Beethoven, Mozart, Adele and Drake are well-known names in the music world. Peter Pupping, Pepe Romero, Francisco Tarego, Chen Jiafeng and Lalgudi G. Jayaraman are probably not common household names. It’s often said that music is a universal language and that’s exactly what software engineering freshman Arun Shriram said he hoped to bring to Cal Poly with the Around the World fundraiser concert Saturday: a way to bring more international music names into the limelight.
Shriram, who has been playing South Indian drums called Mridangam for 15 years, came up with the idea for Around the World in high school. During his freshman year, Shriram’s father, a professional South Indian drummer, invited him to play drums at the San Francisco World Music Festival. The festival brought together professional musicians from countries like China, Korea, Vietnam, India, Azerbaijan and Spain. Shriram played at the festival four years and the experience changed his view on how world music could be integrated.
“[There were] so many different artists, so many views on music,” Shriram said. “That kind of exposure to professionals and their ideologies, that kind of mentorship … I was amazed at just how people from different cultures can instantly play music together [even though] they may not speak the same language.”
After being exposed to different types of music at the festival, Shriram decided to bring an Around the World concert to his high school during his senior year. He brought together musicians from different cultures to perform. Though he only expected about 100 attendees, more than 250 people showed up. He raised $4,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation. With the success of that event, Shriram decided to bring Around the World to Cal Poly.
“Cal Poly is known for not being that diverse and I wanted to show people that we can bring tradition from where we’re from and show how diverse and talented our musicians can be,” he said.
With the help of the Music Production Union (MPU), the Around the World benefit concert brought together a variety of music genres and styles, including a cappella, Indian, Spanish, beatboxing, Latino and modern pop. Shriram’s father, Shriram Brahmanandam, performed a percussion solo and the final fusion song, which took musical elements from all of the acts. All proceeds from the concert will go to the Child Foundation, an international charity organization that helps children living in poverty stay in school.
Biochemistry sophomore Austin Gandler helped Shriram make Around the World a more community-oriented event. He said he believes the event fulfills its purpose of providing a way for people to experience different types of cultural expression, but also its larger purpose of donating to a worthy cause.
“I found so much joy and purpose through education and learning how I can help the world and I want to help kids [who] don’t readily have that opportunity,” Gandler said. “I learned a lot of [the Child Foundation’s] work is based in the Middle East and Eastern European countries. A lot of people usually associate that area with war, [but] forget that there are still families and children there. The fact that this organization can help those kids stay in school and continue to learn is really special.”
Gandler’s roommate, anthropology and geography junior Christian Salyer played Spanish guitar at the concert. When he was a child, Salyer said he would find himself mesmerized by the guitars at live concerts and begged his parents to give him guitar lessons. Salyer didn’t know he was interested in Spanish music until he walked in on his teacher playing a Spanish song one day when he was 12. He’s played the genre ever since.
“It’s one of my favorite things and greatest passions and just the opportunity to share that with people is very enticing,” Salyer said. “One of my favorite things about music is the way it dissolves barriers and brings people together, so doing an event like this where music from all over the world [comes together] and showing how it’s universal is just really cool.”
Salyer met Shriram through the MPU. Salyer said he admires the legacy that Shriram’s music has because Shriram comes from a family of respected Indian musicians who have performed for 300 years. Salyer said he was excited to expose Cal Poly to cultures they might not otherwise experience.
“Cal Poly doesn’t have the most welcoming climate,” Salyer said. “I don’t think it’s purposeful. I think a lot of it is unawareness. An event like this is really good because it’s a lighthearted way to show people why it’s good to be inclusive and celebrate culture and peoples roots and passions.”