Raag-Mala Toronto inaugural concerts at the Aga Khan Museum

By: Michael O’Hara, Raag-Mala Toronto Board Member

(Desi News March 2016)

There is a flash of brilliant green from a sari as she takes her seat.  Her husband noisily takes his candy out and is appropriately hushed. The esteemed artists take their places upon the dais and prepare for the long musical journey ahead. The scene repeats the next day.

Raagmala Toronto Inaugural

The Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata?The esteemed Saptak Festival in Ahmedabad?

These scenes are taking place in our own proverbial backyard – right here at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

On April 2ndand 3rd, Raag-Mala Music Society of Toronto in conjunction with The Aga Khan Museum will present a program entitled “Raags of the Gharana Tradition” – a two day program featuring some of the finest Indian classical musicians representing their respective gharanas or “schools” of music (see below).  Each performer will present raags that are particularly significant in the musical fabric of their own gharana’s DNA.

This will mark the second year in a row that Raag-Mala is holding their inaugural concerts of the season in partnership with the Aga Khan Museum.  Raag-Mala’s president Mohamed Khaki explains “The collaboration with the Museum allows us to provide what you might call thematic programming.  Last year our two organizations jointly presented a wonderful program entitled Miyan-ki-Daane.  It was a rare opportunity for Toronto audiences to hear four major raags composed by the legendary musician MiyanTansen.  More importantly, we were able to have them performed at the proper times of the day. This is not always possible with the restrictions of conventional concert times, consequently many morning and afternoon raags rarely get played.”

The collaboration between the two organizations was gratifying for the artists, the audiences and both organizations – a triple coup.

The Aga Khan Museum’s programming has reflected an ever growing and ever burgeoning artistic palette.  Everything from Inuit throat singers to flamenco music can be on the bill, and this is due in no small part to the vision of AmiraliAlibhai, who heads up the Museum’s performing arts department.

“Toronto is famed for the diversity of its cultures” explains Amirali. “Establishing and nourishing partnerships with organizations like Raag-Mala allow both institutions to bring artists that both reflect and challenge the diversity of our communities within the GTA.” Adds Amirali, “we want to collaborate with artistic partners that we can trust; Raag-Mala’s track record of over 30 years of delivering the best of Indian classical music in Toronto is unmatched.”

Offering an unparalleled experience both aesthetically and acoustically, the Aga Khan Museum auditorium is the perfect space for Raag-Mala to offer up its inaugural banquet. Now it’s in 35th year, Raag-Mala is a volunteer based organization that continues to thrive through the dedication and devotion of its many volunteers, patrons and benefactors.  Over the years Raag-Mala has hosted a veritable who’s who of Indian Classical Music including: Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ud. Vilayat Khan, Pt. Nikhil Banerjee, Pt. Ajoy Chakrabarty, Kaushiki Chakraborty and many more.

About a gharana

In North Indian classical music, the term refers to a musical style that has evolved over time in various regional centers, generally based on the styles of musical maestros.  Gharanas are defined by particular approaches to various aspects of raag (melodic scale) and taal (rhythmic cycle).  As with snowflakes, no two gharana’s are the same!