GemArts' thrilling new programme
2017 was another sizzling year for GemArts with their wide-ranging Masala Festival picking up the Arts Council Award at the Journal Culture Awards. Upon claiming this prize however, they certainly didn’t sit back with their collective feet on their desks while lighting cigars. No: they’ve actually been beavering away with the initial chunk of their 2018 programme and, boy, I believe the phrase is “pulled out all of the stops”. They’ll be showcasing stars of the future, alongside favourites of the Indian classical and jazz scenes, and, as ever, they’ll be sprinkling metaphorical hundreds and thousands all over their line-ups with unexpected performances, community celebrations and free family fun days.
And the first of those free family fun days arrives in February with the always very popular GemArts Mini Mela (Thursday 15 February). This will be talking place at Caedmon Hall in Gateshead Central Library with the aim of celebrating diversity, with arts from around the world, as GemArts marks the Chinese New Year in exuberant style.
The Riverside Ragas will continue apace into 2018, the first of which will feature Shreya Devnath who will be displaying her technical mastery on violin as she continues the legacy of her esteemed guru, the legendary Sri Lalagudi Jayaraman (Friday 23 February, Sage Gateshead, 7.45pm, £13.10). Her performance will be a carnatic classical violin solo concert, bringing forth elements and values of South Indian classicism in a Bani style renowned for its purity and elegance.
Often hailed as India’s biggest cultural and musical export, Raghu Dixit’s unique brand of infectious, happy music transcends age, genre and even language (Sunday 4 March, Sage Gateshead, 8pm, £21.80). His music is strongly rooted in Indian traditions and culture and is presented with a very contemporary, global sound, which has gone down a storm whether he is playing to over 100,000 people in his home state, Glastonbury, or Later With Jools Holland.
There will be an extra special Riverside Ragas in March with two extraordinary musicians heading for the banks of the Tyne in the shape of Arnab Chakrabarty and Talvin Singh (Sunday 25 March, Sage Gateshead, 7.15pm, £13.10). One of the most significant sarod players to have emerged on the Hindustani music scene in recent decades, Arnab Chakrabarty is known for the distinctive sound and touch he has imparted to this traditional Indian instrument. He will be accompanied by the world renowned percussionist and composer Talvin Singh.
The Gateshead International Jazz Festival will run this year from 6-8 April and GemArts will be hosting a Jazz Goes East double bill featuring Sarathy Korwar and The Nordanians (pictured) (Saturday 7 April, Sage Gateshead, 7.15pm, £12.50). This promises to be one of the real stand-out performances of the whole festival with the high energy Dutch trio The Nordanians, featuring tabla player Niti Ranjan Biswas, doing their stuff, as well as London based tabla player and producer Sarathy Korwar and his quartet looking to build on the great reception they received at Newcastle Jazz Café last summer at part of the Masala Festival.
This year’s celebration for Vaisakhi will take place at Bewicks at Gateshead Civic Centre (Saturday 21 April, 7pm, £5 or £15 for a group of up to five people). Join in the festivities with friends and family and expect plenty of music, delicious food and fun for all ages, with local performers and DJs spinning the best in bhangra and Bollywood tunes.
Looking further ahead dates to be inked into your diary include the Grammy nominated Shashank Subramanyam on bansuri (Friday 18 May, Sage Gateshead); ONE, another of the Riverside Ragas which will bring an ensemble of Vainikas (veena players) together to explore and push the limits of this ancient instrument, featuring unique bass tones, multi-octave sounds and rich gamakas (Friday 15 June, Sage Gateshead); and this year’s GemArts Masala Festival – featuring a blend of the finest South Asian arts and culture – which is running from 16-22 July.More details on GemArts, and all of the above events, can be found from the website, below.