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Hendricks Chapel to host special Rupayan concert

September 23, 2008

Sara Miller
(315) 443-9038

Sara Miller

The South Asia Center of Syracuse University is presenting a special concert, "Rupayan: Music from the Rajasthan Desert," featuring eight musicians from the Langa and Manganiar communities of Rajasthan, India, on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel. The concert, additionally sponsored by the Central New York Humanities Corridor, is free and open to the public.

The Langas and Manganiars are groups of hereditary professional musicians whose music has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations and is a vibrant representation of the unique music of the desert land of Rajasthan. Though both communities are made up of Muslim musicians, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities and celebrate Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi. The hypnotic combination of rhythm and melodies sung and played by the Langas and Manganiars are part of the eternal appeal of this mysterious and wondrous land. Thanks to the efforts of the late renowned folklorist Komal Kothari, these musicians have performed in concerts worldwide. The Kalapriya Foundation is acting as the U.S. promoter of this rare art form. Kalapriya's mission is to promote a better understanding of Asian Indian art and culture among the general population.

The "Sindhi Sarangi" used by the Langas is made up of four main wires, with more than 20 vibrating sympathetic strings that help to create its distinctive haunting tones. The bowing of these instruments is a skilful exercise, often supported by the sound of the "ghungroos" or ankle bells that are tied to the bow to make the beat more prominent. Another remarkable bowed instrument is the "kamayacha" of the Manganiars with its big, circular resonator, giving out an impressive deep, booming sound. The music of Rajasthan is driven by pulsating rhythms created by an array of percussion instruments, the most popular of them being the "dholak," a double-headed barrel drum, whose repertoire has influenced other Indian drums including the "tabla." Other instruments include the double flute, "satara," and the hypnotic Jewish harp or "morchang."

The Oct. 7 concert also has co-sponsorship from U.Encounter and iLearn, as well as the Department of Fine Arts, the Department of Religion and the Program in Religion and Society in The College of Arts and Sciences.

The South Asia Center of Syracuse University, located in the Maxwell School's Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, collaborates with Cornell University as a National Resource Center consortium for South Asian studies funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The center's focus is on the research and scholarship of the countries in the South Asia region. The South Asia Center coordinates a variety of colloquia, films, cultural programs, and other activities for the SU community as well as for faculty and students at nearby colleges.

The Central New York Humanities Corridor, a collaborative partnership among Syracuse University, the University of Rochester (including the Eastman School of Music) and Cornell University, is made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Thanks to the Humanities Corridor, Rupayan will also perform at Cornell University on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 4 p.m.

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