ARTS CORNER: Husband-wife team pay tribute to Indian music
The Massey Theatre will be transformed into a beautiful, ancient Indian courtyard on Saturday Aug. 25 for the first annual Mushtari Begum Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance, founded by New Westminster natives Cassius Khan and his wife Amika Kushwaha.
Khan and Kushwaha are excited to be back on the Massey stage after performing here during Massey Theatre’s production “Winter Spectacular” in 2009.
This time around, they are producing their first-ever Mushtari Begum Festival.
“I decided to start the Mushtari Begum Festival because I saw a real danger in the survival of Indian classical music here in Canada, especially the art of classical Ghazal singing, which is almost nonexistent,” said Khan.
He will perform the classical styles of Ghazal singing, the tabla and the North Indian drums. Ghazal singing is almost nonexistent in North America, he says. Combining Indian Classical singing with the Tabla is unheard of and it’s nearly impossible to master the art.
Khan quickly became world renowned in the Indian classical music scene after mastering a difficult and rare style of singing with his tabla that is unique to him. He comes from a long line of performers, and is the sole disciple of the late Malika e Tarranum Mushtari Begum and Tabla maestro Ustad Rukhsar Ali.
Kushwaha will also be performing Kathak Dance, a North Indian classical dance form. She will also be playing the harmonium alongside the other vocalists for the evening. Amika is a sought after harmonium player and is recognized internationally for both of her talents.
Other performances for the evening include internationally recognized and Juno nominee Pandit Salil Bhatt all the way from India to showcase his talents on his instrument, the Satvik Veena, a unique 20-stringed guitar which he invented.
Akhil Jobanputra has been labeled as a child prodigy and will be singing at the festival. With a melodious voice, he is a classical vocalist and is seen as the future for Indian classical music. Dr. Kamaljeet Gill has been described as one of Canada’s finest vocalists in the singing styles of Khayal and Thumri Gayaki.
Lastly, Mohamed Assani, who has been featured at many events and festivals around B.C., will perform on the sitar.
Khan said he feels a personal responsibility to help the survival of these art forms in Canada.
“I wanted to give a platform for professional musicians in this field, as patronage is also very important,” he said. “The opportunity for musicians such as myself in the folk festival scene is extremely bleak, so I decided to create this festival so I may present some of the finest musicians in Indian classical music. Our mandate is to bring the finest form of this art to the public so they may enjoy an evening of solace, healing and enjoyment.”
• The show on Saturday, Aug. 25 is at 6:30 p.m., and tickets can be purchased at the Massey Theatre ticket centre at 604-521-5050, www.masseytheatre.com, in person or at the door. Seniors/Students/Youth $17 (advance); $24 (at door), Adults $34 (advance); $39 (at door). Children under eight are free.
• Angela Steidel is the patron services/program assistant at Massey Theatre.