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Darpan Festival & Phoenix Gharana

Last weekend I flew out to Phoenix to play at Darpan Festival, the yearly festival of Phoenix Gharana. Sometimes, as a non-desi person who plays Indian classical music on an instrument so closely associated with Western classical music, I wonder if I’m being included in a program purely for my exotic factor. It’s not a great feeling.

This felt very different than that. I was actually one of two non-desi, American musicians to be featured, the other being sarodiya Brandon McIntosh, who is doing great work to teach Hindustani music in Seattle and gave a beautiful performance to end the evening. Not only were we received with the utmost respect, but it was a real privilege to be able to show a group of extremely talented young singers that the music they are learning has great appeal beyond the South Asian community and that with hard work the music can be learned and lived by anyone.

One of the young singers was also a cellist, and it was his first time hearing Indian classical music on the cello. Despite having completed a great deal of training in ICM on voice he had never tried applying it to the cello. Brandon also informed me that one of his students is learning ICM on cello. Perhaps there is hope for my dream of a future for the instrument in ICM?

Some other highlights of the festival; were hearing Manu Srivastava’s performance, alongside 4 of his students. They filled the stage with their presence and music. So cool to hear bada khayal sung in Jhoomra, I’ve gotten too used to Ektaal only. Lovely to hear Vivek Datar whose harmonium accompaniment is so finely attuned and supportive.

Also, it was lovely to reconnect with tabla virtuoso Prafulla Athalye, who was one of my first musician contacts in Mumbai. Having accompaniment from a tabla player of this caliber is like getting a master class.

This community of young singers, and the dedication and care that Manu Srivastava has given them, gives hope for the future of Indian Classical music. That this music could not only exist but flourish in a place like Phoenix, is beyond extraordinary. Thank you Manu for the invitation, it was an honor to share with your community. I hope to be back.


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