The 2023 edition of Rāginī Festival offers a month-long, cross-oceanic immersion into folk, classical, and contemporary art of the Indies, both East and West. This year, Rāginī Festival takes inspiration from the term “baithak”, meaning “sitting down”, that describes a type of sitting together with the intention of creating closeness between listener and performer in a communal salon or ”mehfil” setting essential to South Asian classical music. ‘Baithak’ has also become a Caribbean Hindustani term, “Baithak Gana”, which has also come to define “local classical” Indo-Caribbean folk singing that traveled ancestrally to the West Indies.
Seeking to build threads of connection and also to acknowledge rifts in diasporic identity, Brooklyn Raga Massive’s Rāginī Festival journeys through expressions of Surinamese baithak ghana chanting, Trinidadian Bhojpuri folk song, Queer “Coolitude'' poetics, and South Asian classical music. Taking place across the city in spaces such as Lincoln Center, The Rubin Museum, and Joe’s Pub, Rāginī Festival will turn New York’s premier venues into intimate gathering spaces for poetry, music, dance, and visual arts. Join artists Barkha Patel, Natie, Renluka Maharaj, Lasya, Liany Mateo, Radikha Samson, Roshni Samlal, Shailesh Shankar, Satya Maraj, Pratima Doobay, DJ Cardamami, DJ offering rain, Shivanee Ramlochan, and more as they reach across oceans of time to find each other in song.
The March 2022 edition of the Rāginī Festival was a meditation on the concept of Reclamation and featured artists working across Indian classical music, experimental performance, dance, folk arts, poetry, and visual arts. The dynamic roster of artists drew on their ancestry in both subcontinental South Asia and the far reaches of the diaspora. From a group of young Dalit women reclaiming the parai frame drum of South India to cutting edge electronic musicians from Brooklyn, audiences were invited to explore sounds and creative narratives from Trinidad, Reunion Island, Afghanistan, Guyana, Tamil Nadu, UK, India and beyond.
The Rāginī Festival kicked off with a trifecta of percussionists taking their rightful place as torchbearers and innovators of long-standing South Asian drumming traditions. Parv Kaur, bandleader of Eternal Taal, brought us an energetic performance of the UK’s first all female team of dancers and dhol drummers who have been taking Bhangra music all over the world, gracing stages from Glastonbury to the BBC. Fifth generation tabla player Mitali Khargonkar joined in from Mumbai to share her unique take on Indian classical repertoire. We closed out the evening with a special performance from the Sakthi Folks Arts Centre featuring young Dalit women who have reclaimed the parai frame drum and dance tradition as a source of empow erment, confidence, and resistance against gender, class, and caste oppression. This edition of the Rāginī Festival celebrates the power of reclamation - a powerful stance each of these artists takes in their joy and celebration of the drum. Watch the livestream of the event here.
Hosted by comedians Zubi Ahmed and Pooja Reddy of Kutti Gang, this evening featured singer Falu Shah’s ensemble Karyshma, tabla player Roshni Samlal, poet Raena Shirali in a debut collaboration with violinist/electronic artist Natie, drag performer and dancer Sundari, The Indian Goddess, and visual artist Renluka Maharaj celebrating the power of telling your story on your own terms.
The vast legacy of pianist, harpist, singer, composer and spiritual leader Turiya Alice Coltrane (1937-2007) is an endless source of inspiration and mystique for the musicians of Brooklyn Raga Massive, a collective of artists whose work intersects with South Asian traditions. As a professional jazz artist who played with legends Ornette Coleman, Pharaoh Sanders, Carlos Santana, as well as her late husband, the great saxophone player John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane embodies the spiritual, thrilling, and ephemeral energy of improvisation that takes this genre to otherworldly dimensions. In this tribute to this iconic pioneer of the cosmic jazz movement, Brandee Younger (harp), Courtney Bryan (piano), Jay Gandhi (bansuri flute), Sameer Gupta (tabla/drums), and Dezron Douglas (bass), breathe new life into the work of Coltrane with entrancing sojourns into her classic albums such as Journey in Satchidananda, Turiya Sings, and more.
From Iran to Afghanistan to Kolkata by way of Miami, this night pays homage to ensemble leaders whose musical influences and ancestry reach to the Central and South Asian continent while finding convergent roots in the American landscape. Drawing its title from a phrase in Rumi's poetry, the night features singer and poet Haleh Liza setting her critically-acclaimed translations of Rumi's work along with her poetry to a soundscape of chamber and Indian classical music. Trina Basu with her partner Arun Ramamurthy present a unique Carnatic violin duo set that is at once deeply within Carnatic tradition and experimentally conversant with jazz and new music forms. Our night closes out with a dance party featuring Afghan DJ Yeldā Ali whose community-building DJ sets tell stories of her homeland.
From traditional instrumentation and percussion solos, to folk and Sufi song traditions, the 2021 virtual edition of this festival spotlights the diversity of sound and achievement of these women, as creatrixes within lineages and offers a glimpse into their musical world. The festival was inspired by the principle of the melodic feminine “Rāginī” as an aspect of 16th century musical theory movement which gave feminine persona, poetic meditation and visual embodiment to melodic scales. The festival also takes as inspiration, the gathering of the “woman’s sangeet” - a safe place and artistically revelatory platform for women to gather in camaraderie and thriving joy in one another’s expression-social creation against the backdrop of danger or the unknown. Both days of the festival featured the artwork of Sharmistha Ray and Bishakh Som.
Kiran Ahluwalia, vocals
Debasmita Bhattacharya, sarod
Melvis Santa, Afro-Cuban vocals and percussion
Roshni Samlal, tabla
Kamaljeet Ahluwalia, santoor
Roopa Panesar, sitar
The 2020 edition of the Rāginī Festival was cut short due to COVID-19.
Part I: Poet Sham-e-Ali Nayeem accompanied by Roshni Samlal (tabla) and Amali Premawardhana (cello)
Part II: “Lakshmi Shankar: A Musical Evolution” featuring author Kavita Das alongside Trina Basu (violin), Amali Premawardhana (cello), Roshni Samlal (tabla), and Roopa Mahadevan (vocals).
The Rāginī Festival, formerly known as the Women's Raga Massive Festival, is a month-long virtual and in-person festival that explores the work of artists challenging systemic patriarchy in the South Asian creative ecosystem. Seeking to provide equitable and collaborative performance spaces, invigorate diasporic community engagement and inclusion, heal the infliction of colonial borders, and amplify the creative voices of non-patriarchal creators, The Rāginī Festival brings together artistic and musical threads from across oceans - retracing the labyrinth of memory and cultural myth-making. This festival exists as an invitation to invoke musical history as a tool to dream of homeland-- to transfigure exile’s dark waters, both tangible and spiritual, into art. The Rāginī Festival, features traditional raga, experimental performance, folk arts, poetry, visual art, dance and social justice panel conversations at renowned NYC venues including National Sawdust, Joe’s Pub and the Rubin Museum.