PUTNEY—Next Stage’s 2021 Artist-in-Residence Arun Ramamurthy returns to Putney on Saturday, June 25, with the Arun Ramamurthy Trio (ART) at Next Stage on 15 Kimball Hill, and on Sunday, June 26, with Brooklyn Raga Massive (BRM) outdoors at Bunker Farm in Dummerston as part of the Bandwagon Summer Series.
Saturday’s concert kicks off with a unique collaboration between the cello and the Indian slide guitar, two instruments seldom heard in Indian classical music. Cellist Jake Charkey and Indian slide guitarist Joel Veena (both Vermont-raised) are joined by tabla player Mir Naqibul Islam, a trio of artists all deeply steeped in the oral tradition of Hindustani music.
The second set of the night features Ramamurthy bringing a fresh approach to South Indian classical repertoire in his trio ART. A recent recipient of Chamber Music America’s prestigious New Jazz Works commission, the Trio will premiere selections from Arun’s newly composed suite.
ART’s collaborative sound is driven by the propulsive rhythm section of drummer Sameer Gupta and electric bassist Damon Banks. The Carnatic canon is remixed in what organizers describe as a “seamless integration of styles, as the group expands on traditional and original compositions in explosive, improvisational flights of fancy.”
“By staying true to raga, the modes that form the melodic foundation for Indian classical composition, but finding the full sonic identity of a skilled ensemble, Ramamurthy’s trio discovers new common ground and moments of organic conversation between two traditions, both based on a balance of rigor and freedom.”
Featured performance venues include Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Jazz Gallery, Ragas Live Festival at Pioneer Works (Brooklyn), David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and more. ART is a core ensemble of Brooklyn Raga Massive, a musicians’ collective of Indian Classical and raga-inspired musicians dedicated to bridging musical cultures.
Brooklyn Raga Massive is a globally recognized musician’s collective rooted in and inspired by Indian Classical music. In this special performance featuring co-artistic director Ramamurthy, the artists of BRM will present “Tradition to Innovation,” a microcosm of the BRM ethos exploring the classical music of North and South India alongside a spirit of innovation born out of Brooklyn.
Bringing this musical exploration to life are Neel Murgai (sitar), Aaron Shragge (trumpet), Kane Mathis (kora/oud), Damon Banks (bass), and Mir Naqibul Islam (tabla). “BRM has cultivated a creative community of artists through its weekly concert and jam sessions,” organizers say.
“Classical Indian music infuses nature, seasons, time of day, and spirituality into its music. Brooklyn Raga Massive have brought it to contemporary audiences with such force, its power is hard to deny,” Keith Marks, executive director of Next Stage, said in a news release. “The musicianship and their commitment to the craft are jaw-dropping. It’s a gift to present these world-class musicians in Windham County."
At the heart of Indian classical music are a set of melodic frameworks for improvisation and composition — ragas. “Raga-inspired music of any genre is fluid, colorful, and highly improvisational, requiring deep listening and respect between musicians,” explains the news release. BRM “aims to leverage these values of openness, generosity, humility, and respect for tradition to cultivate genuine connections between artists and audiences of all backgrounds.”
BRM was officially founded in 2015, but their seeds as a collective were planted in 2012 during a weekly jam session at a local Prospect Heights venue. What began as a casual weekly event flourished and grew into a mainstay of the New York City arts scene, they say, “cultivating a vibrant community of diverse musicians and music lovers. In keeping with the democratic spirit of these jam sessions, the collective is composed of more than 50 collaborating musicians rooted in traditional South Asian, Indian classical, and other musical forms.”
BRM’s ensembles have partnered with artists from over a dozen countries including Mali, Cuba, Bolivia, and Iraq in styles from jazz and minimalism to rock and klezmer to reach audiences of all ages and races. “This practice of cross-cultural collaboration both reflects the current global landscape and enables BRM to serve as an incubator of an expansive, inclusive new genre of music indigenous to Brooklyn.”