Published in India Currents: SanKritiLayla Cultivates Musicians

Article published in the latest edition of India Currents Magazine!

Vidwan Indrajit Banerjee
Courtesy of SanKritiLayla
SanKritiLaya started organically in 2008, nestled within the homes of music lovers.  “It all started with artists staying with us while they were on tour.  We met several artists who couldn’t make it on their own on a tour in the US,” explains Viji Mani, Treasurer of SanKritiLayla.  Mani and her husband, Mahalingam Mani, SanKritiLayla’s President, began exploring ways to help Indian musicians arrange tour logistics, book shows, and develop publicity.  “We weren’t into hosting concerts locally.  We thought we would just be tour sponsors.  But we found some trouble placing artists with local organizations.”

It was at that juncture that Mani and her husband developed the model that drives their non-profit today.  “We wanted to focus on up-and-coming artists.  But how could we make that viable?” asks Mani.  The answer was to develop a concert series that focuses on both famous and up-and-coming musicians.  Concerts are scheduled in twos, with a famous artist headlining one concert to attract crowds and another concert featuring promising musicians bolstered by well-known musical accompanists.  Ticket holders get the benefit of both experiencing musicians they know and love as well as watching high-caliber artists they’re unfamiliar with.  The model has taken root.  Starting in 2011, SanKritiLaya had their first full year of operation.  “We go the extra mile to host all the artists we can bring” adds Mani.  And the crowds have been showing their support.   

Vidwan Neyveli S. Radhakrishna
Courtesy of SanKritiLayla
“Our main thanks goes to Jayashree Varadarajan.  She was our main supporter and instrumental in getting our membership.  She’s one who quietly goes behind the scenes supporting what we do.”  With Varadarajan’s support, SanKritiLayla blossomed to 250 members last year and anticipates continued growth in membership this year.  “It is all spread by word of mouth.  We started by recommending upcoming artists.  And then the artists started calling us.”  For the spring season of 2012, SanKritiLayla has a special set of concerts scheduled for the end of May and the beginning of June.

On May 26th, SanKritiLayla is co-hosting an instrumental Jugalbandhi with BasantBahar featuring Vidwan Indrajit Banerjee on sitar, Vidwan Neyveli S. Radhakrishna on double violin, Vidwan Subrata Bhattacharya on tabla and Vidwan Somnath Roy on ghatam.  Mani explains, “This is a unique program that has never been done before.”  Banerjee is a famous Hindustani sitarist within the Maihar gharana school of North Indian classical music.  Known for his thoughtful and imaginative compositions, Banerjee is also appreciated for the sweetness of his playing.  For the first time in the US, Banerjee is playing with Radhakrishna.  “Radhakrishna custom made the double violin himself.  It’s like the Siamese twins of violins.”  A classically trained violinist, Radhakrishna worked for five years with a violin maker in Concord, California, to create an entirely unique double violin.  His instrument includes ten strings spread across a treble and bass portion and is played with a combination of violin and cello bows.  The resulting sound covers the range of violin, viola, cello, and double bass.  Banerjee on sitar and Radhakrishna on a double violin promises to be a novel and electrifying performance.  Mani agrees, “We do this because we love this art and we want others to be able to hear this.”

Vidushi Amritha Murali
Courtesy of SanKritiLayla
On June 3rd, SanKritiLayla is hosting the vocalist Vidushi Amritha Murali, a “fabulous person as well as a great artist,” according to Mani, with Vidushi Dr. Hemalatha on violin and Vidwan J. Vaidhyanathan on mridangam.  “She’s an incredibly promising artist.  In the next ten years she will be at the same level as the other artists we feature, given the exposure.  Bringing her here and featuring her in our season satisfies our mission.”  Murali is currently studying with Sri P.S. Narayanaswamy and has received an abundance of awards, including “Isai Chudar” from Kartik Fine Arts, “Yuva Kala Bharathi” from Bharat Kalachar, as well as an All India Radio National Competition Prize.  Celebrated for aesthetic appeal of her voice, she’s also appreciated for her adherence to classical values.

“I grew up with art and am passionate about it.  My husband and I, with Mani Subramaniyan, SanKritiLayla’s Secretary, are like-minded individuals.  We don’t mind putting time out of our lives to do this.”  The heart and passion Mani brings to SanKritiLayla is palpable as well as contagious.  SanKritiLayla is run entirely by volunteers, and all proceeds are directed back to the artists the organization supports.  “We’re passionate about every single artist we support.  And we encourage others to come to our concerts and support our artists as well” concludes Mani. 

Instrumental - north/south Jugalbandhi
Co-sponsored with BasantBahar
Vidwan Indrajit Banerjee (sitar)
Vidwan Neyveli S. Radhakrishna (double violin)
May 26, 2012, 5:30 pm
Jain Temple, Milpitas

Vidushi Amritha Murali
Vidushi Dr. Hemalatha (violin)
Vidwan J. Vaidhyanathan (mridangam)
June 3, 2012, 4:00 pm
Jain Temple, Milpitas