Despite the weather pointing to the contrary, summer has indeed arrived, bringing with it the traditional slew of festivals across the country. Alongside the usual proponents of summer frivolities, one of the major contributors to the festival line-up in the city will be the events held by MILAPFEST, the UK’s largest Indian arts development trust.
The company will be holding a series of events, the largest celebration of Indian music, dance and entertainment of its kind in the country, and has built a reputation as one of the cornerstones of culture and entertainment in the city.
Now in its 27th year, Milapfest works to promote Indian arts throughout the UK, providing not only entertainment, but education on the diversity of Indian culture. The trust complements its work on education and professional development in the Indian arts with performances, commissions and exhibitions demonstrating the richness of the continent. This summer will be no exception, with a wide array of events being held in and around Hope University. With a diverse line-up that includes lectures and dance performances, naturally the eye of Bido Lito! turned to the musical events, which will see some of the biggest names in the Indian scene making appearances at performances and workshops in Liverpool. One aspect of this will be the MUSIC INDIA SUMMER SCHOOL at Hope’s Creative Campus. Combining lectures and workshops, the idea is to offer insights (to both the experienced and the uninitiated) into the world of Indian music. At the heart of the summer school will be the Discovering Indian Music sessions, an in-depth study of the composition and structure of Indian music, starting with the fundamentals and exploring the complexities of the diverse styles involved. The residential course offer a fully immersive experience of Indian music, complete with evening sessions from highly regarded Indian performers. One of these performers is Anil Srinivasan, a classically trained pianist famed for his synthesis of western modes with traditional Indian vocals in the Carnatic style. Having been involved with Milapfest for the past three years, he explains the importance of the trust to the dissemination of Indian music in the UK: “Milapfest has created a multi-layered platform to showcase the talent of the subcontinent. They’ve painstakingly cultivated a dedicated following for Indian music – both through their educational outreach and work with youngsters as well as their consistent, high-quality programmes and events. They’ve blended the best that India has to offer with a format of presentation that is more consistent with the sensibility of music audiences in the UK.”
It’s the synthesis between the traditions of India with Western formatting that has been central to the success and longevity of Milapfest. The name itself is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Milap’ meaning ‘to meet each other in friendship’, which provides a succinct summary of the core aims of the trust. In bridging the cultural boundaries, the importance of knowledge can’t be understated. In promoting a greater understanding of a culture that, while still a minority, can count large communities throughout Great Britain, Milapfest provides more than just entertainment. The trust encourages not only enjoyment of the music on offer but participation and understanding of the complexities and cultural nuances which combine in the creation of Indian music, a welcome insight into what constitutes a growing genre in the Western world. Anil believes that the popularity of Indian music has yet to reach its zenith: “I think Indian music has already come a long way. From the heady 60s infusion of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sitar to the profusion of Bollywood/Indian film and film-inspired music, I believe that there has been a coming of age. Music from India has also come of age – there is a huge pool of talent in India that is now more global in its outlook and yet in touch with their traditions. They are not afraid to stretch the boundaries of their musical expression and are happy to adopt a more eclectic and experimental attitude towards music making. I sincerely believe the best is yet to come.”
Running alongside the Discover Indian Music programme, and highlighting some of the aspects Anil speaks of, will be the INDIKA FESTIVAL, a cornucopia of Indian entertainment, held at the Capstone Theatre. The festival will open with an extravaganza featuring two of the UK’s finest Indian youth orchestras, Samyo and Tarang, and will consist of workshops, lectures and a variety of dance and music performances. Conducting the Samyo orchestra will be Guarav Mazumdar, renowned sitar player, who learned his art under the tutelage of Ravi Shankar. While unfamiliar instruments and differing scales and modes may be daunting to some considering visiting Indika, Guarav believes in the innate accessibility of the music. “Indian music has a meditative and entertaining quality both at the same time, which is unique. All one needs to do is to come with an open mind and let music do the rest. Indian music in all forms and styles attracts people from all walks of life and once they are in it, they are there for life.”
Indika starts its eleven-day run on 12th August, with the Music India Summer School opening its doors on the 13th. Bido Lito! have no intention to be left out, and taking part in the sessions and experiencing the insights on behalf of the magazine will be Emily Lansley of local favourites Stealing Sheep. We’ll be following her progress and reporting on the sessions through bidolito.co.uk.