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PEM Celebrates Sensational India 2013!

Press Release

The Peabody Essex Museum has celebrated Indian arts and culture every April since 2009 with the Sensational India Festival. Performances, presentations and parties celebrate the museum’s historic connection to India, which dates to 1799.

This year, the two-day festival on April 6 and 7 drew inspiration from PEM’s exhibition of modern Indian art, “Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence," which includes three generations of artists.

The Saturday night Bollywood Dance Party featured DJ Yogz and DJ D-Xtreme of the Boston Sound and Light Co., mixing contemporary Bollywood and bhangra music with Western dance music. The whole room feels like a disco in Mumbai with the decorations and fantastic clothing worn by festival goers.

Earlier in the day multimedia artist Raghava KK gave a talk on his career and his latest project, a “brainwave installation.” Raghava KK started as a cartoonist but has gone on to work in a wide range of traditional and electronic media, while also moving from India to New York.

Dakshina Dance Company, from Washington, D.C., which was founded in 2003 with the aim of mixing traditional and modern dance styles, performed both days of the festival.  They performed Bharatanatyam, a highly evolved from of Indian classical dance, done in the courts.  The company performs a fusion version, which blends with contemporary and modern dance.

On both Saturday and Sunday, Lakha Khan sang and played the sarangi, a stringed instrument like the violin. Khan belongs to the Manganiyar, a caste of Muslim musicians in the state of Rajasthan who have passed their skills down from generation to generation.

Khan’s music was recently recorded by Amarrass Records, a company that is trying to preserve traditional forms of music in India. Founder Ankur Malhotra gave a talk on this kind of folk music on Sunday.

The efforts of Amarrass Records have been compared to those of American folk music collector Alan Lomax, who went into the field in the early 1900s century to record blues, folk and bluegrass music for preservation.

Sunday New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas, a second generation Indian-American told about his adventures reporting from India, which became the subject of his book India Calling.  

Thousands of people attended the weekend-long festival. Bollywood tickets go on sale again in January.

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