Specially-curated cultural and artistic events, including a concert headlined by Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and a photo exhibition by celebrated photographer Steve McCurry will commemorate India’s 75th independence Day celebrations here, showcasing to the Americans and the diaspora the nation’s “progress as a vibrant democracy.” The Consulate General of India in New York along with the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) is organising the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav – Festival of Freedom’.
The two-week long specially-curated events at some of the most iconic cultural venues in New York City feature photography, dance, music and India’s classical culture in the run-up to 75 years of India’s independence on August 15 this year. The Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal, said as India marks 75 years of independence, “it will truly be a historic day in our nation’s onward march.” He added that the ‘Festival of India@75′ will celebrate India’s landmark year in the city of New York and is featuring the finest exponents of Indian performing arts.
“It is only fitting that the best of Indian thought and culture is brought to New York – the cultural capital of America,” he noted.The celebration aims to bring the “best of Indian thought and culture to our friends in America and through them showcase the progress of our nation as a vibrant democracy,” the Indian Consulate said in a statement issued on Monday.
IAAC Chairman Dr. Nirmal Mattoo said the organisation is proud and honoured to mark the occasion of 75 years of Indian Independence with the remarkable series of events celebrating Indian art and culture.“Curated with care, this line-up boosts an ambitious goal: to truly immerse audiences into a vibrant and diverse culture with limitless potential to inspire all citizens of the world,” he said in a statement issued by the IAAC. The grand finale of the ‘Festival of India@75′ on August 15 will feature Khan along with Sarod virtuosos Amaan Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash and tabla players Amit Kavthekar and Ojas Adhiya for a ‘Samaagam’, an ensemble that will present the essence of both Indian and Western traditions seamlessly flowing into each other without artistic compromise.
In ‘Samaagam’, 12 different ragas are presented, creating a unique opportunity to experience joyous music and shared traditions.The concert, featuring renowned Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya and the Refugee Orchestra, will be held at the Carnegie Hall and would “present a synthesis of musical traditions motivated by Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of truth, non-violence and peace.” The festival began on August 5 with a photo exhibition at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery here by McCurry, who has captured India in all its beauty and mystique for over four decades.
McCurry, among whose most famous work is the portrait of the ‘Afghan Girl’, has visited India over 80 times, but in his own words, he has “barely managed to scratch the surface”.On August 6 and 7, breathtaking performances in Indian dances enthralled audiences at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre as talented exponents of various Indian dance forms such as Sanjib Bhattacharya and Jagannath Lairenjam (Sapta, Manipuri-Pung Cholom), Kavya Ganesh (Contemporary Bharatanatyam), Bhavana Reddy (Solo Kuchipudi), Jin Won (Kathak) and Mythili Prakash (Contemporary Bharatanatyam) brought together the richness of Indian dance forms to the audience in New York.
On August 8, the Erasing Borders Dance Festival, a virtual programme of Indian classical as well as contemporary dances was broadcast online. A two-night jazz music event headlined by Sachal Vasandani and Friends featuring Grammy-nominated singer Priya Darshini performing music from a spellbinding collection of arts from East and West will be held on August 11 and 12.
IAAC said Vasandani honours Nat King Cole’s centennial in 2019, while borrowing from his Indian heritage along with Darshini, a captivating singer whose work takes cues from her Indian Classical music roots.Joined by a stellar cast that includes bassist Harish Raghavan (Charles Lloyd), Grammy-nominated pianist Orrin Evans, saxophonist Dayna Stephens and drummer Kush Abadey, the special event will also feature jazz singer Vanisha Gould. Renowned vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty, the star from Patiala Gharana, and her all-female Sakhi ensemble will present a concert at Carnegie Hall on August 13.
“The Sakhi ensemble is an exemplary group of talented Indian artists that brings together voice, instruments, percussion, and dance representing the Indian woman of the 21st century, who is modern yet rooted,” the Consulate said.The penultimate night of the celebration will belong to ‘Saath Saath’ on August 14, an ensemble featuring flute maestro Rakesh Chaurasia, Sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee, master percussionist Taufiq Qureshi and Tabla player Ojas Adhiya.
The Consulate said that the ‘Saath-Saath’ ensemble brings the “spontaneity and improvisation within the discipline of Indian classical music that only they can produce.” The fortnight-long festival is part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations that began on March 12, 2021 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off a march from Sabarmati to Dandi in remembrance of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March on the same day in 1930.Since then, the Consulate General of India has organised over 200 events under the aegis of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav within its jurisdiction with the valuable support and participation the vibrant diaspora community.