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Sufi Raina

Sufi Raina, Teacher of Kathak Dance

The Center for World Music is pleased to welcome Sufi Raina to our roster of distinguished teaching artists, a team of professional musicians and dancers who bring the worlds’ performing arts into San Diego classrooms through World Music in the Schools.

Sufi Raina Headshot

Sufi Raina is a silver medalist in Kathak, one of the preeminent classical dance traditions of North India. She holds a master’s degree in Kathak from Apeejay College of Fine Arts, Jalandar, Punjab, where her mentor was the esteemed Dr. Santosh Vyas. She also holds a master’s in psychology from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Trained in the Jaipur Gharana (tradition), Sufi was a lecturer in Kathak at KMV College Jalandhar for three years. During this time she taught dance as a major to undergraduate students. She also choreographed performances for the college as well as for national youth festivals. She was invited to England by the North Somerset Music Service, as a part of a cultural exchange program, to perform and teach Kathak in schools, introducing students to Indian classical dance.

Sufi Raina Dancing

Sufi has choreographed many dance performances for the stage and national television in India. She was an assistant choreographer for the Punjabi film Heer Ranjha. An innovative choreographer, Sufi is also trained in folk dance forms of India. Her love for Kathak, combined with countless dedicated hours of riyaaz (intense practice), have brought her to many stages across the world, enthralling an international audience with the nuances of this classical Indian dance form.

Sufi moved to Southern California in 2011. Since then, she has been actively performing in the region. A lifelong learner and a teacher by choice, she is the founder and artistic director of Tej Dance Studio in San Diego.

Sufi has recently taught for the Center for World Music as an artist in residence at Innovations Academy and at the San Diego French American School, as well as presenting assembly performances at Hawking STEAM Charter School and at SDFAS.

Want to see more? Visit these links:

Promotional Video for Tej Dance Studio
Kathak Performance Celebration World Dance Day in Punjab, India

Sri Rudraprasad Swain

Best Wishes to Sri Rudraprasad Swain

This month we say farewell to Sri Rudraprasad Swain, our resident teacher for the past six months from the Orissa Dance Academy in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. His presence in the Center for World Music’s Odissi Dance School will be deeply missed.

Sri Rudraprasad Swain began study of Odissi dance at a tender age of five. At age fifteen he joined the Orissa Dance Academy and trained under legendary Guru Gangadhar Pradhan. He was further refined into a versatile and dynamic dancer under Guru Smt. Aruna Mohanty. He has participated in prestigious programs around the world—in Thailand, Germany, Europe, and United States—his most memorable performance being at the International Odissi Festival.

During his second residency with the Center for World Music Sri Rudraprasad Swain directed performances and workshops across San Diego County. He taught over forty students ages 5-50.  He produced fourteen performances and two workshops, spreading his passion for Odissi through the classroom and on the stage.  He challenged his students and gave them the confidence to learn Odissi and perform on stage both in solo and group programs.

On behalf of the Odissi Dance School, we wish Sri Rudraprasad Swain farewell and a special thank you for his dedication and commitment, for sharing his passion for Odissi with his students, and for giving us the opportunity to learn a beautiful dance form. We hope that, as he continues his journey in dance as a teacher and performer, his dreams come true. We look forward to his return for another residency.

See Sri Rudraprasad Swain perform on YouTube.

– Reni Biswas, Program Coordinator of the CWM Odissi Dance School

Shalini Patnaik

Shalini Patnaik, Ambassador of Odissi Dance

Center for World Music teaching artist Shalini Patnaik enjoys sharing her ancient art form with the San Diego community. She is one of the leading exponents in her generation of Odissi, the classical dance of northeastern India, and has a passion for teaching and sharing Indian culture through the language of dance. Born and raised in San Diego, California, she traveled repeatedly to India from a young age to learn the art form directly from dance masters in Orissa. Even today, she visits frequently for further training and performances.

Her teachers include the late Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and Gurus Aruna Mohanty, Manoranjan Pradhan, and Yudhistir Nayak.

Shalini and her sisters, together known as the “Patnaik Sisters,” were selected by pop superstar Madonna to choreograph and perform for a televised performance at the 1998 MTV Music Awards. She also choreographed for singer Ricky Martin’s 2006 tour. Shalini performed for Pandit Ravi Shankar’s 90th birthday celebration and for other superstars like George Harrison and Sting. Recently, Shalini was invited by Anoushka Shankar to perform as part of her “Traveler” tour.

While Shalini has enthralled audiences across the globe, she truly enjoys sharing her art form with fellow San Diegans, and especially with students.

Shalini and her sisters, Laboni and Shibani, have been instrumental in propagating Odissi throughout North America through performances, lecture demonstrations at universities, schools, and libraries, and teaching in the Center for World Music’s Odissi School. To share their passion for dance with others brings them immense joy; in doing so, they help preserve and propagate this rich, two-thousand-year-old cultural tradition outside of India.

 

Want to learn more?

Traditional dance helps keep sisters in touch with culture, The Coast News (2012)
She matches steps in India and beyond, The Telegraph (2012)

— Shibani Patnaik is a distinguished Odissi dancer, member of the Patnaik Sisters, and Board Member for the Center for World Music.

Hawking Tabla Class Video

North Indian Percussion at Hawking Charter School

Our friends at the Stephen W. Hawking Charter School have just posted a nice video showing their World Music in the Schools students engaged in the rhythms of North Indian tabla. Under the direction of Miles Shrewsbery, tabla master and CWM teaching artist, they seem to be having quite a bit of fun.

The World Music in the Schools tabla program has been going strong at the Hawking Charter School since August 2013.

On YouTube:

K.V. Narayanaswamy

Defining “Classical” from a World Music Perspective

By Mark Hertica, professor of music at San Diego Miramar College
and Center for World Music board member

There are many terms in use today for the wide variety of musical styles played, heard, and recorded throughout our world: folk, pop, jazz, world, rock, classical, and more, as well as all their various sub-genres. While these terms are useful for most of us as general descriptors and for purposes of marketing, defining them is problematic. The term classical provides us with an excellent example of the problems posed.

Use of classical as applied to music presents several problems. For example, when associated with the Western tradition, as exemplified by such composers as Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Copland, and many others, it often refers generally to pre-composed music of the concert hall. But one of the more confusing aspects of the term in this usage is that classical also refers to a specific period of time from the latter eighteenth through the early nineteenth centuries when certain aesthetic principles were generally predominant in the music of European concert halls, churches, and the courts—a period in which the styles of Haydn and Mozart are most illustrative. Moreover, beyond the problem of European application, the problem is compounded as it is often used when referring to some traditions found worldwide in places such as Japan, China, India, Iran (Persia), Arabia, etc. Thus the determination of what is classical music is dependent upon the context in which and by whom it is used.

However, there are certain characteristics, some musical, some extra-musical, that upon closer inspection can be observed in all of the traditions referred to as classical music. First and foremost among these characteristics is that the musical traditions referred to as classical in various cultures have historically been associated with material wealth, education, and nobility. While today this music may be performed, observed, and enjoyed by people of all social backgrounds, historically this was music created and performed by members of the socially and politically elite classes. What are some of the other characteristics of classical music, and why would it find its creation and historical home among these elite classes?

Court Gamelan Solo

Court Gamelan, Royal Palace, Surakarta, Java

By their very nature the great courts of the world were, and, although perhaps less so, still are elitist, socially and politically. The high art found in these courts represents the most sophisticated and refined expression of the aesthetics of the cultures from which the courts arise. The art associated with these courts and their religious traditions therefore reflects and glorifies the people of the court and their divinities, and their music is an integral part of those traditions. The music, just as the court itself, must be elevated above the mundane, the everyday, as it expresses the aristocratic nature of its surroundings and speaks to and for its patrons. Indeed, to fully appreciate the artfulness of the music and the musician, it is as incumbent upon the listener as it is upon the musician to be familiar with the musical language. As Ananda Coomaraswarmy points out, “the listener must respond with an art of his own.”

The language of these various court musics, like the visual art, literature, dance, etc., is highly nuanced and packed with meaning for those who know how to listen to those nuances and for the meaning. To the untrained ear subtle details of rhythm and melody might be lost, but those educated in the details of the musical aesthetics of a given culture learn to hear and maintain in memory those details, hearing them as constructing the hidden meanings that may be lost on the unschooled ear.

To convey these messages classical music found around the world requires highly skilled and knowledgeable performers to play in an aesthetically pleasing manner for these audiences. To obtain the proficiency necessary for proper performance, the players must devote years of their lives to acquiring the physical dexterity necessary for flawless performance. But physical dexterity is not enough. Performers must have an intimate knowledge of the various nuances of the musical aesthetics that govern what is acceptable in a given style or genre; this is the basis for musical education. Whether for ritual or entertainment purposes, the musician must be well acquainted with proper performance procedures and practices.

With all of this in mind, if both the listener and the musician are to fulfill their roles effectively, then both must have sufficient time to practice their art. This requires resources for both day-to-day living and musical studies. And around the world it was the court and the religious institutions that possessed those resources. So as these musics developed, it was by and for these social elites that this music was created.

As resources necessary for musical education and training have become much more widely available, classical music is no longer the realm solely of the social and political elite. However, for a fuller appreciation of the art, the listener still must become acquainted with the particular musical language being performed. An uninitiated listener may well appreciate the inherent beauty of an Arabic maqam, a Tyagaraja kriti, a gendhing for Javanese gamelan, or a Beethoven symphony, but without some understanding of the nuances, the subtle art of the composers and performers, the messages put forth within the music will more than likely not be heard. As Wynton Marsalis tells us, “When an art form is created, the question is how do you come to it, not how does it come to you. Beethoven’s music is not going to come to you . . . you have to go to it. And when you go to it, you get the benefits of it.”

Miles Shrewsbery and the Cultural Context of the Tabla

One of the most important things students do in Miles Shrewsbery’s music classes at the Museum School and at Hawking Charter School is take off their shoes.

This is no ordinary music class. An American tabla artist and teaching artist for the Center for World Music, Miles instructs students grades K–6 how to play a North Indian percussion instrument called the tabla. An essential part of studying the tabla, like many traditional world music instruments, is the passing on of the symbolic meaning and special significance of the instrument and its cultural origins. Miles teaches the geography of North India, its language, and the stories about the history and masters of the instrument. Students also learn the various customs surrounding this musical tradition.

“These elements are inseparable from the music. The context of music is what creates the unique feelings and expressions from a given culture,” says Miles.

MIles SchoolMiles teaches his students that playing the tabla is more than the physical act of playing the drums. It’s also about understanding a worldview — something that Miles came to realize through his own study of the tabla in India and the US.

From the moment Miles first heard the tabla at age 17, “it was love at first sound.” He had an immediate connection with the instrument, even though he knew nothing about India and its culture.

Miles’ teachers, Abhiman Kaushal and Pandit Nandkumar Bhatlouande of Hyderabad, India, educated him about the rich context in which the tabla originates. “In addition to practicing, I studied the language, values and the cultural practices. For example, I learned about respect  and responsibility for one’s family, one’s teacher and to the tradition of the tabla — the whole interchange.”

Removing your shoes before playing the tabla is one of the practices Miles encourages in his students. He explains, “we remove our shoes just before playing the tabla. Why? On the practical side, most activities in India are traditionally done sitting crossed legged on the ground, so this is a way of keeping the space clean. On the spiritual side of things, the idea comes from within Indian music. We believe that the instrument is a pathway to God, so in a sense, removing your shoes signifies both respect and cleanliness to the instrument and what it represents. We also never step over the instrument, much like the Indonesian gamelan, because it is disrespectful to show the bottom of one’s feet toward something as sacred as an instrument.”

The students of the Museum School and Hawking Charter School are exposed to many of the most important skills, knowledge, and wisdom Miles has gained from his years of dedication to the tabla. Each student is now part of a long continuum of musicians who have passed down the artform within one of the oldest musical traditions in the world. Not bad for an elementary school music class.

“We really underestimate how much children can register when it comes to developing a broader cultural understanding,” Miles says. “I’m always amazed at how much children can master, both at the level of playing the instrument and of understanding the cultural nuances of the tradition. I wish adults were such quick studies!”

 

Profile picMiles Shrewsbery is an American tabla artist and disciple of Sri Abhiman Kaushal and Pandit Nandkumar Bhatlouande of Hyderabad, India, as well as a co-owner of Avaaz Records. Miles is trained in the Farukhabad Gharana of his teachers and is a respected performer of its rich, aesthetic repertoire through his years of dedicated study and practice. Miles has performed all over the world in prestigious venues such as the Symphony Space (New York City), Smithsonian Museum (Washington D.C.), Tokyo Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo, Japan), Royal Horticultural Hall (London, England), and St. Paul Cathedral (New York City). He has performed with top musicians such as Shujaat Khan, Deepak Ram, Googoosh, Cheap Trick, and Yusef Lateef. Some notable soundtracks and recordings where Miles’ tabla and percussion can be found are: Sinbad (Dreamworks 2003), The Rundown (Columbia 2003), The Riches (FX 2007), Yusef Lateef and Adam Rudolph – Into the Garden (Meta Records 2003), Dave Stringer – Divas and Devas (Spirit Voyage 2007), and Dave Stringer – Yatra (Silenzio 2011). In 2004, Miles earned a B.A. in ethnomusicology from UCLA, and in 2009, he earned an M.A. in ethnomusicology from UCR. In 2012 Miles was awarded the American Institute of Indian Studies’ Senior Performing Arts Fellowship, which supported Miles to further his studies and practice in New Delhi, India for one year. Currently, Miles is a teaching artist in residence for the Center For World Music in San Diego, California.

 

To see video of Miles performing, please visit these links:

Traditional:

House Concert in New Deli, India

Tabla Solo – Delhi Kaida

Contemporary:

Eight Dollar Watermelon

Chasm

World Music Instrument: The Tabla

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of musical instruments that students in World Music in the Schools enjoy working with . . .

The tabla is a paired drum set from the northern regions of South Asia (North India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and parts of Afghanistan).  Consisting of a high drum (dayan) and a low drum (dagga or bayan), the tabla is played with the fingers, using a variety of different strokes and hand positions, to produce up to twenty different sounds.  Each of these sounds in turn has a name, or a syllable.  Together, these syllables (for example: ta, tin, dha, dhin) are used pedagogically as a rhythmic solfège—the syllables are sung to the student in order to teach rhythmic phrases, which are then reproduced on the drums.

Although the tabla was invented and popularized in the Mughal courts of Delhi approximately 300 years ago, the systems of music it stems from are over two thousand years old.  The tabla, in a sense, is a modern instrument that reflects South Asia’s embodiment of the ancient and the new—it has both Hindu roots and an Islamic Mughal past while continuing to thrive as a vibrant tradition, both within the contexts of North Indian Classical music as well as in the global musical landscape.

—Miles Shrewsbery, World Music in the Schools Teaching Artist

See the tabla in action on YouTube: Tabla Legend Ustad Alla Rakha | Interview with Zakir Hussain (Alla Rakha’s son) | Miles Shrewsbery Tabla Solo

Learn more about Teaching Artist Miles Shrewsbery and his music at tablamiles.com.

Urur-Olcott Fest

Top Carnatic Musicians Perform in Fishermen’s Colony

The annual Chennai (Madras) Music Season is an exclusive affair. Leading artists of South India, led by T. M. Krishna,  have this year attempted to reach out to underserved audiences . . .

To make the festival more inclusive, leading Carnatic vocalist TM Krishna decided to take Carnatic music to more non-traditional venues, such as the fishing village. Krishna, a rare practitioner to openly criticise the unhealthy elitism of Carnatic music, roped in Nityanand Jayaraman, an environmental activist who works in the fishing village. Jayaraman then raised money for the event through crowd-funding.

Read on at Scroll.in.

See also articles in the Wall Street Journal and Livemint.com.

Vichitra Veena

Maestros of the Vichitra Veena

Lovers of Hindustani music will find this essay, with choice old videos on YouTube, a good read/listen . . .

Abdul Aziz Khan’s music demonstrates that he incorporated his sarangi phrasing in the vichitra veena recitals.  Each of the recordings displays the maestro’s amazing ability to caress the melodic phrases and almost make the instrument “sing”, a difficult task on a fretless instrument.

Read and listen at Scroll.in.

Hema Ramaswamy

How Hema Ramaswamy Found Healing Through Traditional Indian Dance

In a report that may be of special interest to parents of children in our World Music in the Schools program, National Public Radio recently featured a story of healing through practice of Bharata Natyam, the traditional dance of South India . . .

Ramaswamy, who has Down syndrome, originally began dancing for health reasons. “But then it became part of her, and she really loves and enjoys it, and it took her 13 years with a lot of challenges, midway, to complete this,” explained her father, Ram. “And now today is a perfect day for her — her graduating in this art.”

Listen to, and read, the story on NPR

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