OBERLIN — The city will be transformed into a scene from South India today during Oberlin College’s first Thyagaraja (thyah-guh-rah-jah) Festival.
A similar festival has been, and continues to be, held on the campus of Cleveland State University for 37 years, growing to become the largest Indian classical music festival outside of India, according to a news release from Oberlin College. The festival celebrates the artistry and culture of South India with Indian classical music performances and dances.
Today will be the first Thyagaraja Festival hosted by Oberlin College. Activities and performances will take place throughout the day, beginning at 2 p.m.
In addition to celebrating Earth Day, Oberlin College will welcome South Indian musicians to campus. Named in honor of an Indian composer — known as the “Beethoven of Indian classical music” — Thyagaraja includes four performances of traditional South Indian music and dance and a midnight film, according to Oberlin College.
Jamey Haddad, professor of advanced improvisation and percussion at Oberlin College and organizer of the festival, said Cleveland State University’s festival has been popular among his students, so he decided to bring the festival to campus.
Haddad also had a connection with the festival’s founder, Ramnad Sri V. Raghavan, who died in 2009.
Raghavan, who taught Haddad during a music lesson, started the festival in 1978, according to the festival’s website.
Haddad said Raghavan was a talented performer.
“He just blew my mind,” he said.
Haddad said the Thyagaraja Festival is a valuable learning experience for students, who can experience the culture and music of another country firsthand.
He said that the performers at the festival will perform with the same style of musical instruments that were used 3,000 years ago, as evidenced by temple drawings from that time.
“Because of all the diversity at Oberlin and all the music programs, it’s really enlightening to see a music program that’s over 3,000 years old,” he said.
Haddad said he hopes to make Oberlin’s Thyagaraja Festival an annual event.
All activities are free and are scheduled to take place 2 p.m. today through 2 a.m. Wednesday at the Apollo Theatre, 19 E. College St., Oberlin.
Festival event schedule
Today’s performance schedule is as follows, and each performance will be preceded by a brief question-and-answer session with the artists:
- 2 to 4 p.m.: Featuring Mudikondan Ramesh (playing the veena, a predecessor of the modern sitar), Atul Kumar (flute) and Trivandrum Balaji (mridangam, an ancient tabla).
- 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Featuring Vyasarpadi Kothandaraman (nadaswaram, a predecessor of the modern oboe or bassoon), B. Kesanna (nadaswaram), Panruti Venkatesan (thavil, a barrel-shaped drum) and S. Palanivel (thavil).
- 7 to 9 p.m.: Featuring Suguna Varadhachari (voice, with Carnatic violin and mridangam), R. Suryaprakash (voice), V.V.S. Murari (violin) and Rohan Krishnamurthy (mridangam).
- 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.: A demonstration of Bharatanatyam dance.
- Midnight: Screening of the Indian film “Ship of Theseus” (2012).