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What is IndiaFest?

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April has been a celebration of India and its history, culture and art throughout Birmingham, thanks to this year’s IndiaFest. The Museum has participated in several events, and we are excited to be hosting the annual Indian Cultural Society Spring Concert this Friday, April 22. In honor of the event, we spoke with Uma Srivastava and Avani Patel. Uma and Avani are both ICS members and on the Junior Patron Board, as well as being nieces of Sanjay Singh, the coordinator of IndiaFest.

Don’t miss your chance to experience a unique aspect of Indian culture at the concert from 6:30-8 p.m. Admission is free to enjoy the performance of renowned Indian artists Vidushi Mita Nag (Sitar), Pt. Subhen Chatterjee (Tabla) and Pt. Joydeep Ghosh (Sarod). 

Birmingham Museum of Art: What is the goal of IndiaFest?

Avani Patel: The overall goal of IndiaFest is to show the community of Birmingham how much diverse culture is right in front of them in their vicinity. In order to be competitive and successful in today’s environment, in your personal life and career you must be a globally well-rounded individual. Events like IndiaFest are the ideal introduction to a cultural experience for local community to immerse themselves. Hopefully what people will take from attending the IndiaFest events is that there is so much diversity and various cultures to learn about and from right here in Birmingham. You just have to dig a little bit, show a little interest and make the effort to learn about and attend these events, so you can broaden your horizon to become a true global citizen by attempting to understand the cultures of the world through cultural events such as IndiaFest. 

BMA: Why do you think it is important for people who may never visit India to learn about the country and its culture?

Uma Srivastava: Even though India is only 69 years old, the culture has existed for thousands of years. Many times, folks misunderstand the culture of India through messaging or misinterpretation. They think having a red dot on the forehead is bad, a henna tattoo is permanent or arranged marriages are awful; that, however, is not true. India and its culture are very vibrant, family oriented and very caring. We can all learn and apply something from the culture in our own lives. It’s easy to think of India as a backwards country, but the truth is that the culture is one of the more advanced in today’s society! That’s why it’s important for people to learn that the country has lots to offer, and the culture is vibrant and rich. There are also many folks who are fascinated with India and everything about it but don’t have the means to visit the country. We decided to “bring” India to them through IndiaFest! 

BMA: What role does the Museum’s ICS Spring Concert play in India Fest? 

US: ICS has been an integral part of Birmingham and BMA for many years. The culture of India includes food, movies, music, yoga, dancing and religion. IndiaFest has done a great job of showing famous Bollywood movies, sharing delicious food from Taj India, having a yoga session and welcoming Shiva-Nataraja at the BMA. India has two types of music: classical and modern/Bollywood. Red Baraat on Thursday will display the more modern and Bollywood-type music. Classical music is a huge part of India, and this ICS concert will display that aspect. You cannot fully understand India without listening to and appreciating classical music. The sitar and tabla have been a part of Indian culture since the gods; Goddess Saraswati is always depicted playing the sitar. 

AP: The ICS concert plays an integral role in IndiaFest to display the importance of traditional Indian classical music in the Indian culture. Many people, such as myself, have grown up listening to classical music, as it creates an atmosphere of peace to truly absorb the beauty of the instruments involved in Indian classical music. The ICS concert will show how Indian classical music differs from Western classical music. Indian classical music is similar to Western classical music with the scales but differs greatly because Indian classical music is played without sheet music. There is a set one-line melody, or raga, with specific notes, and only these notes may be used when playing that particular raga. Musicians play off of each other’s music with an extemporaneous style; therefore, the music created from this style is different at every performance. Audiences at the ICS concert will learn the words such as taala and raga and leave with a newfound outlook on classical music. Indian classical music can truly be exciting, full of life, and vibrant just like the country of India itself!