate setting where the audience and musicians were almost interacting with each other. It was an amazing expriance that I will not forget soon.   Here is the link to the article I wrote about it – Grammy Winning Performance  Below is the text from the article.

WASHINGTON, DC: Grammy-winning veena maestro Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and violinist H.N. Bhaskar, who are currently touring the United States, mesmerized the audience with a masterful jugalbandi performance at the Embassy of India in Washington, DC, on April 6. The two prominent Indian musicians were accompanied by local classically trained musicians.

“Raag, Rhythm and Repartee: A Musical Evening of ‘Jugalbandi,’” was hosted by the embassy, under its “Performing India Series,” which showcases various Indian performing arts.

Jugalbandi, in which there is no rehearsal, sheet of music, or script, is freeform playing of music based on the raag selected by the musicians and conversation is carried between them. This is a very difficult form of playing music and requires highly trained musicians to make the final product successful.  At the event, the musicians selected Raag Yaman Kalyan as the raag for the evening.

Bhatt, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar and an accomplished musician and composer, played an instrument he created called the Mohan Veena.  The Mohan Veena is a modified guitar with influences of a sitar, sarod, and veena in both physical resemblance, as well as in technique of playing the instrument.

The evening started out with soft, slow tones; however the music quickly took on an exciting pitch.  The chemistry between the musicians was electrifying and as the evening progressed, it was clear that the musicians were enjoying playing together, just as much as the audience was enjoying hearing this soulful music.

There was a flawless interaction between the musicians all playing their own unscripted music, yet creating one energizing sound, that can only come from highly evolved artists.  The intimate setting at the Embassy allowed the audience and the musicians to interact in symbolic manner, only enhancing the experience for all present.  It was as much a treat to watch, as it was to hear such great music being performed.  The evening ended with a few well know bhajans by the artist and by the playing of the Indian national anthem.

The musicians were honored with a roar of applause and a standing ovation, with which they flowed up with a small encore presentation. This was a world class event with world class artists that carry the torch of Indian classical music to this century.

Bhaskar, a prominent Violinist and composer , who first performed at the age of 8, has played at many famous venues including Carnegie Hall and Sydney Oprea House.  He is the receipt of many awards and has composed music for movies.

The three local artists, Krishna Ramdas on the tabla, Vijay Ganesh on the mridangam, and Sowmiya Narayanan on the ghatam, are all highly trained musicians playing very traditional Indian instruments.
Daily Post – Music

Cricket and Politics

Recently the Indian Prime Minister had visited DC for the Nuclear Security Summit. I had the opportunity to meet him outside the iconic Willard Hotel. Here is a link to an article I wrote about this event. Indian PM in America Below it the text of the article.

Even though many Indians have migrated through the world, their heart is still in India. That was exemplified on this Thursday morning as a group of Indian Americans gathered outside the iconic Willard Hotel, right across from the White House to meet the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who was in Washington, DC to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. Given that it was a working day, people had taken off work and started lining up outside the hotel as early as 7am to get a good view of the PM who came out for a few minutes to meet the supporters. Since there are many heads of state in town for the summit and the proximity the White House there was tight security around the hotel, with many streets in the immediate vicinity closed off to cars and pedestrians. However none of this seemed to be a deterrent for crowd that had assembled or the large media presence, both from India as well as local Indian media outlets.

Ever since his first trip to the US almost 2 years ago, Mr. Modi seems to get a rock star’s welcome in the US. During this first visit he spoke to a packed house at Madison Square Garden in New York and received an equally warm reception as he arrived in Washington DC. It was no different on this breezy Thursday morning where the mood was almost festive as the crowd eagerly awaited the PM’s arrival. There was chatting of “Modi” and “Vande Matram” with trirangs waving outside the Willard Hotel. Clearly Narendra Modi has struck a chord with American Indians. He’s been the face of change in India and has made efforts to put India on the map as a global and economic player on the world stage. This has resonated with Indians overseas that have left India, in some cases decades ago, but still want to see their motherland progress into the future. As true Indians, during the wait, many passionate cricket fans were streaming the India vs. Sri Lanka semi final cricket match and discussing the state of politics both in India as well as America with reporters.

Even in a short time, Mr. Modi has a way of connecting with a crowd. The In the few minutes he was outside the Willard, he made his way through crowd, making and effort to shake hands with as many people has he could reach. His raising from humble roots and his desire to bring about change has given him a huge fan following overseas. He has given Indians around the world a hope that India can live up the its highest potential and gain a seat on the world stage. It was a pleasure meeting such an energizing Prime Minister with a message of hope and progress. Weather it is politics or cricket, no matter what part of the world they live in, an India will always bleed blue.



South Asian Legislative Night

Last week I had the privilege to attend the South Asian Legislative Night in the Maryland General Assembly.  This event was hosted by Indian American members of the Maryland House of Delegates and was attended by many members of the Maryland General Assembly, the Ambassador of India, and representatives from Nepal.  The purpose of this event was to bring the South Asian Community together, especially in this election year.

To read more about this event, please follow the link to the article I wrote on this event for an Indian-American news source.