From Diana Richards, Communications Director, Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation
January, February, and especially March were busy, busy, busy for RVCF and its artistic partners across the NWA region.
The biggest, the most ambitious, and the most popular event in the history of RVCF was in March: The Jungle Book, a tri-partite partnership between RVCF, Trike Theater, and Dhirana Academy of Classical Dance. The three organizations joined together to produce and perform an updated version of the classic novel, in a multi-media extravaganza of Indian and western dance, music, and theater.
Performed before a sold-out audience of 1200, the event proved to be a great crowd crowd-pleaser and an artistically successful cooperative effort between the three organizations.
While The Jungle Book was our biggest collaboration, it did not stand alone. RVCF joined with a plethora of arts associations throughout the quarter. On March 3, 2023, in collaboration with Open Mouth Literary Centre, the Music Education Initiative, and Dhirana Academy we presented Matumani: Expressions of Struggles and Freedom, a celebration of the diversity of people and cultures who have resisted and overcome the shackles of slavery and servitude. 100 people attended.
Downtown Bentonville Inc. sponsored Market at the Record on March 4th, and RVCF staffed an informational table at this popular and well-attended event. On March 14th, Mary Mae Jones Elementary School hosted Multicultural Night, where our own Vijayashri Vittal, Music and Dance Coordinator, performed for an enthusiastic audience of over 200.
Since its inception in 2018, RVCF has enjoyed a mutually beneficial artistic partnership with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. In this quarter, we have performed or exhibited before audiences at CBMAA several times, totaling more than 250 individuals.
The University of Arkansas and the Fayetteville Public library have also hosted events for us, including Master Classes and music performances.
The goal of RVCF has always been to spread our mission through cooperation, collaboration, and co-sponsorship with arts organizations across NWA, and the first quarter of 2023 proved to be our best ever!
The Jungle Book
From Srividya Venkatasubramanya, Executive Director, Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation
Working with Dhirana Academy of Classical Dance and Trike Theatre to produce The Jungle Book was an honor for Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation, a privilege, a creative and commercial triumph—and a lot of hard work!
Megha Rao at Dhirana and Kassie Misiewicz at Trike provided the essential artistic vision that made The Jungle Book so successful. But a work of this magnitude also requires significant administrative and logistical support, and this was the role of RVCF. We worked alongside Trike and Dhirana to take care of all the details such as the marketing, coordinated the space requirements for classes and rehearsals, recruited and scheduled the many volunteers, and in general furnished the critical behind- the-scenes support structure that is so important to an epic-scale event such as The Jungle Book.
The success of this unique and unprecedented collaboration can be measured by the sold-out crowd of over 1200 enthusiastic audience members, tidy profits for all three organizations, and the commitment from all of us to do it again next year––in fact, we’ve already started!
From Megha P. Rao, Artistic Director, Dhirana Academy of Classical Dance
The collaboration between Dhirana, Trike Theatre and Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation brought together artists from diverse backgrounds and art forms, resulting in the successful production of The Jungle Book. This collaboration provided a valuable learning experience for all involved, with individuals from different communities and cultural backgrounds working together in unison. As a Bharatnatyam artist, it was particularly enlightening to work with a theater artist like Kassie Mickiewicz and gain insight into the workings of theater production. The perseverance of Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation made this collaboration possible, highlighting the importance of working together to create something new and exciting. This collaboration is a testament to the growth and learning that can come from artists coming together to create something truly unique.
From Kassie Misiewicz, Artistic Director, Trike Theater
The strength of the jungle is us, and the strength of us is the jungle. Ra-Ve, Trike Theatre and Dhirana Academy of Classical Dance came together to create something new, something that neither of us had ever done before. Megha and I brought our unique strengths, along with the strengths of our production team, and co-created, learned from each other and grew as artists. I hope that this production (and future collaborations) inspires our community to create more opportunities for cultural exchange and creative partnerships.
Since its inception in January of 2022, Chai Time has proven to be one of the most popular events at RVCF. Informative, fun, and full of insights and laughter, Chai Time is now a must-do on social calendars throughout NWA, and the first quarter of 2023 was our best yet!
January’s theme was Game Night, with participants enjoying board games, table games, party games, team games—whatever the gaming style, we had it all! A bonus in January was that Sthri Couture generously donated a $100 gift card. The winner, Payal Shah, was randomly picked from all registrants present at the event at the time of drawing.
February was Travel and Destinations Day, when a certified travel agent from Destinations AR discussed cruise vacations and traveling by air to European destinations. Tracee Williams, Luxury Vacation Designer at Destinations AR, answered question such as:
How to plan for a cruise.
The best cruise line for kids.
Traveling by air to favorite places in Europe.
Costs of air travel versus cruising.
Tracee also sponsored a $100 gift card which was won by Jaishali Thakore. We are curious where Jaishali will go this year!
Finally, March Chai time was all about Spring Gardening. Local master gardeners explained how to plan, prepare, and plant a beautiful outdoor oasis. Horticulturist Laura Brewer, Site Manager for the Peel Museum and Botanical Garden, and Indian Community Gardening enthusiast, Lali Neha Dahal joined us to discuss plant care and answer questions. We also had a seed and plant exchange, where attendees could trade anything garden related with each other.
And don't forget the Maya Bazaar—great shopping and bargains galore! Purchases of our beautiful, gently-used Indian clothing and RVCF-branded items help raise awareness about our Indian music and dance programs at KIFA.
Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation Chai Time
Third Sunday of each month
3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Kalaloka Institute of Fine Arts
1380 SW Westpark Drive, Ste #2
Bentonville, AR 72712
This House Concert delved a little more deeply into some of the musical pieces presented in the Professional Series Concert earlier in January of 2023. The three singers of the original concert, Vijayashri Vittal, Priya P. Ram, and Vidhya Ramachandramani came together again to discuss more deeply some of the historical origins of Indian music, its themes, its variety, its composers and its technical details. They each presented information and performed specific pieces to elaborate further on each topic.
Vijayashri introduced the audience to the basic technical concepts of Indian music and how it is put together. She compared it with the western music system to draw on similarities and differences. She introduced the basic terms of swara, raga, tala, and shruthi in Indian music. She spoke about the differences of the hindustani and carantic styles.
Priya presented information about the history of carnatic music - starting from the vedas to current day composers and artists. Tracing her way through millenia, she brought out different aspects of music through history.
Vidya showed, in a very interactive way, how ragas affect our moods. For every emotion that we feel from joy to misery, she performed a raga that expressed it fully.
The audience was a good mix of age groups and cultures. Everyone enjoyed the different aspects of Indian music, especially the chai and snacks at the end. Join us at our next event!
Ra- Ve Cultural Foundation was started in 2018 with the aim of bringing Indian traditional performing arts to where we live, right here in Northwest Arkansas. Who we are is rooted in centuries of rich cultural heritage, and we abide by our responsibility to celebrate and share this, in the hope that it brings peace and happiness to the generations to come. We want to thank each and everyone of you who has bought a ticket, donated their time or money, sponsored our events, or just showed up to say you value this experience in our community.
Ekam Satyam Bahuda Vadanti is a phrase from the vedas…meaning the “One truth that many speak.” The world today is divided on so many counts - the way we look, the way we dress, our food, our languages, and not to mention our beliefs, but now more than ever it is critical that we find common ground and celebrate humanity. The concert brought together NWA artists from very different backgrounds on the stage today. Though each one has learned a different style of the same Carnatic music, they performed in perfect harmony. They performed songs from a timeline of almost 15 centuries. Yet, these songs are present in our collective consciousness even today! Each one of the poets, musicians showcased stands out for their unique contribution to this common body of literature and music that we call Carnatic music.
Here is a small introduction to all the artists who performed at this wondrous concert:
Vijayashri Vittal is the artistic director of today’s performance. Born and raised in a family of musicians, Vijayashri started her musical training from her grandmother, Smt Krishnaveni and her father, Vidwan Vittal Ramamurthy, an internationally acclaimed violinist. She is also a senior disciple of Vidhushi Bombay Jayashree.
Dr. Priya P Ram works full time as a Data and Analytics Manager and has been performing and teaching Indian music in the NWA region since 2014. She began training in Carnatic music at a young age under the tutelage of Smt. Kunnakudi Saroja and Smt. Saraswathi and later trained with Smt. Bhooshany Kalyanaraman.
Vidya Ramachandhiramani , is a software engineer by profession and has been learning music from the age of 6 . She underwent her training during her early years with Smt. Sankari, in Chennai. Vidya received her advanced training in Carnatic music from Acharya choodamani. Sri. A. Sundaresan, the asthana Vidwan of Kanchi Kamakoti.
Dr. Kartik Balachandran has learnt violin in Singapore from Smt. Dhanadevi Mitradeva and Sri K. Sivaraman, both senior disciples of Prof. Sri T.N. Krishnan. He was awarded the title of Vadya Visharad in 1999 from the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society for his excellence in music.
Santhosh Ramaswamy began his musical journey at a young age taking to Mridangam, the principal drum of South Indian Classical music. With several years of training and guidance from masters in the art form, he has been performing in concerts accompanying eminent artists in the Carnatic music tradition for over two decades.
The evening began with a varnam, traditionally performed as the first piece in any Carnatic concert. The varnam marries lyrics, swarams/notes and encapsulates the distinct features of the chosen raga or mode. This varnam was in the beautiful raga of Kalyani, a prominent raga in the Carnatic music tradition, known for its versatility in conveying emotions. Composed in the late 1800’s by Sri Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar, this song describes a young lady pining for her beloved Lord Krishna. Vanajakshiro - Kalyani ragam - adi talam/8-beat cycle.
While the earliest devotional compositions in Carnatic music were around the 12th century AD, we consider the mid-1700s to mid-1800s as the golden era. This was the time when the Carnatic music trinity, or three great composers lived. Shri Shyama Shastri, Shri Thyagaraja, and Shri Muthuswamy Dikshitar. The trinity were instrumental in the development of Carnatic music, via their prolific number of compositions, and the codification of different aspects of Carnatic music theory.
The cocnert proceeded with one of the most popular compositions of Shri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Vathapiganapathim bhajeham in the raga Hamsadhwani, adi tala, composed in Sanskrit language. This is a hymn in the praise of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles. All the artists performed very effortlessly, especially in the fast-paced swara improvisation on the last line of the song.
This was followed by a song by Saint Thyagaraja who was a contemporary of Dikshithar and part of the Trinity of Carnatic music. He is said to have composed more than 24000 songs in various languages, predominately in Telugu and mainly in praise of Lord Rama.
Amongst all the beautiful songs he has composed, there are 5 that are considered his best - The Tyagaraja Pancharatna Krithis. Today, our artistes will present the fifth pancharatna - Endaro Mahanubhavulu… In this song, Tyagaraja, with great humility, pays respects to all the great souls who have come before him - those who have uplifted the poor and weak, have spread love and joy amongst everyone, have immersed themselves in music and devotion, recognize the same eternal soul in one and all and live in love and peace - the core idea behind our concert - Ekam Satyam, Bahuda Vadanti . The song was performed beautifully by the singers and the audience was enthralled.
Devotion and music transcends time. While Carnatic music as a formal musical system was codified starting from the 12th century AD, devotional music predated this. Priya and Vidya presented a composition of Kothai Naachiyaar or Andal, the only female of the 12 AaZhvaars or esteemed devotees of Vishnu. Andal was the reputed poet - saint of the Tamils.
The song describes what happens when one is filled with love and devotion to the Lord. It goes on to say that while the goodness and devotion of even one lone believer will ensure prosperity and plenty for everyone in the land, with so many devotees, there is no limit to how much good will happen to this world.
This was followed by the main piece of this concert - the ragam tanam Pallavi (RTP). The Ragam Tanam pallavi (RTP) is a musical form in Carnatic music with improvisation at its center, explored in three distinct ways.
First, in the Ragam was a raga alapana. In this form of pure melodic improvisation, the musician starts with a refrain to create the mood of raga and lays a foundation for the composition to follow.
Tanam - is the second component of this composite form of improvisation. Originally developed for the veena, Tanam consists of expanding the raga with the rhythmic syllables "a-nam-tam". This thanam was explored on the violin.
The lyrical component of the RTP is the Pallavi - The word Pallavi is derived from the three syllables Pa - Pada (words), La - Laya (rhythm) and Vi - Vinyasam (variations). Pallavi is the equivalent of a refrain in Western music. The Pallavi is usually a one-line composition set to one or more cycle(s) of a tala, and is followed by Kalpanaswaras/swarakalpana.
As part of kalpanaswara, the musician delivers increasingly complex, improvised sequences in the Indian music solfege (sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, da, ni) within or towards the end of a composition. Kalpanaswara is integral to the pallavi portion of a Ragam Thanam Pallavi.
The RTP sung today will be in Brindavana Saranga raga, and later improvised in other ragas, namely, Vaasanthi, Aabogi and Revathi. The audience reacted to this intense performance with a lot of appreciation. Even though this piece could be perceived as being technical, the choice of ragas and the interaction between the singers and the accompanists made it memorable and energizing to the audience.
Perhaps the most popular piece of the concert was the abhang. The Abhang is a form of devotional poetry sung in praise of the Hindu deity Vittala, also known as Vithoba. The word "abhang" comes from a for "non-" and bhang for "ending" or "interrupting", in other words, a flawless, continuous process, in this case referring to a poem. While the devotional songs known as bhajan focus on the inward, contemplative journey, Abhangs are more exuberant expressions of the communitarian experience.
This abhang is composed by sant Tukaram Maharaj. In this song, Tukaram warns people about Pandhari or Pandharpur. He says it is haunted by a dreadful ghost or spirit. Be careful when you are passing by this place or visiting it. This ghost nabs everyone going near the place. If you are afraid of being possessed by the ghost, change your path or just cancel your plan in the interest of your (so called) well being. While that was the literal meaning, in reality, Tukaram wants to suggest exactly the opposite. He hints, if you stay away from the place, you will never have the divine experience.Maharaj has used a soft humor in instilling a deep belief into the minds of people that the place is special. It is divine. It is the final destination the soul is searching to rest in peace.
As tradition demands, the concert concluded with a Thillana. Dance enthusiasts in the audience will agree that Thillana is an exciting fast-paced musical form usually associated with Indian dance. This thillana was composed by Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman, one of the most prolific composers of Carnatic music in the modern era. Known for his thillana compositions, this one in the raga Yaman kalyani speaks to the grace with which lord Krishna plays on his flute and protects the grazing cows - all in a day’s work. At the end of the thillana, the singers presented a mangalam, a song expressing gratitude for a concert well done and prayers that peace be upon us all beings.
We hope you enjoyed this concert through this blog. There is but one truth - whatever name you may know it by or still seek it. Rest assured that this truth is spoken by many. Ekam satyam, Bahuda Vadanti. If you liked this one, then join on the next on April 22nd, 2023! Your support means a lot!
True to the spirit of all Ra-Ve events, everyone enjoyed the lovely Masala vadas from Chola Cafe at the end of the concert. Some supporters bought KIFA t-shirts to support our classes. Hope to see you at our next event. Below is a You tube Playlist of all the songs that were performed at this concert. Enjoy and follow us for more.
Baala - Tale of Kanha
Blog contributed by
NWA local resident
Project Manager | Walmart
“Set your Heart upon your work, But Never its Reward” - This quote from Lord Krishna in Bhagvad Gita – the sacred book of Hindus can be well seen in the endearing dance show Baala – the Tale of Kanha, performed by the amazing youth disciples of Vidushi Megha P Rao at the Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville on 20th August 2022. Eleven talented students and their ingenious guru (Megha herself) set the stage for the audiences who were immersed in each of the segments for almost an hour and a half.
Krishna’s tales are one of the most popular in Hinduism and to showcase His brilliance and innocence is an accomplishment. The artists captured the hearts and minds from the initial scene of Devaki’s wedding to Vasudeva. Medhansh Sankaran in his role of Kamsa did full justice to the character, the emotional dilemma of a doting brother to the powerful selfish King of Mathura whisking the newlyweds, Devaki (Darshine Ponnusamy) and Vasudeva (Prerana Kodakandla), to a prison.
The performances take a light and fun turn after Krishna is born and set in Yashoda’s arms. Young Krishna (Deethya Rao) brought smiles to the audiences with his playful mischief leaving the audience asking for more of the ‘Natkhat Nona’ (naughty one). The story of Pootana – the demoness who attains liberation at the end portrayed by Megha Rao with unparalleled facial gestures deserves a special mention.
The segment of Yashoda and Krishna, mother-son affection, portrayed in the song “Maadu Meikum Kanne” brought cheer and adoration for Krishna. Matangi Arun as Yashoda in her beautiful lehenga costume played the role of a mother who showers love and concurrently disciplines her son Krishna to protect Him from the complaining
neighborhood ladies of Gokul.
The story progresses to teen Krishna (Sinchana Natraj) – the ever smiling, notorious boy who is full of compassion, tenderness, and love. His charades with his brother Balarama (Tanusha Suvarna) and other friends including the battle with the multi headed serpent Kaliya (Jyothika Arunkumar) were some of the highlights of the show.
The Dandiya Raas (an energetic dance from Gujarat in India) was beautifully blended in with the traditional Bharatnatyam and thoughtfully delivered in great fashion. The fast-paced dance moves and vibrant costumes exuded love and energy.
The final battle between Krishna (accompanied by his brother Balarama) and his evil uncle Kamsa (accompanied by his great warrior Chanura), symbolized the end of tyranny and evil. Portrayed beautifully again by Medhansh (Kamsa) and Matangi (this time portraying Chanura), it was a great conclusion to a story well told through the medium of dance.
The well-coordinated songs and graceful choreography encapsulating every mood and emotion of the diverse audience was commendable. Baala – the Tale of Kanha was a magical, divine production and the artists deserve every reward for their efforts.
Contribution By Diana Richards, Communications Director, RVCF
Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation has always been an enthusiastic partner with the many arts organizations in and around NWA, and May 2022 was no exception! The month started off on May 6 with our participation in Trail Mix, the signature event at Artosphere in the Walton Arts Center. The Frisco Trail was alive with art, pottery, and activities, but especially with the music and dance of All Time Hits of Carnatic Music by Priya Ram and her students.
The very next day, on Saturday the 7 th , RVCF again collaborated with Walton Arts Center with a screening of The Wonderful Stories from The Space Station. This documentary covers the stories and experiences of the many astronauts that have inhabited the International Space Station since its launch in 1998. Spanning 42 missions, 230 astronauts, and 230 spacewalks, this extraordinary feat of scientific unification is told through the words of those that lived it—including the Indian space pioneers who flew and lived in space!.
Mother’s Day is a special day for moms and families, and The Crystal Bridges Museum Family Day was a super fun outdoor event on the grounds of the museum. RVCF was there, showcasing with dance and music the vibrant, family-oriented cultural tradition of India. The Himachali dance was a huge hit! This free event also featured nature walks, food trucks, interactive arts activities, and tours of the WAC’s outdoor works and installations.
Moms—and and their families– had a great time!
Finally, auditions opened for an exciting new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. This unique performance event brings the classic story to new life and is a joint production of RVCF, Trike Theater, and the Dhirana Academy of Classical Dance.
she | her | hers
Founder, Owner & Creative Disruptor of Rachhana Creative Consulting
Do you know what artists secretly love that we don't talk more about? How we are in creative heaven when we can be in the audience of other artists and listen to them share their craft. Not just a performance of their craft, but the history, social and cultural relevance, and how their craft is tied to other artforms. We love an artist's artist and I'm speaking directly about the brilliance of Priya P. Ram's House Concert at Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation on March 6. On one of the rainiest Sundays NWA has seen in 2022, Priya performed Carnatic music while also teaching the audience about the pre-Trinity, Trinity, and post-Trinity movements. In short, the history of where all Indian music comes from. What excited me the most as an artist was witnessing the trinity that occurred in this sold-out house concert. Though Priya was the headliner, she graciously shared space with three young, talented vocalists. And then as if having a headliner with students performing wasn't enough, members of the audience were so familiar with certain songs that they sang quietly around me. The trinity connection between master artist to apprentices to the audience and back again is how the arts rooted in culture works in real-time. Oh, and it didn't hurt that once the concert was over, the monsoon rains cleared for a golden sunset and samosas provided by Punjabi Kitchen. These are the magical experiences that an artist lives for.
President of Hindu Association of Northwest Arkansas
Music transcends language, religious and cultural barriers and is “food for the soul”. This statement would ring true for all those who attended the Carnatic music house concert hosted by Ra-Ve Cultural foundation on March 6th at the KIFA center in Bentonville, AR. Whether it was an uninitiated local Arkansas, a well informed Carnatic connoisseur or an ignorant Indian immigrant, there were all equally enthralled by the melodious and encapsulating lecture demonstration of the history of Carnatic music right from the origins of sound and music in the Vedic period to 2020’s. To traverse multiple centuries in a 90 min program is difficult enough but it was done in a flawless fashion by both Dr. Priya Ram and her husband Dr. Narasimhan Rajaram along with Priya’s disciples. Whether it was the songs of the spiritual masters of the early millennium or the more recent Carnatic trinity in 18 th century, it was evident that the painstaking research done by the presenter deserved the standing ovation the performance received. Well trained and gifted musicians such as Dr.Priya ought to help spread the inspiring Indian music to both India Diaspora in Northwest Arkansas and curious locals. May the force be with these artists!
This blog was contributed by Mahalakshmi Ramanathan.
Baala - The tale of Kanha, the brainchild of Vidhushi Megha P Rao, a 90-minute dance drama that recently won a grant from Artists 3 60 - A program of mid-America arts alliance, successfully brought forth the talents of her students in an exciting and spectacular venture in their 5th annual fall production held at Bentonville West High. This event was also logistically supported by the Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation. The mayor of Bentonville, Stephanie Orman, and the Superintendent of Bentonville Public Schools, Debbie Jones, were special guests to the event and spoke about the importance of such events in our community and the contributions of the Indian community, in particular.
The pace of the evening was established on a high note as the curtains rose and Megha’s senior students displayed their strength and stamina with precise, intricate footwork dancing through complex rhythms and melodies brilliantly executing every move. As the story unfolded from the birth of Krishna to the festivities at Gokul, demise of Pootana, mischievous Krishna who shows the entire universe in his mouth, students across varied ages, moving in and of out character flawlessly, portrayed the majestic conqueror of the hearts of people of Gokul. The youngest performers of the night performed the Krishna leela with much gusto. In all honesty, such young children dancing on stage are usually mere caricatures, endearing only to the parents. Megha’s students were an exception as they performed effortlessly with precision. Each item was carefully chosen, crafted and tailored to suit the age of the dancer.
The choreography of “Maadu meikkum kanne” composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer set in Sahana - a playful prelude between Krishna and his mother Yashoda characterized beautifully by Megha Chander and Matangi Arun merits special mention showing the immeasurable blessing of the joys of rearing the creator of the universe.
Whilst there were familiar numbers like “Thaye Yashoda” and “Maadu meikkum kanne” , the moment “taam dheem tarana taam” hit the speakers, a flurry of joy rose in the audience. The night matured into brilliance with another Oothukadu Venkata Subbiyer’s composition in the form of Kalinga Narthana thillana - The conquering of the poisonous snake Kaliya with Megha Chander playing Krishna and Jyothika Arunkumar, the serpent. The dancers captured each nuance together with their intricate footwork, astounding choreography with sculpturesque poses and a combination of strength and grace in nritta and the intense yet subtle and effortless flow of abhinaya was a beauty etched in the brain. There was a sense of conviction and dominance that was depicted in the sudden and arresting pause the dancers provided after a swift sequence of movements, an approach carpeted throughout the performance in various places done to perfect rhythm gave the impression of mastery of the artform. The final portion of the night was the defeat of Kamsa. Megha Chander playing Krishna and Medhansh Sankaran playing Kamsa locked in the final battle evoked the veera rasa in the audience without which the presentation would have been soulless. From the synchrony in the footwork and hand gestures to the dexterity in utilization of the stage was exemplary of Megha P Rao’s skill of using her choreography skills to the best result.
The commendable aspect of this production was, it came together in all aspects - the precision and coordination in dance, the descriptive introduction and the accompanying music. It was a homage to the enjoyment one experiences when the different aspects of a performance come together without forcing the audience to separate these aspects in order to look for a saving grace. Baala - the tale of Kanha, an oxymoronic substratum of losing oneself to finding oneself.
Contributed by Nandhini Varadaraj, President, RVCF
After a gap of two years, RVCF is back to hosting their community showcases Natyam & Sapthaswara live. I attended both these events recently (December 2021) as a host, MC, parent of a performer and as someone interested in the classical performing arts.
I first attended the Natyam & Sapthaswara in December 2019 as a parent and since then have been seeing the quality of performances improve greatly. The December 2021 event also saw Odissi performers for the first time in Natyam and a Dhrupad singer (Hindustani) for the very first time in Bentonville.
The community showcases are just that. It’s open for Ra - Ve members to perform and free for anyone to attend. One of the ways the Indian immigrant population keeps in touch with our roots is through learning these classical art forms and Bentonville thankfully has its more than fair share of teachers imparting these lessons.
Natyam and Sapthaswara are platforms for these students (kids and adults) where they can gain experience in performing to a small group. Although it is informal, Ra-Ve does encourage the performers to prepare by submitting their pieces and duration ahead. The audio / video, performance space and lighting are all arranged in a way that the artists gain a fairly true experience of a concert. Mistakes are allowed and encouraged so the student artists can learn from and gain confidence in their art.
Just as important it is to provide the space for the performers, it is important for the society to step up to support and motivate these artists. It was heartwarming to see every seat occupied and extra seating provided on the floor for the audience members.
I’ve been personally involved in organizing Sargam, another classical event between 2009 & 2016. It is inspiring to see how far some of the children have come since then. We are seeing the students who started their performance at Sargam unable to hold ‘araimandi’ or maintain the pitch, do spontaneous improvisations, manage rhythm and enthrall us with their foot work and expressions.
It’s a déjà vu moment to see the next generation of artists begin their journey at Natyam & Sapthaswara. I am looking forward to seeing these students grow into their own and pave the way for coming generations. It is a matter of handing over the baton and as adults of this thriving community, it is our duty to give them the space and support.
As with any live streamed event, we did run into technical delays and other mishaps, but nothing unmanageable and we are also learning through our mistakes.
It is ultimately the students, teachers and parents who drive this initiative. I hope this tribe grows and Ra-Ve is forced to increase the time allotted & move to a bigger space to accommodate many more in the audience.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.