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Indian music wave hits Spokane

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 5, 2017, 2:05 p.m.

On Saturday evening the rhythmic beats of the mredangam and tabla will fill the air at Unity Spiritual Center in Spokane.

If you’ve never heard of those instruments, you’re not alone.

That’s why the South Asia Cultural Association is presenting “Sangeetha Lahari” a concert featuring the music of India. Sangeetha Lahari means musical wave.

“Music and art is a huge part of Indian culture, yet many people have never heard or seen instruments like the tabla,” said organizer Sreedharani Nandagopal.

The concert is the second of three events made possible by a $2,000 grant from Spokane Arts.

“Out of 58 applicants only 10 were awarded a grant,” Nandagopal said. “Spokane Arts recognized the importance of what we do.”

SACA’s mission is to educate the citizenry of Spokane and the outlying areas about the heritage and traditions of South Asia – specifically the Indian sub-continent, thus bringing diversity of cultures to the community.

“The purpose of SACA is to think globally but act locally by providing understanding and appreciation of the East Indian arts and cultures in Spokane,” said Nandagopal. “Everyone thinks of India as poor, but we have a very rich culture.”

Featured performers include Ganesh Rajagopalan, violin; Srivani Jade, vocalist; Sriram Ramesh, mridangam and kanjira; Mohan Bhide, harmonium; and Ravi Albright, tabla.

Albright, of Seattle, has played in Spokane before and is looking forward to his return visit. He said when he performs in larger cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles, the majority of the audience tends to be people from India who are familiar with the music.

“The Spokane audience is very diverse,” he said. “The audience really soaks in the music. It’s a super-interactive art form.”

Albright, 34, plays the Hindustani classical music of northern India. He began training at 13.

“One of the few similarities to Western music is the length of time it takes to be proficient at it,” he said.

While Hindustani music is mostly improvised, like jazz, Albright said the format is much stricter.

“It’s a melody-based system – a range of notes we don’t go outside of,” he explained. “It creates a type of mood which colors the mind.”

Nandagopal said, “The artists converse with each other through their instruments. You will see (and hear) a beautiful conversation.”

Prior to the program SACA is offering another way to explore the culture of India. From 5:15 to 6:15 guests can purchase a vegetarian meal catered by Taste of India.

The event is family friendly.

“Not only does SACA educate and enhance the knowledge of the adults in the community, we also strive to provide international exposure to youngsters in the community,” said Nandagopal.

She said the nonprofit organization has been bringing diverse programs to the area for 30 years, and the grant from Spokane Arts has enabled them to offer even more.

Nandagopal laughed.

“I like to say we want to make Spokane “Near Nature, Near Perfect and Near Culture.”


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