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Atlanta Emerging as Center for Indian Classical Music

March 2003
Atlanta Emerging as Center for Indian Classical Music

Atlanta is fast emerging as an Indian classical music center. Organizations such as Indian Classical Music Society (ICMS) and Carnatic Music Association of Georgia (CAMAGA) host as many as six concerts a year, each featuring some of the most prominent artists from the Indian subcontinent. The Indian American Cultural Association (IACA), has started a tradition last year called Sursaagar, a 12 hour concert in the middle of June that has featured, and will feature the likes of Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma and Ustaad Zakir Hussain.

Besides these organizations which play a significant role in bringing quality culture to Atlanta and at the same time a great service to the Indian arts, its the influx of some of the best teachers of Indian classical music that has made a significant difference. Over the past few years, academies like Pt. Jasraj School of music have decided to make Atlanta its bastion. Top Universities like the Emory University of Atlanta has Asian studies program and its Music Department has appointed faculty members to teach Indian traditions, culture and music.

These artists and teachers who have graced Atlanta as their home, teaching a variety of instruments and the theory of music have created a strong interest and affinity in the people of all ages towards this art form. They have nurtured the talents of the budding musicians of Atlanta and re-sowed the seeds that were initially laid by the likes of Pt. Ravi Shankar, Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan and Pt. Vilayat Khan in the West.

One fine example of this is Sitarist Kakali Bandyopadhyay, who performed this Saturday, January 25th, at the Emory Univerity's performing arts studio as a part of the Journey' s series. She started with Raaga Yaman, one of the most popular and beautiful evening raagas. This was followed by a melodious short piece in Sivaranjani. However it was her third piece in Raaga Darbari Kanada, which put a spell on the audience. Her audience, Indians as well as non-Indians seemed to digest all the subtleties of the raaga and in the end were left speechless and wanting more. Her compositions had a rhythmic pattern of twelve beats (Ektaal) and sixteen beats (Teentaal) with her accompanist and a long time friend Dr. Tapabrata Pal, a masterful tabla player, showing why tabla with its depth and range is fast becoming one of the prime percussion instruments in all forms of music. She ended her concert with Raaga Kirwani, which is the same as the Harmonic Minor Scale in the Western classical music.

Kakali received her training from well-known maestros like Kalyani Roy, Indranil Bhattacharyya and also attended master classes of Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan. Currently, she receives her guidance from Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar. She earned her Bachelor's degree in music in Calcutta, India, with the top distinction and was awarded a gold medal with a scholarship. She also received the award for best music direction from West Bengal Natya Academy. Bandyopadhyay has given numerous recitals in India, at prestigious music festivals in North America, and also has won awards in many music competitions. She is an artist affiliate faculty, teaching sitar and North Indian instrumental music in the Department of Music at Emory University. Besides her musical accomplishments, she has a PhD in Biotechnology and is associated with the Centers for Disease Control.

It's not just the Indians that have started pursuing this art form with a great dedication and zest. Some of Bandyopadhyay's students include Jeff, who travels three hours each way from Albany, Georgia to learn Sitar, Leo, who is originally from Colombia, South America and plays a dozen different string instruments, Ed and Gordon who have been amateur musicians on the Atlanta scene since the late 70's and Andrew, who teaches piano at the Gainesville college in Atlanta.

All in all Atlanta is fast emerging as America' s center for the Indian classical music and I would not be surprised if in a few years time we have a few Pandits, Ustaads and Pop and Rock Gurus emerging from Atlanta, thanks to all the hard work put in by its strong community.

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