15th Annual LearnQuest Music Conference: A Three-Day Rhythmic Offering of Delight

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By Pallavi Nagesha

Gītaṁ vādyaṁ tatha nṛtyam saṁgītamucyate!

WESTON, MA–The duality that makes the whole, yoking music and movement together to create the expressions of the inner world that reflects the essence of the entire universe. One of the main ideas that bind these dance and music together is rhythm.

This year’s LearnQuest Music conference, which will be held on March 27-29 at Regis College in Weston, MA, is dedicated to Tāḷa Vādya Nartana, a world where percussion and movement meet to create the perfect storm of Nāda, sound that pervades intention and consciousness and causes transformation. The LearnQuest conference has always been a fertile ground for transformation, bringing to the New England audience unparalleled concerts. The conference this year is once again crossing boundaries and kicks off with two classical dance events.

On Friday the event opens with “Beats & Pieces”, a brainchild of Anubrata Chatterjee, son of the renowned Pt. Anindo Chatterjee. He was inspired to combine short bursts of rhythmic compositions from several gharanas into a dynamic offering of tabla Jugalbandi. Added to this, is a unique component of expressive (abhinaya) Kathak rendered by Shinjini Kulkarni, who is the granddaughter of the Maestro Pt. Birju Maharaj. Yet another offering on Friday is “Enchantment”. In the true performance art style as enumerated by the Nāṭyaśāstra, this event combines music, narration, dance, and theater.

Conceptualized by Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan, this performance is a beautifully woven tapestry of incidents and anecdotes from the lives of sitar maestro Pt. Ravi Shankar and violin wizard Vid. Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman. The stories explore how their backgrounds influenced their art, through their music. Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan’s superb script takes us on this magical journey with the help of stalwarts like Bharatanatyam exponents Sheejith Krishna and Jyotsna Jagannathan, and well known actor V.Balakrishnan.

And this is not the only treat in store this year. After 12 long years, we have a stellar percussion ensemble Maha-Laya performing on Saturday. This five-piece ensemble led by Vid. T.H. Subash Chandran is sure to thrill you. Saturday also brings you Sumanth Swaminathan on Carnatic saxophone, Dhananjay Hegde, Hindustani vocal, and a flute and sitar jugalbandi featuring Pt. Rupak Kulkarni and Gaurav Mazumdar.

The highlights of Saturday are two unparalleled artists. The first is Carnatic vocal by Sangeetha Kalanidhi Aruna Sairam. Rooted in tradition, this Padmashree awardee has explored beyond the boundaries, embracing many genres and collaborating with eminent artists across the globe. Her openness to various experiences marks her as an unbridled performer, whose scholarship and innate joy both shine through her voice. A true treat for rasikas!

The other is Padma Bhushan Pandit Ajay Chakraborty. Dubbed a scion of the Patiala-Kasur Gharana, the first recipient of the Kumara Gandharva award and a string of accolade follow his illustrious career. His mellifluous voice drips with intense devotion and humility. Listening live to these two Padma awardees is sure to be a sublime experience.

Sunday ushers another new experience to the conference, thrilling the audience with Hindustani saxophone by Priyank Krishna and nadaswaram in a Carnatic quartet featuring Mylai Kartikeyan. The stage then welcomes our very own George Ruckert on sarod and Aparna Balaji, a Carnatic vocalist, followed by Hindustani vocal and sitar jugalbandi featuring Debapriya Adhikari and Samanwaya Sarkar.

This year we end our concert on a strong note with a Carnatic vocal concert by the stalwart Sangeeta Kalanidhi T.V. Shankaranarayanan. A veteran performer, whose zest and exuberance flows with every note. A very high and fitting finale to an incredible weekend. This year’s festival promises to be a soul inspirative experience.

To learn more about the conference and for tickets, visit https://conference.learnquest.org.

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