This past January, Kamala Sankaram‘s new opera Thumbprint was premiered at the Prototpe Festival. Thumbrint tells the daring story of Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani woman who, in 2002, refused to commit suicide after being raped (as was customary in her society). Sankaram’s opera, which was described by New York Classical Review as, “searingly, overpoweringly beautiful”, brings her story to life with full force.
Sankaram’s decision to sing the lead role in the opera was necessitated in part by the relatively small number of South Asian opera singers. She says:
The Muhktar part in thumbrint is a lyric coloratura part. It was very important to me that the cast be South Asian, or [have] as many South Asian singers as possible, and we didn’t find any lyric coloratura singers. Part of it was that there didn’t seem to be anyone else that could do it.
While Sankaram points out an issue that has been echoed by other composers writing vocal music on South Asian topics, she also does an incredible job of singing the title role herself.
In November 2013, internationally acclaimed Western violinist Hilary Hahn released her groundbreaking CD In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. She commissioned a wide range of composers to write short encore pieces. One of her collaborators was celebrated Hindustani violinist Kala Ramnath.
Watch as these two incredible violinists from very different performance traditions speak to one another about their collaboration:
You can listen to an excerpt from Ramnath’s encore, Aalap and Tarana here.
Composer Asha Srinivasan received tenure this spring at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin. In the full announcement issued by Lawrence’s Provost, David Burrows speaks ecstatically of Srinivasan’s appointment:
“Professor Srinivasan’s students are ecstatic about the new dimensions in music that she brings to Lawrence. Her studio is a source of great inspiration and creativity. In the classroom and in the studio, she is described as a wonderful teacher who enriches the quality of the conservatory experience.”
Srinivasan is one of Shastra’s commissioned composers this year: She will be writing an original work for the talented young musicians of Face the Music, which will premiere on our first festival in spring of 2015. We are so excited to be working with her!
You might be fascinated by the mechanics of Shankar Tucker‘s adaptation of Hindustani music for the clarinet. Or you might just love his YouTube channel, which features arrestingly beautiful arrangements and mashups of popular American and Bollywood songs, as well as his own new compositions.
In his recently released talk from The INK Conference in Pune, Shankar gives us some insight into his journey and his creative process (and even performs live!)