Like so many of the world’s earliest civilisations, India has a culture that is overflowing with diversity, rich in customs and traditions that transcend generations.
For the last two decades, Kalaa Utsavam — Indian Festival of the Arts has been bringing to the Esplanade a myriad sampling of this culture and it is back this year from 18 to 27 November 2022 with impressive new programmes to delight the senses and enrich the mind.
Kalaa Utsavam was the first Indian arts festival in Southeast Asia to have a multi-genre focus, and the Apsaras Arts Dance Company showcases this seamless blend of art forms with ARISI : Rice.
Artistic director Aravinth Kumarasamy explores the importance of rice from the Southeast Asian perspective, sharing stories of the grain’s use in everything from brith celebrations to funeral rites through bharatnatyam dance.
Choreographers Professor I Wayan Dibia and Mohanapriyan Thavarajah have also thrown in Balinese dance elements like kebyar duduk, legong and joget bumbung to enliven the performance, while film director K. Rajagopal adds another layer of storytelling through the eyes of former farmer migrants, captured on film.
The festival is also the perfect platform to honour the contributions of the late dance doyenne Santha Bhaskar, who passed away in February this year.
Choreographed by Bhaskar’s daughter Meenakshy in collaboration with the Bhaskar’s Art Academy and Alfian Sa’at, Marabu — Footprints of an Artist will be the final instalment of the Marabu trilogy, which traces the pioneer artist’s journey from her hometown in Kerala, India, to her career as a dancer and choreographer in Singapore.
Now that borders have reopened, international acts are making their own journeys back to our shores.
Renowned sitarist Anoushka Shankar will return to Singapore for the first time in 15 years to perform alongside Austrian percussionist Manu Delago and our own Orchestra of the Music Makers (OMM). Indian carnatic vocalist T M Krishna will be giving a talk on improvisation (though tickets for this have already been sold out), while Malaysia’s #PU4LYF band will be bringing a burst of energy with catchy hip, R&B and pop songs.
PopLore, a year-long music festival that is part of the Esplanade’s 20th anniversary celebrations, will also be hosting Vasantham Live to chronicle the evolution of the Indian pop scene in Singapore.
Kalaa Utsavam will also be hosting Punjabi group Band Walle, Tamil outfit D.N.S.V and R&B singer-songwriter Shak’thiya.
Dance and music are central to Indian culture, but talents and tales abound in other mediums.
In Between 5 Crows and the Deep Blue Sea, the struggles of a Tamil girl dealing with traditional matchmaking is set amid a bizarre game show, while Can I Make You a Suit, Mate? tells the heartfelt story of standup comedian Rishi Budhrani’s father and how a humble tailor survived everything from the Gulf War to the current pandemic.
Adding to all that is a slew of workshops, talks and free programmes that will allow you to marvel at just how much this beautiful culture has to offer.
Kalaa Utsavam – Indian Festival of Arts 2022
18 to 27 Nov 2022