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Sitar Player To Perform In Fort Wayne

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Photo credit: Courtesy photo

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Written by: Bernadette BeckerMarch 01, 2017

When Shruti Fort Wayne Indian Cultural Society first invited sitar player Anoushka Shankar to play at IPFW, she responded by asking: Where is Fort Wayne? Now, after three years, Shankar will perform in Auer Performance Hall at IPFW at 6 p.m. on March 26.

Shankar was convinced by the length and quality of the Indian Performance Series at IPFW, which has been occurring for the past five years, said Dr. Vijay Chilakamarri, a cardiologist with Lutheran Medical Group and president of Shruti. Shankar is a sitar player and composer, both in Indian classical style and progressive music, according to her website.

Shankar has had five Grammy Award nominations including one for this year. Her highest mark of distinction is that she has won the British House of Commons Shield, as both the youngest recipient and only female winner, according to her website.

Shankar is like the Indian version of Yo-Yo Ma, said Chilakamarri. She is half-sister to jazz singer Norah Jones and daughter of renowned sitar player and guru Ravi Shankar.

“[Ravi Shankar] was somebody who actually made the [sitar] popular” Chilamarri said.

Introducing the Fort Wayne community to different instruments and traditional Indian music is the goal of this performance and all the Indian Performance series, Chilakamarri said.  All the performers have been well respected in their art forms and that has encouraged even more prestigious performers like Shankar to come to perform, Chilakamarri said.

The Shruti Fort Wayne Indian Cultural Society is a non-profit volunteer endeavor. It was born out of a happenstance experience. Chilakamarri’s daughter studied traditional Indian dance in Chicago and then held her final recital at IPFW. That performance was seen by Chancellor Vicky Carwein and Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts John O’Connell.

Seeing the performance spurred O’Connell to ask Chilakamarri to bring other Indian cultural experiences to IPFW.

“The whole intent was to introduce [traditional Indian Music] to younger people,” Chilakamarri said.

The Indian Performance Series focused on instrumentalists and dancers because of the language barrier between inherent in traditional Indian vocal performances.

O’Connell has been dedicated to keeping the collaboration between Shruti and IPFW and to encouraging the series to continue, said Susan Domer, marketing and public relations specialist. Chilakamarri said that IPFW does much of the contracting to enable concerts and cultural experiences to come to IPFW. IPFW also helps Shruti by advertising the events and providing the venue.

One aspect of the performance series that has surprised Chilakamarri is the local involvement and donations to support it.

“I had no idea people would be interested,” Chilakamarri said.

International music is actually a component required for the accreditation of IPFW’s music program. In addition to the Anoushka Shankar event this year, there was also a choral group from Estonia, a Chinese trumpet player and Chinese conductor, said Gregory Jones, chair of the music department.

“There are so many rich folk traditions that we can explore …[to understand] how the instruments, melodies and harmonies reflect the lives of people,” Jones said.

Folk music mixed with western art is increasing in popularity, Jones said. He cited examples such as Yo-Yo Ma and Nigel Kennedy’s work. Exposure to music of other cultures is beneficial to students’ perspectives, Jones said.

“(Music) is the ‘universal language’ and the best first step in understanding people who are different,” Jones said.

The department of music is working to encourage more diversity in the program itself and more diverse performances so that students and the community may benefit, Jones said.

For more information about upcoming events and previous performances visit Shrutifortwayne.com.