I don’t think we’d be on rocky ground if we described GemArts as being a local institution. They’ve been around since the early years of this century and have won all sorts of accolades for their award-winning ability to deliver a diverse and popular programme of events across the north-east. Their spring programme is already well under way, but they still have plenty of stuff coming up that’s well worthy of your attention.
Among GemArts’ most popular musical events are their Riverside Ragas, which take place at Sage Gateshead. And March’s offering is particularly enticing as it will feature the extraordinary talents of Jonathan Mayer (Friday 10 March). Mayer – composer, producer and internationally acclaimed sitar player – will perform the beautiful ‘raag Kafi’ to celebrate the festival of Holi and the coming of spring. Audiences will also get to hear Variations inspired by Borodin’s Nocturne. This will feature Mayer’s new compositions using raga structures in conjunction with harmonies. He’ll be joined for this performance by Debasish Mukherjee on tabla and Iain McHugh on cello.
One of the most exuberant events on the GemArts calendar is the Holi Festival of Colours (pictured - Saturday 11 March, BALTIC). Taking place throughout BALTIC, you can enjoy exhibition tours and join contemporary artists exploring Rangoli and mandala making. The event will then – of course! – culminate in a colourful explosion where you can throw colourful pigment (outside BALTIC) and celebrate the oncoming of spring. Best wear clothing you don’t mind getting dirty for this one…
This next Riverside Ragas will be next up and it features a real treasure trove of goodies including Abishek Borker, Saberi Misra and PT Rajkumar Misra (Friday 28 April, Sage Gateshead). The night will begin with a sarad recital by rising star Abishek Borker. He will be presenting a traditional solo performance showcasing the beauty, spontaneity and trance like quality of Indian classical music. The second half of the evening will be a Kathak dance performance by Saberi Misra. She will be encapsulating everything that is powerful, graceful and complex about this most ancient of art forms. Finally, both Borker and Misra will be accompanied by renowned tabla maestro PT Rajkumar Misra, with Siddhie Kapshikarr on harmonium.
Theatrically, there’s a mouth-watering production in the offing when Rifco Theatre Company revives the uproarious comedy Happy Birthday Sunita (18-20 May, Northern Stage). It’s a production that sees the Johal family inviting you all to a surprise birthday party. The gist? Mum has been cooking all day, but none of the family are on time. Nav and Harleen are squabbling already and the birthday girl, Sunita, is nowhere to be seen. The curries are simmering, yes, and the rotis are being smothered in full fat butter, but years of conflict has been bubbling under and it’s ready to boil over. Are things for the Johal family ever going to be the same again? Stick on your birthday party finery and all will be revealed…
The final Riverside Ragas of the current programme will see a show-stopping appearance from Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Saturday 20 May, Sage Gateshead). This Grammy award winner created – created! – the mohan veena, a kind of modified version of the steel guitar, which blends the Hawaiian slide guitar with traditional Indian sitar, sarod, and vina techniques. He has recorded numerous albums and nabbed that Grammy for his album ‘A Meeting by the River’, which was made with Ry Cooder. Accompanying him will be one of the world’s leading tabla players Pandit Subhen Chatterjee.
Finally – looking towards the summer – GemArts are already gearing up for their magnificent Masala Festival. This year it’s set to take place from 17-23 July and will bring you a blend of the finest South Asian arts and culture to venues right across the north-east. Be sure to keep checking their website for full details on this – as well as all of the above.
Full details on all GemArts events, including ticket information etc from:gemarts.org
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