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Exploring new forms and a ‘western gharana’ – Saudha’s two-day music festival

Exploring new forms and a ‘western gharana’ – Saudha’s two-day music festival

February 11 2015

Searching for a new type of synthesis and widening the popularity of the Indian classical arts are two of this organisation’s aims as it kicks off its programme for 2015…

HUMBLE it may have been in its origins but few could deny its ambitions are as lofty and noble as they come.

Saudha, Society of Indian poetry and music, is hosting a special two-day festival of Ghazals and Thumri, starting this Saturday (February 14).

Billed as a Valentine’s treat, as well as musicians of both genres performing over the two evenings, as is customary with Saudha, there will be also be poetry and recitals.

Both performances take place a few short miles apart, on Saturday at the Morden Assembly Hall and on Sunday at Raynes Park Library Hall, in South London.

From its inception three years ago, and the idea of librarian and poet Ahmed Kaysher and singer and librarian Chandra Chakraborty, the society has grown in stature and repute, capping off a successful 2014 with a performance at the Southbank, one of the country’s premier classical music venues.

Chakraborty, who has recorded several albums as a classical Hindustani singer, also performed at last year’s Darbar Festival – the country’s largest and best known Indian classical musical festival, which routinely plays host to some of the genre’s biggest figures.

Kaysher, founder and co-director, now sees Saudha’s cultural activities as a fully-fledged ‘campaign’. Created to bring the classical Indian arts closer together, it has found receptive audiences for its mix of music, dance and poetry and harks back to an age when all three grew out of a shared heritage.

Kaysher told www.asianculturevulture.com: “We are in a campaign to create a new audience for Indian classical and semi-classical music in the West through as many artistic means and experiments as possible.

“This festival will help us connect with a bigger audience because of the widespread popularity and extremely melodious nature of Ghazals and Thumri as the form of music.”

Both Ghazals and Thumri – a style of music that celebrates the exploits of the Hindu deity, Lord Krishna – are less austere than some strands of Indian classical music.

It has always been Saudha’s intention to break down barriers and widen access and reach out to communities who have little to no experience of Indian classic music.

Inviting poets – who often wrote in English but reminisced about distant lands and other cultures – to perform their work aided this development and set Saudha apart from other similar organisations dedicated to music or dance. Indeed, it is rare to find a group that believes in dance and music going together, both with individual performances and collaborative efforts.

“We are are actively engaged in a diverse range of seamless fusion with Western and world music, as well as other relevant art forms without compromising their purity,” added Kaysher.

The softly-spoken Kaysher, who originates from Bangladesh, is not shy about the organisation’s unfolding vision and ambition.

In the sub-continent, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was common for musicians and families of musicians to develop their own distinctive sound, tradition and ideologies. These came to be known as ‘gharanas’ and were often associated with towns from which they originated – Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur, to name just three.

“We actually believe we can formulate a version of ‘western gharana’ of Indian classical music – that was actually the vision that motivated us from day one,” he told us.

Saudha has hosted performances all over the country and continues to expand its venue bases. It hopes to return to the Southbank Centre this year and host a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Playing on Saturday are Chandra Chakraborty; Mehboob Nadeem, sitarist and ghazal singer; semi-classical vocalist Farzana Sifat, and another ghazal specialist Dr Priya Bhagawat. Among the musicians are Yousuf Ali Khan on tabla and
Sunil Jadhav on keyboard. Erik Schelander will be among the poets/reciters.

Sunday sees a similar arrangement of singers and they will be joined by Abu Emran on keyboard and pianist, Niloy Amin. Among the poets performing are Ziba Karabassi, Mir Mahfuz Ali, David Lee, Shaila Simi.

The performances are supported by London Borough of Merton and Merton Library Services.

Picture: Chandra Chakraborty (centre)

Tickets are £5 and for more information/booking, please see http://www.saudha.org/news-events.php?view=event19

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture