Friday, October 24, 2014

Chester Beatty Diwali Concert

This previous Wednesday (Oct. 22, 2014) was the Indian holiday Diwali. To celebrate, the outstanding Chester Beatty Library presented a performance of Indian Classical music of sitar, tabla (hand drum) and voice.

 I had never attended a live performance of Indian music, so I was excited. There was a nice crowd queuing up outside library's lecture room- as would be expected for such a fine (and free!) opportunity.

The performers began with a raga, a traditional musical form in which the sitar player and tabla drummer improvise based upon a pre-determined structure- much like jazz players riffing with each other. The raga is a contemplative form, and very long by modern standards. It begins slowly and gains momentum as is continues. The live experience is fantastic- it doesn't really hold up when recorded.

The performance concluded with a vocal piece accompanied by sitar and tabla. This work was also improvised over a structure- the musicians communicated with each other while trading solos.

I walked away more informed and more aware of non-Western music, which I presume is exactly what the good folks over at the CBL wanted. Thanks for a great performance and Happy Diwali!

...And for the curious, here's an example of a sitar/tabla raga. Don't let the lame video title turn you off.

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