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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.

This year’s edition is a meditation on the concept of Reclamation and features artists working across Indian classical music, experimental performance, dance, folk arts, poetry, and visual arts. Our dynamic roster of artists draw 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, explore sounds and creative narratives from Trinidad, Reunion Island, Afghanistan, Guyana, Tamil Nadu, UK, India and beyond.

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Featured Artists

Eternal Taal is a Birmingham based Entertainments team which specializes in Female Dhol Drummers and Bhangra Dancers, established in 1999. Eternal Taal are the first group in the UK to be taught by UK’s first female dhol drummer, Parv Kaur.  Dhol playing is a very male dominated instrument but Parv wanted to establish a Female oriented group to perform at all types of events. Eternal Taal offers weekly Dhol Drumming and Bhangra Dance Classes to young talented students. These classes consist of workshops and presentations about the history, background and nature of Bhangra Indian music.  Those students who show great ambition and passion perform at many High profile events. These are some of the events Eternal Taal have performed at; Glastonbury Festival, House of Commons 2010, Graham Norton show LG ARENA, Bollywood, BBC, West End and many more.

Born into a musical family and having received her first rhythmic lesson from her father, Shri Vilas Khargonkar, Mitali Khargonkar belongs to the great tradition of Ustad Jahaangeer Kha Saheb. She is the fifth generation of her family initiated into the tradition, her grandfather Lt Pt Sharad Khargonkar having been a presidential awardee for tabla. In addition to being a prolific tabla soloist, Mitali is also a popular accompanist. As a graded artist of Akashwani, she has received many government scholarships and awards for tabla playing and has served as faculty at the Government Music college, Indore.

Falu Shah's Karyshma ensemble was born on a train station. The band has performed 900+ concerts in the US and around the world. The artists have been featured in The New York Times, RollingStone, and Billboard magazine among others. Falu is a Grammy- nominated singer who has collaborated with artists ranging from Philip Glass to A.R. Rahman to Yo-Yo Ma. She serves as Carnegie Hall’s ambassador of Indian Music and is on the NY Board of Governors for the Recording Academy. Sandeep grew up on stage. He fell in love with music at age five, had his first international concert tour at age 16, signed with a major record label at age 21, and released his first album as a songwriter/producer at age 22. He has played over a thousand concerts in more than 20 countries and is an undeserving life-long student of the great tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain. Soumya spent much of his life bumming around musical crossroads, training in classical violin since the age of four, teaching himself guitar and piano as a kid, becoming a published composer at age ten, soaking up the music of his Indian roots as well as the country/folk/rock found in Lubbock and beyond. Gaurav spent the second, third and fourth four-year blocks of his life in Texas sticking his neck into the world of music. After spending hundreds of hours learning flute, he turned to singing and composing cross-culturally. He also got to spend time with the great Indian master Ustad Sultan Khan.

Kutti Gang is the New York Times and Time Out New York recommended live comedy show hosted by Zubi Ahmed and Pooja Reddy. What started at The Tank Theatre in Manhattan in November 2018 has since expanded to sold-out stages across New York, Chicago, and LA. The comedy duo’s first special, Kutti Gang at The Tank, aired on PBS in August 2020.

Zubi Ahmed is a Bengali-American Muslim writer & comedian from Brooklyn. She’s been featured on Vulture’s Up And Coming Comedians, Bustle, and Refinery 29. You can find her performing standup and searching for iced coffee in the middle of any given day in NYC.

Pooja Reddy is a rural Kentucky raised first-generation American with roots in Hyderabad, India. A recovering government employee from the Obama Administration, Pooja is now a comedy writer and stand-up comedian based in NYC. She’s been featured on Vulture’s Comics to Follow and can be seen hosting for Disney ABC’s Localish Network. Pooja incorporates her experiences growing up in the South, her passion for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the best of her Scorpio traits to her writing. @kuttigang 

Natie is an artist from Reunion island, currently based in Brooklyn. With a looper, violin & vocals, she builds full tracks live, with flavors of Soul, Electronic and World music. Fresh off a world tour with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, she's launched her solo career with the release of her single "Sirens" and "HKHT". Recent performances include solo sets for 100 Years 100 Women @ Lincoln Center,  Transcendence @ Sultan Room, The Revolution at National Sawdust, and Afropunk Battle of the Bands.  Through her music, Natie aims to share and nurture authentic connections, more dialogue and openness around some of the differences which currently divide us. Her debut EP "In the Key of Fall" came out last Spring, drawing connections between her native land, Réunion, and her new home, NYC.

Raena Shirali is a poet, editor, and educator from Charleston, South Carolina. Her first book, GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, and her forthcoming collection, summonings, won the 2021 Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize. Winner of a Pushcart Prize & a former Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University, Shirali is also the recipient of prizes and honors from VIDA, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, & Cosmonauts Avenue. She holds an MFA in Poetry from The Ohio State University Shirali and is an Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University, where she serves as Faculty Advisor for Folio—a literary magazine dedicated to publishing works by undergraduate students at the national level. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A Day, The Nation, The Rumpus, & elsewhere.

Roshni Samlal  is a New York-based, Trinidadian tabla player who has studied within the Farukhbad, Benares and Punjab gharanas or schools of indian classical percussion. She is a prolific local teacher and performer, both in traditional tabla solo, an Indian classical accompanist  and a variety of contemporary jazz and chamber ensembles.  Roshni also explores creating sound design, text narratives and beat production as a context for building mythos around traditional tabla repertoire.

Renluka Maharaj was born in Trinidad and Tobago and works between Colorado, New York City  and Trinidad.  She attended the University of Colorado, Boulder where she earned her BFA , and her MFA at The School Of The Art Institute of Chicago in. She has received numerous awards including Martha Kate Thomas Fund, the Presidential Scholarship at Anderson Ranch Center and the  Barbara De Genevieve Scholarship.  Her works are in institutional collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Joan Flasch artist book collection, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, special collections at the University of Colorado, Boulder as well as numerous private collections. Her work has been recognized with awards including fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Fountainhead Residency, Virginia Center For Creative Arts as well as The Golden Art Foundation and the McColl Art Center Residency in North Carolina. She will also be attending a residency at Project For Empty Spaces in Newark, New Jersey in 2022.  Most recently, her work has been published in the second volume of Coolitude co-authored by Khal Thorabully and Marina Carter,  an amazing volume of stories, poems and visual art  which addresses Indian indentureship.  Her work has appeared in Elle India, Harper's Bazaar.

Under the stage names Sundari the Indian Goddess and International Dancer Zaman, Mohamed Afzal Amin, a native of Guyana, has over 15 years of award-winning experiences as a performer. Both as Zaman and as Sundari, Amin draws on his training in Bollywood, chutney, and multiple Caribbean and classical Indian dance styles to promote Indo-Caribbean arts and culture and the multiple, intersectional identities of LGBTQ+ Caribbean immigrants in the diaspora. Zaman is one of the founding members and the lead choreographer of the Taranng Dance Troupe (Waves of the Future), a group of diversely trained dancers amplifying visibility and unity within the Caribbean performing arts community in the New York metropolitan tri-state area. And, as an LGBTQ+ rights activist and artist, he has pioneered several historic initiatives leading to queer and drag-centric performance pieces in faith-based institutions and at religious and cultural parades and festivals under both of his ionic personalities. In 2021, Amin bridged the skills, expertise and wisdom of his performer personalities into Zamandari, a consultancy, mentorship and community engagement platform to support new and up and coming Caribbean artists and connect the public with training, volunteer, and community support opportunities. Find Sundari on Instagram at @Zaman_aka_Sundari and Facebook at Sundari, Indian Goddess.

Harpist Brandee Younger is a classically trained musician playing in the avant-garde tradition of her sonically forward predecessors Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. As well versed in performance art as she is in the art of creative risk-taking, Brandee Younger challenges commonly held notions in her quest to make the harp a more relevant force in today’s music. Ms. Younger’s ability to seamlessly inject the harp into arrangements and venues where it has been overlooked is a testament to her dedication to the instrument. She delivers a consistently fresh take on the timeless instrument as a performer and leader of the Brandee Younger Quartet.  Known for expressive interpretations of traditional harp repertoire as well as her continuing work with a diverse cross-section of musical talents, Brandee is a creative linchpin whose nuanced presence and willingness to push boundaries makes her irreplaceable on record and in performance. She has graced the stage with jazz leaders and popular hip-hop and r&b titans including Ravi Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Jack Dejohnette, Reggie Workman, Common, Salaam Remi, John Legend, Maxwell and Lauryn Hill. Her fourth album Soul Awakening was released in June of 2019 and her original composition “Hortense” can be heard on the original Netflix Concert-Documentary by Beyoncé; Homecoming.

Composer and pianist Courtney Bryan's music is in conversation with various musical genres, including jazz and experimental music, as well as traditional gospel, spirituals, and hymns. With degrees from Oberlin Conservatory (BM), Rutgers University (MM), and Columbia University (DMA) with advisor George Lewis, Bryan completed postdoctoral studies in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. Bryan is the Albert and Linda Mintz Professor of Music at Newcomb College in the School of Liberal Arts, Tulane University and a Creative Partner with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. She was the 2018 music recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, a 2019 Bard College Freehand Fellow, a 2019-20 recipient of the Samuel Barber Rome Prize in Music Composition, a 2020 United States Artists Fellow, and a recipient of a 2020-21 Civitella Ranieri Fellowship.

Dezron Douglas is a New York-based composer, bassist, bandleader, sideman and educator, who has established himself as a musician’s musician, respected not only for his talent but also for his dedication to the authenticity of the music. Known for his musical versatility, Douglas is one of the most in demand young bassists in jazz today. Composer, bandleader, sideman and educator, Dezron has established himself as a musician’s musician, respected for his talent, virtuosity and dedication to the authenticity of the music.

A multifaceted artist, Jay Gandhi is a disciple of the legendary bansuri maestro Pandit ‪Hariprasad Chaurasia‬. In addition to having accompanied his Guru for multiple concert tours, he has established himself as a prominent solo performer of Hindustani classical flute.

Sameer Gupta is known as one of the few percussionists simultaneously representing the traditions of American jazz on drumset, and Indian classical music on tabla. Sameer completed his Jazz studies learning from his peers on the bandstands in San Francisco and Oakland to Harlem and Brooklyn. @tablajazz 

Negin Khpalwak was the first Afghan female conductor in Afghan history conducting the Zohra Orchestra, the first all women orchestra in Afghan history. She is a graduate of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) having played piano as well as participating as the first female Afghan sarod played in the Afghan Youth Orchestra. Between 2017-2019, she toured the UK, Europe, and India with the Zohra Orchestra including playing at the World Economic Forum in Davos.  She is the recipient of the Human Spirit Award (2016), the Big Ben Award (2019), and the Freemuse Award (2019). She now resides in the United States and is pursuing further education in conducting and piano performance.

Trina Basu and Arun Ramamurthy are deeply rooted in traditions of South Indian classical music, Western chamber music, and jazz. (Joined by percussionist Dan Kurfirst TBD), they will be performing original music from their forthcoming album, "Nakshatra". Rooted in traditions of South Indian classical music, Western chamber music, and jazz, the duo is uniquely positioned to create a sound that feels ancient, orchestral, and contemporary or as The New Yorker put it “free-flowing and globe-spanning.” Combined with the duo’s fluency in improvisation, there is a clear architecture to their sound that still gives space for the two violins to be delightfully indiscernible and shine individually. Their debut album, Nakshatra, the Sanskrit word for constellation, is a profound exploration of this dance between a collective and singular sound, bursting with energy, playfulness, and a cosmic gravitas.

Haleh Liza Gafori is a vocalist, translator, poet, and educator born in NYC of Persian descent. For almost two decades she has maintained and deepened her connection to her roots through singing and translating the poetry of various Persian poets. Her translations of poetry by the 13th century sage Rumi, entitled “Gold,” will be published by New York Review Books on March 8, 2022. Sharing her passion for the expansive, compassionate, and ecstatic nature of Rumi's poetry, she has performed and taught at universities, festivals, and venues across the country, including Dartmouth University, Omega Institute, and Lincoln Center. With past projects Haale and The Mast, she has performed at the Bonnaroo Festival, One Note at Carnegie Hall, and University of NC at Chapel Hill.

Yeldā Ali is an Afghan DJ, community builder, and storyteller. She started DJing in 2012, and Yeldā's passion for music has since taken her around the world, performing at Fashion Weeks, NYE ball drops alongside Lil’ Kim, on festival bills with Stormzy, and at charity events for Beyoncé and A$AP Ferg to name a few. From art galas and auctions to kid's camps and skating events, Yeldā loves to bridge music and activism. In recent times, Yeldā has used the craft to raise funds and awareness to the crisis in her homeland, Afghanistan.

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