Weekender

Happy Valley Indian Music Festival celebrates Indian classical music

Preetha Narayanaswamy will play the Saraswati veena, a stringed instrument from India, during the Happy Valley Indian Music Festival’s opening night Friday.
Preetha Narayanaswamy will play the Saraswati veena, a stringed instrument from India, during the Happy Valley Indian Music Festival’s opening night Friday. Photo provided

The Happy Valley Indian Music Festival, hosted by the Society for Indian Music and Arts at Penn State, will showcase classical Indian music and traditions March 25-27 at the Flex Theater.

“The intent behind the music is to communicate human experience ... what we’re trying to do is to try and allow people to access something that is very human. Something that’s beyond a culture and a language,” said Arijit Mahalanabis, founder of the organization. Mahalanabis is a New Delhi native who grew up in State College and a community adviser for the Penn State group.

What we’re trying to do is to try and allow people to access something that is very human.

Arijit Mahalanabis, founder of the Society for Indian Music and Arts at Penn State

Each tradition shown during the three-day festival will be performed by a variety of acclaimed Indian and Indian American artists.

On March 25, the festival will focus on a classical music style from Northern India known as Dhrupad as well as Carnatic music, which is a tradition native to the south of the continent.

March 26 will focus on the northern traditions known as Khayal and Thumri, both of which tend to put an emphasis on romantic lyrical composition and jazz-like improvisation.

The festival will conclude with performances on the sarod, an Indian lute, and the sitar, a plucked string instrument found across most forms of classical Indian music. Artists Soumya Chakraverty and Abhik Mukherjee will play the sarod and sitar, respectively.

“We try to propagate art forms that have existed for hundreds of years in India but are slowly losing their currency because of pop culture,” Mahalanabis said.

SIMA began in 2007. Back then, Mahalanabis’ group was based out of Seattle. But Mahalanabis grew up in State College, and in 2015, after having lived in Seattle for 15 years, he returned to Centre County hoping to bring Indian arts and culture to the region.

“We are dedicated to propagating and diffusing the Indian classical arts,” said SIMA president Sayali Phadke, a Mumbai native.

Phadke explained that this and many other events SIMA hosts have been made possible with the help of Penn State’s efforts to invest in multicultural programs.

“This year, we will have three to four senior artists who are traveling all the way from India,” Phadke said. “We will also have local instrumental performances… and workshops.”

According to Phadke, the organization hopes it can hold a student conference similar to the one it held last year, which focused on student performances and the sharing of knowledge.

Mahalanabis explained that the inspiration for this event came from a festival his organization held in Seattle called “Ashta Prahar” which means “eight segments” in Sanskrit. The festival was a 24-hour event in which various types of classical Indian music were performed.

Mahalanabis hopes to bring the Ashta Prahar festival to the community at Penn State and Centre County. However, he believes the community needs to be introduced and slowly developed in order to host such an event.

The traditions performed at the festival have been influenced by sources outside of the subcontinent as well. According to Mahalanabis, German and British Missionaries in the 18th century brought instruments with them, such as the harmonium, which were later adapted into the Indian arts and culture.

The occupation of northern India by the Mughal empire in the 16th also brought about new traditions that reshaped classical music.

The event will be open to general and student audiences. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

IF YOU GO

  • What: Happy Valley Indian Music Festival
  • When: 7 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. March 25-26 and 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 27
  • Where: Flex Theater, University Park
  • Info: societyforindianmusicandarts.org/happy-valley-indian-music-festival-2016/
  Comments