Brooklyn Raga MassiveBrooklyn , NY NYC Impact Fund
Brooklyn Raga Massive (BRM) is a collective of forward thinking musicians rooted in and inspired by classical Indian music. With humble beginnings in a Prospect Heights dive bar, Brooklyn Raga Massive has expanded exponentially over the past five years cultivating a growing community of creative musicians and devoted fans. Hailed as “Leaders of the Raga Renaissance” by the New Yorker, BRM hosts an ongoing weekly concert and raga jam session series, performs and curates over a dozen annual specialty concerts, co-hosts an annual 24 Ragas Live festival, and creates original composed music. Performing at a multitude of venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan, BRM features both traditional classical Indian performances as well as contemporary music experiments with other world music traditions. In particular, the inclusive cross-cultural and spontaneous nature of BRMs weekly jam sessions has not only built a strong community, but has also become an incubator of new music collaborations and genres of music indigenous to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Raga Massive has performed at and received enthusiastic support from some of NYC’s premier presenting organizations and venues such as World Music Institute, Lincoln Center, Pioneer Works, Bang on a Can, Kennedy Center, Winter Jazz Festival, Joe’s Pub, Rubin Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Brooklyn Museum. Both a critical and audience favorite, Brooklyn Raga Massive has been praised by the Wall Street Journal for “Expanding the notion of what raga—the immersive, epic form of Indian music—can mean… BRM members seek to redefine classical Indian music in the new century”. The New York Times wrote in 2016, “Riveting… Soulful… Preserving the past while blurring genres in an inventive spirit”. The Village Voice chimed in, “Few musical hangs have been as dependably rewarding as Brooklyn Raga Massive’s jam sessions which feature the cream of the local Indian classical community”.
Over the years, BRM’s platform has proven to be fertile ground for original works and collaborations amongst musicians across genres and backgrounds. Several new innovative projects were featured in 2016 during a residency at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn such as, Raga Chamber Music (original chamber music inspired by Raga, Jazz, Folk, Western classical), Raga Cubana and Africa India (cross cultural explorations between Indian and Cuban/African musical traditions), Women’s Raga Massive (a performance featuring female bandleaders and composers), Raga and the Moving Image (new and improvised music with film), Ragas In Motion (originally composed music with collaborative dance), and a series of tribute projects including the John Coltrane Raga Tribute, BRM Ravi Shankar Tribute, and BRM Beatles Tribute. Brooklyn Raga Massive also recorded several new/improvised works by members of the collective in “The Container”, Pioneer Works’ on site recording studio. In a recent performance at Lincoln Center Atrium, BRM debuted “Tradition to Innovation”, a show that illustrates how traditional forms and improvisations have informed BRM’s musical evolution as creative contemporary musicians. As a large ensemble, BRM puts a unique perspective performing Terry Riley’s minimalist masterpiece, “In C”, by emphasizing Indian Classical instrumentation and improvisation. BRM has performed “In C” at Joe’s Pub and the MoMA and is due to release a recording of “In C” this fall through Northern Spy Records. Another BRM project includes a Raga Roots series, presenting traditional North and South Indian classical music by members of the collective and visiting artists. In addition, over 30+ core collective members and ensembles are always actively writing new works for their own ensembles, reflective of their multilingual musical and cultural identities. A sample of artists in the BRM family include, Arun Ramamurthy Trio, Trina Basu’s ‘Karavika’, Sameer Gupta’s ‘Namaskar’, The Neel Murgai Ensemble, Africa Meets India with Eric Fraser, Michael Gam’s ‘Om Gam’, ‘Orakel’ with Roshni Samlal and Kane Mathis, ‘House of Waters’ with Max ZT, and a host of individual musicians such as Camila Celin, Ehren Hanson, Jay Gandhi, Samarth Nagarkar, Abhik Mukherjee, David Ellenbogen, Roopa Mahadevan, and many others. As artists strongly rooted in the classical music of India, BRM is also proud to have presented some of the top living classical artists including, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Dr. Mysore Manjunath, Pandit Krishna Bhatt, Pandit Aashish Khan, and Giridhar Udupa among others.
In the coming year, Brooklyn Raga Massive has many exciting performances and projects underway. The weekly concert series and jam session continues with additional funding support from the Brooklyn Arts Council. Plans for 2017-18 include four upcoming shows at the Lincoln Center Atrium, featuring new cross-cultural collaborations commissioned by the India Center Foundation, one of which will explore Indian ragas and Arabic maqams. For the second year in a row, BRM will also co-produce NYC Radio Live’s Raga’s Live Festival at Pioneer Works, a 24 hour Indian Classical and raga-inspired festival featuring over 50 musicians performing across a span of 24 hours for a live and listening radio audience on WKCR 88.9. Additionally, BRM has four special performances scheduled in 2017 at the Rubin Museum and The Jazz Gallery. BRM’s Coltrane Tribute and ‘In C’ projects will go on a West Coast tour, partnering with ‘Classical Revolution’ for selected performances this Fall 2017 at the Yerba Buena Festival in San Francisco and Seattle’s City Hall. BRM is excited to continue building relationships with these wonderful venues. The Jazz Gallery in particular suggested that BRM apply to the Impact Fund grant with the idea of further support for future Brooklyn Raga Massive residencies at Jazz Gallery.
In addition to their dedicated community outreach through live music performance, Brooklyn Raga Massive members are actively engaged in education and passionate about sharing Indian classical and inspired music with the community at large, nurturing its potential for creative explorations. BRM’s educational branch has presented workshops, guided listening series and children’s programs.
Brooklyn Raga Massive is an organization run by musicians, for musicians. Our goal is to support the awareness and evolution of raga music, so we believe a large percentage of the money earned should be put into the hands of musicians themselves, rather than the industry standard of a large percentage going to the presenting organizations and venues. To this end, BRM has given 80-90% of the ticket sales for any given concert to the performers themselves. As our audience grows, so does administration efforts and production costs. Ticket sales alone will not be enough to sustain the growth of our organization. Generous support from donors, grants, and foundations, such as the New Music USA Impact Fund, help ensure the sustainability of our organization enabling us to continue offering the community high quality raga inspired music. Help us keep the ‘Raga Renaissance’ alive!
Videsi by Neel Murgai
Drawing on the traditional Indian Raga “Desi” while applying contrapuntal syncopated motifs over Indian rhythmic cycles, members of Brooklyn Raga Massive play an original song, “Videsi”by Neel Murgai, in the beautiful Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room at the Rubin Museum of Art as part of Lincoln Center Offstage Series.
Tempest by Trina Basu & Arun Ramamurthy
Recorded in “The Containter” at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn Raga Massive 2016 Residency. String Summit – Arun Ramamurthy/violin, Trina Basu/violin, Anjna Swaminathan/violin, Kensuke Shoji/violin, Adam Maalouf/cello, Michael Gam/bass.
Taiwa by Sameer Gupta
Studio recording by members of the Brooklyn Raga Massive: Sameer Gupta/drums, Marc Cary/piano, Brandee Younger/harp, Trina Basu/violin, Arun Ramamurthy/violin, Jay Gandhi/bansuri, Marika Hughes/cello, Rashaan Carter/bass
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