Navaratri Festival 2010

CFA Intern Lucy Strother talks with Professor B. Balasubrahmaniyan (Balu) about this week’s Navaratri Festival.

Tomorrow kicks off the 34th annual Navaratri Festival, celebrating the music and dance of India here at Wesleyan! Five days of performances (Wednesday, October 27 through Sunday, October 31) will offer audiences a wide range of events: concerts by distinguished musicians, dance showcases, a lecture by Wesleyan professors and a traditional Hindu ceremony. I spoke with Wesleyan professor and Navaratri organizer B. Balasubrahmaniyan (better known as Balu) about some of the upcoming festival highlights.

A unique aspect of Navaratri is its ability to integrate the past and present in its celebration of the rich historical traditions of music and dance in India, along with its promotion of important performers in India’s contemporary arts scene. Thursday night features a concert by sisters Ranjani and Gayatri, both widely acclaimed singers and violinists. Balu expressed his excitement for this concert, saying: “They have reached a very high caliber of musicianship in a short period and they are visiting Wesleyan for the first time.” Their performances are known for vitality and emotion and often incorporate an element of playful sibling rivalry that I am excited to witness in action!

Another highlight of Navaratri is sure to be when internationally renowned tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain performs with sitarist Niladri Kumar Saturday night. Balu emphasized Zakir’s superstar status and his amazing ability to connect Indian music with music of other cultures and genres: “He is a top ranking, international artist and has worked with many Indian and non-Indian performers.” It is so thrilling to get the opportunity to see brilliant, world famous artists like Zakir here on campus.

People interested in taking a more active role in the festivities should attend the Natya Mela Dance Party/Showcase or the Saraswati Puja ceremony. Balu shared with me the meaning of Saraswati Puja, saying that the ceremony is dedicated to “offering our respects to the goddess of knowledge, music, and the arts. Students place their books and musicians place their musical instruments in front of the idol or picture of the goddess and get blessings. Anyone can participate and can bring their instruments and books in order to receive blessings.” This event is recommended for seniors who are writing a thesis…

Not only is Balu a major contributor in organizing and promoting Navaratri, he is also featured as a soloist on the concert line up. David Nelson, mridangam, and K.V.S. Vinay, violin, will join Balu Friday night for a concert that should not be missed!

The Full Lineup:
Colloquium–Weaving Sound and Image: Integrating Bharata Natyam and Carnatic Music,
B. Balasubrahmaniyan and Hari Krishnan
Wednesday, October 27, 4:15pm
CFA Hall 
Free admission
Ranjani and Gayatri: Carnatic Music of South India
Thursday, October 28, 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Tickets: $15 A, $12 B, $6 C
B. Balasubrahmaniyan: Vocal Music of South India
Friday, October 29, 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Tickets: $12 A, $10 B, $6 C
Natya Mela
(Indian Dance Party/Showcase)
Saturday, October 30, 2pm
World Music Hall
Free Admission
Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar
Saturday, October 30 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
Tickets: $28, $23 B, $8 C

Saraswati Puja (Hindu Ceremony)
Sunday, October 31, 11am
World Music Hall
Free admission

PRICE KEY: $A General; $B Seniors, Wesleyan Faculty & Staff, Non-Wesleyan Students; $C Wesleyan Students