A Taste of India was a cross-cultural event held recently at Scarborough Academy of Music to showcase Indian music and dance.
As principal I have become well-known for putting on innovative events, but this one was different – out of the ordinary and particularly inspiring.
Having Indian students at the accademy led to me to plan the event, where local people could be invited to experience Indian culture.
We had volunteers doing henna tattoos, home-made Indian snacks and decorating the premises to create a true Indian atmosphere. The walls were adorned with pictures, artwork, traditional costumes and intricately woven and decorated fabrics from india. Every surface had displays of ornaments and artefacts.
As people arrived they were surrounded by Indian culture. Our Indian friends looked beautiful in their saris as they greeted the visitors by carefully placing a bindi on their foreheads. The welcoming Rangoli pattern on the floor, a sign of good luck, was lit with candles. The oil burner, another sign of welcome, was draped with a garland of flowers. The smell of incense pervaded the rooms.
One of our students invited a friend, Sunita Menon, who is a professional, traditional Indian singer, to come and sing at the event.
Sunita sings in 13 languages and in various genres ranging from semi-classical to rock. She trained in the Carnatic classical music of southern India and in 1993 she started singing professionally with one of India's biggest rock band, 13AD. As a recording artist she has sung in over 35 films and she recently won the Welsh Asian Woman's Achievement award.
Sunita began by explaining the differences between Western and Indian music and demonstrated the vocal techniques required to sing in the latter. She used a sruthibox (electronic sound box) for her accompaniment.
Sunita mesmerised the audience with her talent and versatility, singing in two different classical styles from North and South India, including improvisation, Bollywood numbers, Arabic and English (Adele’s Skyfall).
The singing came to a close with a duet fusing together an Indian song, Tum Hi Ho, with Rihanna’s Diamonds. She performed this with Academy student Helen Inasu and I provided accompaniment.
Sunita's daughter, Kaavya Sudheer, who is training in Indian classical dance, also treated us to a spectacular Bollywood performance.
The audience, many of whom are singers themselves, welcomed the opportunity to ask questions before a lunch of delicious homemade Indian delicacies.
The Academy was buzzing as people circulated, enjoying the relaxing and friendly atmosphere.
This feast of music, dance and food was an uplifting and memorable experience. As well as giving the guests the opportunity to absorb the culture of India, the mutual respect it engendered between the hosts and the guests was wonderful.