Carnatic music and dance festival hosted by the IFAASD in San Diego brings back the charm of live concerts.

As an artist, performer and a music and dance aficianado, the one thing that I have missed the most was attending and feeling the vibration of live concerts these past two years.  Since the pandemic, attending in-person concerts have been eluding us — something we all took for granted. This satisfaction, energy and positivity was fulfilled with the amazing three-day festival organised by the IFAASD (Indian Fine Arts Association of San Diego). The organisation hosted its 15th Annual Music and Dance festival from April 8-10. Geographically, San Diego lies on the Pacific Coast in the state of California, US and is a popular destination for its beaches and sunny climate. One of the star attractions of cities on the West Coast for the Indian community is the weather enjoyed by the cities on the West Coast, especially in the state of California. And the beginning of the Spring season in April is indicative of several outdoor gathering and community festivities.

Friday: Day One

With highly sought after musicians in the programme and a great team of people working together, the festival perhaps is one of the first in the United States to go for a fully in person experience. The venue of this cultural fest was the David  and Dorothea Garfield Theater in San Diego. Traditionally the festival spans over a period of week. However, considering the pandemic, a three-day celebration seemed reasonable. Having said that, the line-up of concerts was extremely well curated and the organisers left no stones unturned in maintaing the high quality of the programmes.

Friday evening started with a Lec-dem on the topic of Nadaswaram music titled ‘Significance and Influence’ by Mridangam Maestro Trichy Shankaran, C.M.Venkatachalam and Chitravina N. Ravikiran. This was followed by a premier concert ‘Vande Maataram’ by Aruna Sairam (Carnatic vocal) and Gaurav Majumdar (sitar) accompanied by Kalaimamani Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan on mridangam, Rajeev Mukundan on the violin and Amit Kavthekar on the tabla. ‘Vande Maataram: A journey through India in celebration of India’s 75th Independence Day’ combined with remembering Bharat Ratna Pt. Ravishankar on the eve of his 102nd birthday was a unique concert, which consisted of various compositions in 10 languages from India. The concert started with ‘Vaishnava Janato’, moved on to the beautiful ‘Amar Jonmo Bhumi’ and concluded with various renditions of ‘Vande Maataram’, covering Carnatic to Hindustani, to folk and devotional. The concert was graced by T.V. Nagendra Prasad, Consul General of India at San Francisco as the Chief Guest.

Saturday : Day two
The morning started with a concert by vocalists Sai sisters with Patri Satish on the Mridangam and Kamalakiran Vinjamuri on the violin. Following the concert, there were performances by the students of local Gurus, in music and dance. Students of C.M. Venkatachalam performed beautifully in unison. The students of Revathi Subramaniam performed special compositions — a swarajathi, varnam of Pappu Venugopala Rao in praise of Pt. Ravi Shankar, tuned by Neyveli Santhanagopalan and a Bhajana Sampradaya Krithi composed by Chitravina N. Ravikiran in Ragam, Shankara  and concluded their presentation with ‘Shanthi Nilava Vendum’, a composition by Sethu Madhava Rao. Dance recitals by students of Aler Krishnan and local gurus followed.

The musical afternoon continued with a beautiful performance by Sriranjani Santhanagopalan (Carnatic vocal) with Patri Satish on the mridangam and Kamalakiran Vinjamuri on the violin. Sriranjani’s concert was greatly appreciated by the audience. A fantastic performance by flute virtuoso Shashank Subramanyam (Carnatic) with Patri Satish on the mridangam and Mysore Srikanth on the violin. The concert started with a composition in Sarasangi followed by a popular Thyagaraja Kirthi, Raga Sudharasa in Aandolika and then on to a beautiful Kumudakriya aalap and Ardhanareeshwaram and concluded with an RTP (ragam, talam and pallavi). Shashank enthralled the audiences with his music and kept the audience wanting more as we could hear some of them requesting him to continue longer.

The evening started with felicitations and awards to senior vidwans. The lifetime Achievement award and title of ‘Sangeetha Vidhya Nidhi’ was awarded to Ravikiran and Neyveli Santhanagopalan and the the award Natya Vidhya Nidhi was given to to Priyadarshini Govind for Bharatanatyam and Sujata Mohapatra for Odissi for their contribution and work in the field of Dance. The IFAASD team honored a few core members of their team for their tireless efforts.  Revathi Subramanian, one of the pillars of the event was honoured with the award ‘Kadha Samvadak Nidhi’ commemorating her efforts of keeping the virtual platform for the concerts active during the pandemic.  

The evening concluded with an electrifying Carnatic-Hindustani Jugalbandhi premiere of Qeeravanai Quartet  by Ravikiran and Homayoun Sakhi (Rubab), Patri Sathish Kumar on mridangam, Nitin Mitta on tabla. A beautiful unison of the artists commencing with Varanamukha in Hamsadhwani, solo by Homayoun, a duet in Simhendramadhyamam and a light folk finale. This was appreciated by the audience and the unison of the Chitravina and Rubab was absolutely amazing.  The electrifying energy of Patri Satish, despite this being his fourth concert for the day was unrealistic and the duet between the mridangam and tabla was equally enthralling and matched the maestros on Chitravina and Rubab.

Sunday: Day three

The final day of the festival started with a nice breakfast served by the committee that worked hard to take care of not just the artists but also the attendees. A fantastic Veena concert by Vidushi Nirmala Rajasekar with Patri Satish on the Mridangam,  Mysore Srikanth on the Violin and Karthik Venkataraman on Khanjira. Following the veena recital, was a Sitar recital by Pt. Karthik Seshadri and Nitin Mitta on Tabla.

The afternoon line-up was as powerful as the one when the festival started. With a vocal concert by Neyveli Santhanagoplan, with Trichy Sankaran on mridangam,Vinjamuri on the violin and Karthik Venkataraman on khanjira. Kiranavali Vidyasankar and Akshara Samskriti took center stage for a vocal performance with Vinod Seetharaman on mridangam and Vinjamuri on the violin. The dance recitals by Sujata Mohapatra (Odissi) and by Chitra Ramaswamy and her disciples concluded this power packed festival of Indian classical arts.

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Meenakshi Ganesan, is the Founder & Artistic Director of Kalaanjali Dance Company in Madison, WI & San Jose, CA. She was conferred the prestigious title of Nritya Mayuri by the Ministry of Education and has performed at several prestigious events such as the Cleveland Aradhana Festival, The World Music Festival.

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