Collaboration between the local Indian community and IPFW brings top entertainers in India to perform at IPFW.
“We have been fortunate enough to bring very popular, very renowned artists to the community,” said Dr. R. Prasad Mantravadi, a member of Shruti Fort Wayne Indian Cultural Society, a nonprofit Indian community group that has partnered with IPFW to hold the events.
The fourth performance in the series takes place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday when Amjad Ali Khan and his sons, Amaan and Ayaan, play at Rhinehart Music Center at IPFW.
Amjad Ali Khan is considered a master of the sarod, an ancient, lute-like instrument, a IPFW news release said. His sons, who also play the 25-string instrument, attract the same media attention in India as rock stars in the United States.
Mantravadi and other members of the local Indian community founded Shruti to help bring classical Indian music and dance to Fort Wayne for all people to enjoy. About 450 to 500 families of Indian descent live in the Fort Wayne area, said Mantravadi, a radiation oncologist who settled here in 1983.
The Indian Performance Series at IPFW grew out of discussions begun a few years ago between Indian community leaders and Charles “Chuck” O’Connor, the former dean of IPFW’s School of Visual and Performing Arts, said John O’Connell, who became dean in July 2013.
O’Connor introduced O’Connell to leaders of the Shruti organization, and O’Connell has fully supported the series.
The events have been a great benefit for students, who have the chance to experience another culture, O’Connell said. For example, Melanie Bookout, an IPFW associate professor of music history and literature, incorporates the performances into her Traditions in World Music class, he added.
The first event took place in fall 2012 and featured classical Indian dancer Rukmini Vijayakumar and other dance professionals, O’Connell said. Musicians Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Zakir Hussain performed in spring 2013, and flutists Shashank Subramanyam and Rakesh Chaurasia played this past fall.
The Ali Khans’ performance promises to be both interesting and unusual.
With the sarod, it is very difficult to play all of the strings and keep up a good harmony, Mantravadi said. In addition, the entire performance is improvised based on the musicians, audience and atmosphere in the venue.
To schedule performers for the series, Shruti members check what Indian performers will be touring the United States and decide what ones to invite to perform here, O’Connell said.
Shruti raises the money to pay the performers through personal donations and corporate sponsorships, Mantravadi said.
IPFW provides the venue and the on-site and technical staff needed to stage the event, O’Connell said. He also takes care of contracts and legal documents.
The first event sold out, and the two others nearly did, O’Connell said. Ticket buyers have come from throughout Indiana and from Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.
Word also has spread about the quality of the venue here and the good crowds, O’Connell said. Some Indian performers now contact him to ask about performing here.
The Indian Performance Series probably will continue offering spring and fall performances yearly unless there is strong demand for more events, Mantravadi said.
O’Connell said he would be open to additional events. The success of this series also has him thinking about asking another large, local cultural group, such as the Burmese, if they would like to partner on an event series featuring entertainment from their culture.