july 2009 programmes


friday 10 july 
6.30 pm ‘
Chance Meetings: Kalidasa in Havana’ an illustrated talk by Shanti Pillai

In this presentation Indian-American artist/scholar Shanti Pillai will discuss her work as co-creator of a multicultural adaptation of Kalidasa’s play, Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection, in Havana, Cuba in 2008-09.  The piece was the result of an intensive artistic dialogue between Shanti, a bharatanatyam dancer and contemporary performance artist, and Cuban actor, Alexis Diaz de Villegas.  Performed by two actors and three musicians, this version of Sakuntala moved in and out of different languages and various acting styles.  It was as much an exploration of ways in which principles of Indian theater could be invested into new forms as it was an effort to portray the unlikely cultural juxtapositions that formed a natural and commonsense part of the creators’ everyday life together.   

Shanti will reflect on this creative process from the perspective of both aesthetic and socio-political concerns.  At issue were questions such as how to make something contemporary based on a two thousand year old text, and how to integrate disparate languages and theatrical vocabularies into a work of beauty with few material resources.  These aesthetic concerns were intimately related to matters of broader social import which ranged from the need to become aware of the kinds of readings that Cuban audiences make of cultural difference, to navigating the bureaucratic processes which implement official cultural policy in a socialist system.  All of this was in turn framed by the fraught relations between the United States and Cuba, the broad contradictions of which both enabled the project to take form even as they rendered it a seeming impossibility.  Shanti will illustrate her discussion with images from this unique production.  

Shanti Pillai is an Indian-American artist and academic who has lived and worked in New York, South India, and various places in Latin America.  She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University. She was a Visiting Professor in Global Studies at Sarah Lawrence College, where she taught courses about globalization, identity politics, and performance and later worked as the Resident Director of the Sarah Lawrence College Program in Havana, Cuba.  Beginning in 2009 she will serve as Director of Princeton University’s program in Cuba.  Her academic research interests focus on the globalization of Indian performance and spiritual practices.

She is also a Bharatanatyam dancer receiving her training from Nandini Ramani of Chennai and Priyamvada Sankar of Montreal, both senior disciples of T. Balasaraswati. She is a contemporary performance artist and a modern dancer, performing widely with the dance-theater company el Frente de Danza Independiente in Ecuador.


saturday 18th july 
6.30 pm sarangi recital by Murad Ali

Many years ago Sir Yehudi Menuhin spoke about the sarangi as “not only the authentic and original Indian bowed stringed instrument but the one which most poignantly, and in the hands of Ram Narayan, most revealingly expresses the very soul of Indian feeling and thought.”  

Carved from a single block of tun (red cedar) wood , the sranagi has almost 40 stringsgiving it the timbre and resonance that most closely resembles the human voice. Notoriously difficult to play and tune, the sarangi has traditionally been used primarily for accompanying singers (shadowing the vocalist's improvisations), but in recent times it has become recognised as a solo instrument used for full raga development.

The young sarangi player Murad Ali, who performs this evening is a sixth generation sarangi player, trained under his grandfather Ustad Siddique Ahmad Khan and father Ustad Ghulam Sabir Khan. His ancestors, were all renowned sarangi players, musicologists and gurus of the Moradabad Gharana. 

Murad Ali began his performing career at the age of ten, Murad Ali won the first prize in the All India Radio national music competition held in 1992. An 'A' grade artiste of the All India Radio, he has also been a frequent performer at several music festivals in India and abroad. Including the World Music Festivals in Austria, Holland and France. He  has also performed in England, Germany, Russia, Singapore, Japan, U.S.A. Tunisia, Morocco, South America, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.


friday 17th july
6.30 pm “Subaltern classical - The sounds of the classical little guys through time” An illustrated  talk by Nicholas Hoffland of performances of music by western classical composers through time

For every Bach, Mozart or Haydn, there have been several hundred composers whose body of work did not catch or endear itself to the public imagination. Some who were wildly successful, vanished by different degrees from the public ear and view after their lifetime.   

This talk revisits some of these subalterns of classical music to enjoy their work afresh… to enable them to march alongside the titans… in some dimension.