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Gautam Tejas Ganeshan (Berkeley) collaborating with Tree of Life/Subterranean ArtHouse (Berkeley)

Award: $25,000 Traditional Arts Grant awarded in 2013

Presented: Exploratory sessions in 2013-14; culminating concerts in 2015

Gautam Tejas Ganeshan is collaborating with Tree of Life (known as Subterranean Arthouse) in Berkeley to create new songs that tell the “Story of This Place/Sthala Puranam” in the tradition of South Indian Carnatic music. In the project’s first phase, he presented four exploratory sessions at the Berkeley Art Museum with other local songwriters. Each session centered on a theme–Intelligence, Care, Moment, or Remaining. In the second phase he is presenting four concerts at the Subterranean ArtHouse that draw upon the exploratory content.  He writes, “The intention is some interface between my path of songwriting and what I have learned about the ethos / zeitgeist / weltanschauung of other local songwriters.”

Carnatic music—traditional devotional music from South India—enjoys an active listenership worldwide and in the Bay Area. However, many feel that the purity of intention that characterized the great musicians of the past is not found commonly today. What originated as a spontaneous musical outpouring of bhakti (devotion) now typically occurs as a recitation of centuries-old material that may or may not reflect the personal convictions of the musician. Ganeshan seeks to refresh the tradition by developing and singing new texts in English.

In addition to his many accomplishments as a musician, Gautam is the founder and director of the Sangati Center, which has hosted more than 350 public chamber concerts of Indian classical music in the past six years.

The Subterranean Arthouse, in downtown Berkeley, hosts a year-round interdisciplinary series of concerts, dance performances, and theater events. An important aspect of the Arthouse is its strong ties to a diverse, local artistic community.

Photo credit: Paige Green