Only three seat cushions, microphones and North Indian musical intruments were set on top of a red patterned rug in the dimly lit theater. Members of the audience patiently awaited as three men approach stage wearing traditional North Indian attire. They sat in a cross-legged position. As the applause diminished, they grined and took a bow.
Raga is a predominantly melodic mode that captures an array of notes, sounds and rhythms that make up the foundation of classical North Indian music. While it is abstract and captivating, this style is largely unknown in American culture.
Cal Poly’s Music Department hosted a North Indian Classical Music concert in Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre last Monday to showcase the diversity of music from around the world.
The performers, Arnab Chakrabarty and Sanju Sahai, were invited to play at Cal Poly by music professor Ken Habib. Habib said these performers were brought to his attention after his student, biology junior Kamal Ahmad, mentioned the duo would be touring the United States.
Chakrabarty was Ahmad’s music teacher, which allowed Ahmad the chance to perform on stage.
“In classical Indian music, an advanced student would perform with their teacher and play an instrument known as the tambura,” Habib said.
During the event, Ahmad sat beside Chakrabarty, who played the sarod, a long necked, fretless and plucked lute. During the first half of the show, Chakrabarty played solo and was later joined by his partner. Sahai played the tabla, a pair of small hand drums. The musical composition started off with slow beats, but got progressively faster as the performance went on.
Interaction with the audience was a major component of the preformance. Chakrabarty consistently engaged with the audience throughout the night. He familiarized them with the origins of raga music and made key stylistic choices.
“We learn how to improvise and we create music,” Chakrabarty said in between sets.
After an intermission, a questions and answer session was incorporated by Habib in an effort to expose and familiarize the audience to South Asian cultures.
“In the larger context, this was a concert of a culture that is very underrepresented at Cal Poly,” Habib said.
Although the process of putting this entire event together was not easy, Habib said he felt it was vital to show Cal Poly how cultures vary musically.
“Cal Poly needs performances like this because there is such a stark lack of exposure of cultures from around the world,” Habib said.