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KTRU South Asian Concert Brings Healing in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Swar Yatra – A Musical Journey! Celebrating 50 years of KTRU and 25 years of Navrang Show

Swar Yatra – A Musical Journey! Celebrating 50 years of KTRU and 25 years of Navrang Show

By Ethan Hasiuk

HOUSTON: On Sunday, Septermber 10, a large, beautifully diverse, and attentive audience experienced Swar Yatra – A Musical Journey, a concert hosted by KTRU Rice University Radio. Varsha Vakil, who has now organized four South Asian music concerts and three KTRU Outdoor Show (ODS) Indian performances in her nine years as a DJ at KTRU, led and curated the event. This year’s concert was particularly special in that it celebrated 50 years of radio at Rice University and 25 years of the Navrang radio show.

Pandit Suman Ghosh at KTRU’s Swar Yatra – A Musical Journey!

Pandit Suman Ghosh at KTRU’s Swar Yatra – A Musical Journey!

Swar Yatra – A Musical Journey was dedicated to former KTRU Station Manager Nick Schlossman, who originally invited Varsha to join Navrang and facilitated a shift in the then Bollywood-focused Navrang show to more diverse Indian music styles. Schlossman and fellow KTRU alumnus Katie Mayer were in attendance. Additional guests of honor included Dr. Shih-Hui Chen, Chair of Composition and Theory at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music; Paul English, professional composer and Shepherd School of Music alumnus; and David Leebron, President of Rice University.

Fusion artist and rapper Gaura Karuna with Ram Das

Fusion artist and rapper Gaura Karuna with Ram Das

After enjoying free henna tattoos from ISKCON and free snacks from Deep Foods, the audience was treated to an energetic performance from Houston’s rapper Gaura Karuna. Gaura, accompanied by Ram Das on vocals and harmonium, presented his unique fusion of soaring, Kirtan melodies and rapped verses over electronic beats. The audience was eager to dance and clap along to his performance.

The tone of the event then calmed significantly with a traditional sitar raaga masterfully performed by Rice University Doctor of Musical Arts student Shane Monds. Justin Lasiewicz joined Monds on tabla for the performance’s conclusion, which fully demonstrated the rhythmic and sonic capabilities of each instrument. Justin humbly shares “Sound provided was of the highest quality, the stage was perfectly created for an evening soaked in North Indian classical traditions; the food, henna, moving music and comforting chai made for a special evening.”

Justin Laseiwicz on Tabla and Shane Monds on Sitar

Justin Laseiwicz on Tabla and Shane Monds on Sitar

Closing out the concert was internationally acclaimed Hindustani Classical vocalist Pandit Suman Ghosh. Pandit Ghosh rushed to the event from the airport having just returned from a performance in Minneapolis, MN, but nothing about his performance felt the least bit rushed. In fact, he presented a perfectly-paced and masterfully performed set of raaga representing the cyclical nature of each day. These raaga ranged from calm and contemplative to intense and intricate, demonstrating the full capabilities of his versatile voice.

KTRU-in-1

Pandit Ghosh was accompanied by Hindole Majumdar, whose innovative tabla technique guided the performance through its varied moods and beat patterns. Apurva Ghosh and Prasun Kolhe, disciples of Pandit Ghosh, also accompanied the performance, introducing recurring themes and melodies throughout and perfectly executing call-and-response vocal passages. Pandit Ghosh admirably states “The event, spearheaded by Varsha Vakil was organized and presented in an impeccable fashion and with noticeable grandeur. My heartiest congratulations to KTRU and Navrang!” Pandit Ghosh dedicated his performance, which he graciously donated to KTRU, to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and flooding events around the world.

KTRU’s local show director, Ian Wells, was invited on the stage by Varsha to express her sincere gratitude for his unconditional support towards the Navrang show endeavors. Varsha applauded the tremendous efforts by Rice University undergraduate students and ktru’s small concert directors Ethan Hasiuk and Jeff Horowitz for their exceptional leadership and management skills. Varsha earnestly thanked sponsors Hindus of Greater Houston, South Asian Youth Alliance, ISKCON, Daya, India Culture Center, Indian American Cancer Network, Maharaja Bhog, Udipi Cafe, Govinda’s, Deep Foods, Quik Tea, Britannia, and the media partners Masala Radio, KPFT and GenerAsian Radio.

The evening concluded with celebratory cake in addition to Indian vegetarian cuisine. It was beautiful to see artists, Rice students, and members of the Houston community gathered together in this way, brought together by music even during a time of pain and struggle.
Ethan Hasiuk is a Rice University Undergraduate Student.

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