From ragas to richness

The Indian music festival at Confederation House is named for one of the basic modes of Indian music.

Hariprasad Chaurasia 521 (photo credit: Praveen)
Hariprasad Chaurasia 521
(photo credit: Praveen)
World music aficionados, a new festival is upon us – the Indian music festival at Confederation House. From May 19 to 23, “On the Wings of the Raga” offers four concerts and one lecture about the roots and various traditions of Indian music, displaying the versatility of its musical traditions and featuring some of the greatest performers on the genre.
For quite some time, Confederation House has been the local home for challenging journeys across the realms of music – be it from close or distant countries and cultures (such as the Oud Festival) or from our past traditions, renewed and brought back to life (such as the Piyutim series). Now we have another festival, dedicated to the many traditions of Indian music.
“This is a festival in the framework of the India in Israel Festival, launched by the Indian government and its embassy in Israel,” says Confederation House director Effie Benaya. “But our intention is to turn it into an annual festival to enable Israelis to experience and learn about Indian music through Confederation House, which we intend to turn into a home for this beautiful music.”
Asked if the Israeli public, which is known for its affinity for India and its culture, can be considered a connoisseur, Benaya says that this is not the case.
“Most Israelis who go to India are more on the ‘shanti’ side, the spiritual aspect of the experience. What we are bringing here is something else. These are the highest levels of musical classical traditions of India, with some of the best performers. In addition, we are offering a lecture on these traditions so the public can get an idea of what it is about. This is not something we know much about here, and I felt there was a need for such an introduction.”
The concert festival, named for the raga, one of the basic modes of Indian music, will include musical traditions from different parts of the huge country, which can be very different in style and instrumentation.
The opening concert will feature world-renowned pandit (master) Hariprasad Chaurasia, two-time recipient of India’s highest awards. “He came here more than 10 years ago as a special guest of the Israel Festival and had a lot of success, but it was only one concert. This time, it is a real feast of music and traditions,” says Benaya.
Chaurasia is also a composer and an outstanding improviser and has performed with celebrated Western musicians such as guitarist John MacLaughlin and saxophonist Jan Garbarek. He has developed his own special style, based on ancient traditions but incorporating folk music and some Western influences. He is considered the best player of the bansuri, the transverse bamboo Indian flute. Chaurasia has been teaching Indian music for the past 10 years at the Rotterdam Royal Conservatory.
In his concert at the Jerusalem Theater (Thursday May 19 at 9 p.m.), he will be accompanied by Indian musicians playing authentic traditional instruments.
On Saturday night (May 21) another master, Ritwik Sanyal, will present an evening of ancient Dhrupad style singing, considered in India to be a universal expression of sound and a journey to eternity. Dhrupad singing is based on free improvisation in the framework of the melody given, with developments from slow to fast. Sanyal, a performer, composer and professor of music at the Varanassi University, has dedicated his life to the preservation of this ancient style of singing. He will be accompanied by an Indian drummer. The program will be presented by Osnat Elkabir, an Israeli scholar who will do vocal accompaniments. As an expert in Indian music and culture, she will explain the different styles, origins and cultural connotations (10 p.m. at Confederation House).
The two other concerts will feature Indian electric fusion from Delhi, performed by the Mrigia Ensemble, which specializes in crossing the boundaries of Indian classical music towards folk; as well as Qawali Sufi songs, together with jazz, blues, rock and some flamenco (May 22 at 9 p.m. at Beit Shmuel).
The following evening at Beit Shmuel, there will be a concert by Zila Khan, considered as one of the best female vocalists in India today. A master of a variety of vocal traditions, including Indian, classical Persian and Arabic, she will present a program of Indian classical, folk and Sufi songs, accompanied by her musicians.
For those who are not familiar with Indian music and its depths, the festival offers a lecture by Elkabir entitled “The Trained Listener” (May 15 at 8:30 p.m. at Confederation House). It focuses on how to listen to Indian classical music, with explanations and demonstrations, including videos of famous Indian performers.
Elkabir is a student of some of the foremost Indian masters and specializes in Dhrupad singing and dance. She teaches at Tel Aviv University and performs in Israel and in India.

For information and tickets: 624-5206 or