Around The Classical Indian Arts Scene in Vancouver, 2018

Classical Indian music and dance are slowly gaining momentum due to the hard work of those who are enthusiastically promoting the classical arts.  Although there have been many performances over the years, recently there has been a sudden surge in the Indian classical Arts scene.

Picture Courtesy: Cassius Khan

The Raaga Experience was a beautiful television program on Shaw TV curated by Mrs. Nina Buddhadev in collaboration with AAJ Magazine and Media Group and was hosted by Smt Gayatri Kaul and Mr. Sharanjeet Singh Mand.  The show gives several classical artists a medium to present their views, talent, and expertise.

In the summer, Vancouver saw Pt Sanjeev Abhayankar and Pta Gargee Siddhanth of Pandit Jasraj School of Music, who presented a wonderful Hindustani classical music performance.  Then we had a superb vocalist Kunnakudi Balmurali Krishna present Carnatic music at the Shankar Jayanti concert. Over the years, Vancouver has developed a small yet very knowledgeable audience for Carnatic and Hindustani music. Another highlight was Rhythms in Unity, which featured vocal salutations to gurus performed by Dr. Vidyasagar’s Sa Pa Sa students.

We also saw the two maestros, Pt Rajan Mishra, and Pt Sajan Mishra, who mesmerized the audience with their singing. Pt Harvinder Sharma, the well-known Sitarist, gave a new perspective on music in his concert. He first presented a classical raaga on sitar and then sang popular light songs and Bollywood songs based on these raaga, which captivated the audience.

In July, the annual Indian Summer Festival brought us Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia who enchanted the audience with his heavenly flute. Living in Vancouver is a blessing as we have the opportunity to watch and listen to so many great musicians from all over the world.  The Indian Summer Festival is organized each year by Sirish Rao and wife Laura Byspalko, which presents highly renowned artists locally, from India, and around the world.

In the fall, we also saw Cassius Khan and Amika Kushwaha Khan work tirelessly to bring Indian classical music to the local audience through their annual Mushtari Begum Festival. Cassius Khan has the unique talent of playing Tabla while singing Ghazals, and this he does with great sophistication and ease.  Amika, an excellent Kathak dancer, enthralls her audience with her exquisite footwork and artistry.  She is also a talented musician who accompanies her husband on the harmonium. This year, the festival also featured superb performances by Dr. Kamaljeet Gill, Pt Harvinder Sharma, Sharanjeet Singh Mand, Abhishek Iyer, and Dr. Disha Mehta.

Naad Foundation’s dance presentation in October impressed the audience with their unique production, which included classical Indian, folk and ballet dance forms. The excellent choreography can be credited to Guru Sri Raghav Raj Bhatt, who is an exponent of Kathak, a classical dance form of Northern India.  As a visiting expert choreographer from India, he quickly trained local dancers to create a spectacular show on stage. In Vancouver, there are excellent dancers of all styles and forms, but it took Sri Raghav Raj Bhatt’s extraordinary vision, supported by Tabla maestro and artistic director of Naad Foundation, Mr. Amarjeet Singh, to bring all these dancers together. With no breaks between dances, each performance flowed from one to another to create a visually fabulous cinematic experience.

In late October, during Diwali in BC organized by Mr. Rohit Chokhani, The Vancouver Tagore Society and Mandala Arts presented the dance drama Shyama, written by Rabindranath Tagore.  Arno Kamolika as Shyama was excellent. Jayalakshmi Ravindra as the Kotwal (palace guard) added a special touch to her character by using humor. They were joined on stage by three other dancers, Vidya Kotamraju, Malavika Santosh, and Grihalakshmi Soundarapandian, who enacted their roles with beauty and grace.  Music by Shankhnaad Mullick was perfect along with the impressive stage setting. To hold the audience interest in the classical arts, these dance dramas are going to play a very important role in the future. The choreography by Guru Jai Govindaji of Mandala Arts and Arno was superb.

Last but not least, Vancouver was visited by the beautiful and talented Smt Lavanya Ananth who captivated the audience with her dance performance at the Round House Theater in Vancouver. The event was also organized by Jai Govindaji, who has himself presented many excellent performances and has trained many young local dancers with great passion and devotion.

Author Info:

Rupa Gopinath
Mrs. Rupa Gopinath is a classical Indian dancer, teacher, choreographer
and CEO and Artistic Director of Mihika Arts.

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