Shastra is a community of artists dedicated to creating meaningful, cross-cultural music that connects great musical traditions of India and the West. Through festivals, recordings, educational events, and commissioning initiatives, we are a nexus for musicians to share their artistry and bring this music to the world.

Premier of Rohan, for mridangam and percussion quartet


Rohan Krishnamurthy recently premiered Payton MacDonald’s unique Rohan for solo mridangam and percussion quartet. A review of the concert in The Hindu notes:

“To achieve the mission of globalisation and reach as diverse as an audience as possible, cross cultural initiatives are called for. The new mridangam concerto with percussion quartet that premiered this month to a well attended audience at one of America’s most celebrated venues, New York City’s Juilliard School of Music, was one such successful initiative.”

Krishnamurthy is confident of the concerto’s potential for many future performances with a variety of ensembles:

According to Rohan, since the piece uses traditional Western staff notation and newer hybrid systems of notation for the mridangam, it can easily be performed in other venues involving other artists. “Notation can be a huge musical bridge and will be a great tool when performing the concerto with other ensembles around the world.”

Read the entire review here.

San Francisco World Music Festival launches Online World Music Education Campaign

After 19 years of honing a unique approach to online education, the San Francisco World Music Festival is launching a $150,000 fundraising campaign for their new educational initiative, PANGU, which will allow students around the world to access a wealth of musical knowledge from around the world  without ever leaving their classroom.

Their Indiegogo campaign site reads, “On the PANGU platform, students and teachers can learn how to play traditional, classical, and indigenous music with master musicians without even leaving their classrooms. Students will be able to learn instruments and music straight from the masters from an unprecedented database of customized learning videos; enroll in long-term courses that are integrated and designed for multi-classroom learning; watch, share and broadcast student performances within a global music community; engage in the Teachers Resource Center where the world’s most renowned performers share their techniques and traditions.”

This prominent festival has attracted musicians from countries including China, Azerbaijan, Iran, Taiwan, India, Spain, Burkina Faso, Turkey, and America. To learn more about their campaign, visit their site here.

Thumbprint: composer/soprano Kamala Sankaram tells the story of Mukhtar Mai in a new opera

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 her candid interview with New Music Box magazine, Sankaram reflects on her sources of inspiration, her compositional process, and her hopes for opera in the future:

In conversation with Hilary Hahn and Kala Ramnath

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.

Asha Srinivasan receives tenure at Lawrence University

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!


Shankar Tucker at The INK Conference

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!)

Shankar Tucker’s Kickstarter Funded (and then some!)

To say that Shankar Tucker’s most recent Kickstarter campaign was successfully funded would be an understatement.

Tucker, who has already delighted audiences around the world with his brilliant renditions of popular Bollywood songs, decided to Kickstart a new album and video series. His campaign was met with tremendous excitement from his fans: with 804 individual donations, he received over 1.5 times his requested funding.

Tucker calls his new project Filament, and writes to his fans:

The metaphor is that music is the centerpiece which burns and illuminates everything around us, bringing ideas to light, connecting people, concepts and cultures on a continuos piece thread. Another meaning that people may not know… it also refers to the galaxies visible in the night sky! What do you think?

Have you listened to the music from Filament yet? What do you think?

Welcome to Shastra!

We are so excited to welcome you to our new website! We started out last spring with the idea of creating an organization that would connect musicians working in both the Indian and Western musical traditions, provide a forum for cross-pollination and support of one another’s work, and a create a platform to showcase this beautiful and unique music to a global audience. After many months of hard work and planning, we are so thrilled to announce the launch of Shastra!

We invite you to peruse our site. You can become acquainted with our diverse group of featured Artists through their individual pages, which include some information about their background, and an audio ‘snapshot’ of their work. Visit our Events page to learn about events in your area. Learn about our educational initiatives, including an upcoming collaboration with Face the Music on our Parampara page. And stay tuned for more information about our first Festival in Spring 2015. We are working hard to gather musicians from all over the world together for this unique yearly event.

We would love to hear from you! Please get in touch with us with your questions, to be on our mailing list, or to see how you can get involved in the organization. Welcome to the Shastra community!


Payton MacDonald and Reena Esmail
Artistic Directors