The Raga Samay Festival is the first 24-hour concert of Hindustani (North Indian) classical music to take place in the Western Hemisphere in decades. On April 6 and 7, 2013, ten soloists from India, Pakistan, and the US will perform fifteen consecutive concerts, each improvised within a raga (melodic system) traditionally reserved for that time of day or night. The festival will include vocal solo performances accompanied by tabla and harmonium, instrumental solo performances accompanied by tabla, and instrumental jugalbandi (duets), along with other activities that will add to the enjoyment and understanding of novices and experts alike. Highlights include:
- sunset performances by top vocalists Arati Ankalikar and Kaivalyakumar Guruv
- a unique sunrise duet dedicated to the memory of Pt. Ravi Shankar, featuring santoor maestro Tarun Bhattacharya (his student) and mandolin virtuoso Snehasish Mozumder (who performed with his ensemble)
- a midnight sarod solo by Alam Khan, American-born heir to a legendary family of Indian musicians
- a noon performance on flute from Steve Gorn, jazz saxophonist turned bansuri adept
- Kala Ramnath’s famous “singing violin”
- the versatile Nayan Ghosh, one of the few masters of both sitar and tabla
- concerts by two world-class Philadelphia-area artists: vocalist Sanhita Nandi and sitarist Allyn Miner
- Philadelphia’s first screening of “Play Like a Lion: The Legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan”
- a panel discussion on “Keeping Time: Ragas in Contemporary Settings”
Hindustani music is improvised according to more than 150 ragas, each made up of a specific set of notes and a set of rules for combining them. Since this music developed in royal palaces where a performance might be desired at any moment, the Raga Samay Chakra (raga time cycle) includes music for each time of the day and night. You don’t have to be royalty to enjoy Indian classical music today, but since most concerts take place in the evening, you’ll rarely hear late-night and morning ragas at their traditional times. Even in India, 24-hour festivals are becoming less common and the Raga Samay Festival is probably the only chance most Americans will ever have to attend one.
Types of performances
You’ll hear three kinds of performances at the Raga Samay Festival.
Vocal performances, accompanied by harmonium (a small reed organ), tabla (tuned hand drums), and tanpura (a droning sound and the name of the stringed instrument that originally produced it; now usually produced by an electronic device that doesn’t require an extra musician). There are several types of vocal music in the Hindustani tradition, including the khyal which you will hear at the Raga Samay Festival.
Solo instrumental performances , accompanied by tabla and tanpura. Instruments represented at the festival include sitar, sarod, santoor, bansuri, tabla, violin and mandolin.
Jugalbandi (duets) with two instrumentalists improvising together on an equal footing, accompanied by tabla and tanpura.
Please click here for a more detailed explanation of Hindustani classical music, including photos and audio.