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PUTNEY—2021 Next Stage Artist-in-Residence Arun Ramamurthy returns to Putney on Saturday, June 25 with the Arun Ramamurthy Trio (ART) at Next Stage at 15 Kimball Hill, and Sunday, June 26 with Brooklyn Raga Massive (BRM) outdoors at Bunker Farm in Dummerston as part of the Bandwagon Summer Series.
Saturday’s concert will begin with a unique collaboration between cello and Indian slide guitar, two instruments rarely heard in Indian classical music. Cellist Jake Charkey and Indian slide guitarist Joel Veena (both from Vermont) are joined by tabla player Mir Naqibul Islam, a trio of artists all deeply rooted in the oral tradition of Hindustani music.
The second set of the evening features Ramamurthy bringing a fresh approach to classical South Indian repertoire in his ART trio. Recent recipients of Chamber Music America’s prestigious New Jazz Works commission, the Trio will premiere selections from Arun’s newly composed suite.
ART’s collaborative sound is carried by the propulsive rhythm section of drummer Sameer Gupta and electric bassist Damon Banks. The Carnatic canon is remixed in what the organizers describe as a “smooth integration of styles, as the group develops traditional and original compositions in explosive and improvised flights”.
“By staying true to raga, the modes that form the melodic foundation of classical Indian composition, but finding the full sonic identity of a skillful ensemble, Ramamurthy’s trio discovers new common ground and moments of conversation. organic between two traditions, both based on a balance of rigor and freedom.
Performance venues featured include Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Jazz Gallery, Ragas Live Festival at Pioneer Works (Brooklyn), David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and more. ART is a core ensemble of Brooklyn Raga Massive, a collective of classical Indian and raga-inspired musicians dedicated to bridging musical cultures.
Brooklyn Raga Massive is a globally recognized collective of musicians rooted in and inspired by Indian classical music. In this special performance featuring Co-Artistic Director Ramamurthy, BRM artists will present “Tradition to Innovation”, a microcosm of the BRM philosophy exploring classical music from North and South India alongside a spirit of innovation born in Brooklyn.
Bringing this musical exploration to life are Neel Murgai (sitar), Aaron Shragge (trumpet), Kane Mathis (kora/oud), Damon Banks (bass) and Mir Naqibul Islam (tabla). “BRM has cultivated a creative community of artists through its weekly concerts and jam sessions,” organizers say.
“Classical Indian music infuses nature, seasons, time of day and spirituality into its music. Brooklyn Raga Massive brought it to contemporary audiences with such force, its power is hard to deny,” Next Stage Executive Director Keith Marks said in a press release. “The musicality and their commitment to the craft is breathtaking. It’s a gift to bring these world-class musicians to Windham County.”
At the heart of Indian classical music are a set of melodic frameworks for improvisation and composition — the ragas. “Raga-inspired music, regardless of genre, is fluid, colorful and highly improvised, requiring deep listening and respect between musicians,” the press release explains. BRM “aims to leverage these values of openness, generosity, humility and respect for tradition to cultivate genuine connections between artists and audiences from all walks of life.”
BRM was officially founded in 2015, but their seeds as a collective were planted in 2012 during a weekly jam session at a local venue in Prospect Heights. What started as a casual weekly event has flourished and become a mainstay of the New York arts scene, they say, “cultivating a vibrant community of diverse musicians and music lovers.” In keeping with the democratic spirit of these jam sessions, the collective is made up of over 50 collaborating musicians rooted in South Asian, classical Indian and other musical traditions.
BRM ensembles have partnered with artists from more than a dozen countries, including Mali, Cuba, Bolivia and Iraq, in styles ranging from jazz and minimalism to rock and klezmer to reach audiences of all ages and races. “This practice of cross-cultural collaboration both reflects the current global landscape and enables BRM to serve as an incubator for an expansive and inclusive new genre of music originating in Brooklyn.”