October 23, 2014

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Oberlin to host 1st Indian classic music festival

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.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.

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).


  • Phil Blank

    Why not American Indians?
    Don’t like their music?

    • unclewicked

      How about the Cleveland Indians?

      I LOVE the Blues!

  • Sis Delish

    Will they be serving food? Hamburgers??

  • golfingirl

    “He just blew my mind,” says Jamey Haddad.

    Indian music + marijuana = a “blown mind.”

    A mind is such a terrible thing to waste, or be wasted.

  • SniperFire

    ‘The city will be transformed into a scene from South India today’

    A starving third world sheethole with customer service reps who speak broken English?

    • alreadyfedup1

      “Slum Dog Millionaires” LOL

  • alreadyfedup1

    Curry, curry, curry what no Sitar bands?? Pass the hamburgers and hot dogs.

    • golfingirl

      It’s Oberlin, they only eat salad and marijuana laced deserts!