Kalaa Utsavam celebrates Indian arts

Singapore's national performing arts centre Esplanade hosts a year-round line-up of about 3,500 live performances and activities.

Kalaa Utsavam - Indian Festival of Arts is an important segment of this extravaganza. The 10-day event, which has been held yearly over the last two decades, presents Indian art forms and genres in a captivating and engaging fashion - usually before a full house.

This year, the Nov 18-27 festival will have established artists and arts groups and exciting new performers and performances.

Kalaa Utsavam is South-east Asia's premier Indian arts festival with a multi-genre focus. It is a catalyst for excellence and develops and supports the creation of both international and local artists in breakout performances.

Keeping in line with that vision, this year's edition will feature the return of international performers like sitarist Anoushka Shankar, daughter of legendary Indian sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar, and newly co-produced works by Apsaras Arts, Bhaskar's Arts Academy and playwright A Yagnya.

Through ARISI : Rice, Apsaras explores the importance of rice from a South-east Asian perspective, while Bhaskar's collaborates with playwright Alfian Sa'at for Marabu - Footprints Of An Artist, which pays tribute to the late dance doyenne Santha Bhaskar.

Upcoming local playwright Yagnya's Between 5 Cows And The Deep Blue Sea, co-directed by Alvin Tan and Yagnya, looks at traditional Indian matchmaking, specifically the struggles of a Tamil girl. PopLore - A Year Of Singapore Popular Music, in celebration of Esplanade's 20th anniversary, will feature Vasantham Live, which chronicles the evolution of the Indian pop scene in Singapore.

Kalaa Utsavam will also feature many exciting and upcoming musicians, such as Punjabi outfit Band Walle, Tamil group D.N.S.V, and soul and R&B singer-songwriter Shak'thiya.

International artists will be back on centre stage. Apart from Anoushka, who will collaborate with Austrian percussionist Manu Delago, maverick Indian carnatic vocalist TM Krishna will be performing with his ensemble.

Popular Malaysian hip-hop collective #PU4LYF is primed to entertain, while Singapore's very own Orchestra Of The Music Makers will be part of Anoushka's concert.

Stand-up comedian Rishi Budhrani will feature in Can I Make You A Suit, Mate? - a comedic monologue based on his father's experiences as an immigrant from India. The Indigo Jackal, written by Kamini Ramachandran and directed by Grace Kalaiselvi, forms part of the popular commissioned children's productions.

Kalaa Utsavam, principally sponsored by High Commission of India and supported by The Silent Foundation, will also have workshops, talks and a slew of free programmes.

HIGHLIGHTS: Anoushka ShankarWith Orchestra Of the Music Makers featuring Manu Delago (S'pore/UK) When: Nov 19-20, 7.30pm Where: Esplanade Concert Hall

Anoushka is a genre-defying artist who transcends realms, from classical and contemporary to acoustic and electronic. For the first time at Kalaa Utsavam, the masterful sitarist collaborates with other outstanding musicians for a truly transcendent performance.

She will be accompanied by her long-term collaborator Manu Delago as well as Orchestra Of The Music Makers. The show will be conducted by Joshua Tan.

Nadasukham - Opening Music By T.M. Krishna, Sheik Mahaboob Subhani, Kaleeshabi Mahaboob, Thanjavur T.R. Govindarajan, Akkarai S Subhalakshmi and Praveen Sparsh (India) When: Nov 27, 7pm Where: Esplanade Concert Hall

Led by eminent Carnatic musican and scholar T.M. Krishna, this performance is a fascinating and unique collaboration with Nadasvaram artists Sheik Mahaboob and Kaleeshabi Mahaboob, Thanjavur T.R.Govindarajan (tavil), Akkarai S Subhalakshmi (violin) and Praveen Sparsh (mridingam).

It is a musical conversation hinged on artistic sensibilities and sensitivities, and carries forward the age-old lineage where the past and present intersect to create a unique musical experience.

Can I Make You A Suit, Mate? By Rishi Budhrani When: Nov 25-26, 7.30pm Where: Esplanade Recital Studio

Rishi Budhrani, the first stand-up comedian to host the National Day Parade (2022) and the voice of Sammy in the award-winning Netflix animated series Downstairs, presents a semi-improvised comedic monologue.

It is an original, heartfelt and funny tale inspired by his father's journey from India to Singapore.

Esplanade Co-Production Marabu - Footprints Of An Artist By Bhaskar's Arts Academy When: Nov 18, 8pm; Nov 19-20,3pm and 8pm Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio

This tribute to the late dance doyenne Santha Bhaskarw traces her journey from her humble origins in Kerala to the blossoming of her career as a dancer and choreographer in Singapore.

Daughter Meenakshy Bhaskar directs and choreographs this dance biopic, which features music composition by B.V. Balasai and script and dramaturgy by Alfian Sa'at.

Esplanade Co-Production ARISI : Rice By Apsaras Arts Dance Company (Singapore, Indonesia, India) When: Nov 25-26, 8pm Where: Esplanade Theatre

In a shift from epic storytelling, award-winning artistic director Aravinth Kumarasamy imagined the bharatanatyam dance production as episodic vignettes that intersect with stages of rice cultivation.

There are Balinese dance elements of kebyar duduk, kebyar, legong and joget bumbung - choreographed by Professor I Wayan Dibia and Apsaras resident choreographer Mohanapriyan Thavarajah.

Critically-acclaimed film director K. Rajagopal also contributes a powerful filmic layer of stories from former farmer migrants who now eke a living in developing foreign lands.

There are musical collaborations with Singapore Chinese Orchestra and immersive soundscape created through live Indian and Chinese instruments performed and sung by leading award-winning artistes like Bombay Jayashri Ramnath and and other eminent SCO musicians, Balinese Gamelan and kecak choric singing to echo and accent certain scenes.

Mudivili - Infinity By D.N.S.V When: Nov 19, 8pm Where: Esplanade Annexe Studio

The group of friends showcase their songwriting and composition skills, and give a new voice to conventional Tamil songs, injecting them with p+op and percussive elements to create rich soundscapes. In their bid to encourage young individuals to appreciate the Tamil language through music, they will perform their well-known ethnic classics such as Tong Hua, Belaian Jiwa and Mas Que Nada.

RAULA - A Punjabi Night Harsha Channa, The Band Walle and Joshiley Bhangra When: Nov 18, 8pm Where: Esplanade Annexe Studio

Harsha, KisH (Prem Kishan) and The Band Walle present a repertoire of songs that put Punjabi music on the world map, including music by folk artist Surinder Kaur and stars such as Diljit Dosanjh and Jasmin Sandlas. Joshiley Bhangra will showcase a dazzling bhangra and dhol performance featuring Boliyan (Punjabi couplets) and stunts.

lFor more details, go to www.esplanade.com/kalaautsavam

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