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Indian Consulate in New York, IAAC host specially-curated cultural, artistic events to celebrate 75 years of India’s independence

india's independence day in new york

Specially-curated cultural and artistic events, including a concert headlined by Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and a photo exhibition by celebrated photographer Steve McCurry will commemorate India’s 75th independence Day celebrations here, showcasing to the Americans and the diaspora the nation’s “progress as a vibrant democracy.” The Consulate General of India in New York along with the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) is organising the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav – Festival of Freedom’.

The two-week long specially-curated events at some of the most iconic cultural venues in New York City feature photography, dance, music and India’s classical culture in the run-up to 75 years of India’s independence on August 15 this year. The Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal, said as India marks 75 years of independence, “it will truly be a historic day in our nation’s onward march.” He added that the ‘Festival of India@75′ will celebrate India’s landmark year in the city of New York and is featuring the finest exponents of Indian performing arts.

Also read| Week-long activities to celebrate India@75 launched in US

“It is only fitting that the best of Indian thought and culture is brought to New York – the cultural capital of America,” he noted.The celebration aims to bring the “best of Indian thought and culture to our friends in America and through them showcase the progress of our nation as a vibrant democracy,” the Indian Consulate said in a statement issued on Monday.

IAAC Chairman Dr. Nirmal Mattoo said the organisation is proud and honoured to mark the occasion of 75 years of Indian Independence with the remarkable series of events celebrating Indian art and culture.“Curated with care, this line-up boosts an ambitious goal: to truly immerse audiences into a vibrant and diverse culture with limitless potential to inspire all citizens of the world,” he said in a statement issued by the IAAC. The grand finale of the ‘Festival of India@75′ on August 15 will feature Khan along with Sarod virtuosos Amaan Ali Bangash, Ayaan Ali Bangash and tabla players Amit Kavthekar and Ojas Adhiya for a ‘Samaagam’, an ensemble that will present the essence of both Indian and Western traditions seamlessly flowing into each other without artistic compromise.

Also read| 75th Independence Day: What freedom small businesses seek from GST-related challenges

In ‘Samaagam’, 12 different ragas are presented, creating a unique opportunity to experience joyous music and shared traditions.The concert, featuring renowned Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya and the Refugee Orchestra, will be held at the Carnegie Hall and would “present a synthesis of musical traditions motivated by Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of truth, non-violence and peace.” The festival began on August 5 with a photo exhibition at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery here by McCurry, who has captured India in all its beauty and mystique for over four decades.

McCurry, among whose most famous work is the portrait of the ‘Afghan Girl’, has visited India over 80 times, but in his own words, he has “barely managed to scratch the surface”.On August 6 and 7, breathtaking performances in Indian dances enthralled audiences at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre as talented exponents of various Indian dance forms such as Sanjib Bhattacharya and Jagannath Lairenjam (Sapta, Manipuri-Pung Cholom), Kavya Ganesh (Contemporary Bharatanatyam), Bhavana Reddy (Solo Kuchipudi), Jin Won (Kathak) and Mythili Prakash (Contemporary Bharatanatyam) brought together the richness of Indian dance forms to the audience in New York.

On August 8, the Erasing Borders Dance Festival, a virtual programme of Indian classical as well as contemporary dances was broadcast online. A two-night jazz music event headlined by Sachal Vasandani and Friends featuring Grammy-nominated singer Priya Darshini performing music from a spellbinding collection of arts from East and West will be held on August 11 and 12.

IAAC said Vasandani honours Nat King Cole’s centennial in 2019, while borrowing from his Indian heritage along with Darshini, a captivating singer whose work takes cues from her Indian Classical music roots.Joined by a stellar cast that includes bassist Harish Raghavan (Charles Lloyd), Grammy-nominated pianist Orrin Evans, saxophonist Dayna Stephens and drummer Kush Abadey, the special event will also feature jazz singer Vanisha Gould. Renowned vocalist Kaushiki Chakraborty, the star from Patiala Gharana, and her all-female Sakhi ensemble will present a concert at Carnegie Hall on August 13.

“The Sakhi ensemble is an exemplary group of talented Indian artists that brings together voice, instruments, percussion, and dance representing the Indian woman of the 21st century, who is modern yet rooted,” the Consulate said.The penultimate night of the celebration will belong to ‘Saath Saath’ on August 14, an ensemble featuring flute maestro Rakesh Chaurasia, Sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee, master percussionist Taufiq Qureshi and Tabla player Ojas Adhiya.

The Consulate said that the ‘Saath-Saath’ ensemble brings the “spontaneity and improvisation within the discipline of Indian classical music that only they can produce.” The fortnight-long festival is part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations that began on March 12, 2021 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off a march from Sabarmati to Dandi in remembrance of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March on the same day in 1930.Since then, the Consulate General of India has organised over 200 events under the aegis of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav within its jurisdiction with the valuable support and participation the vibrant diaspora community.

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Messiah church’s goals include more social, artistic events

Messiah church's goals include more social, artistic events

SCHENECTADY – Musicians, singers, poetry slam enthusiasts, playwrights, filmmakers, dance troupes, and artists will soon have a new platform for their talents – at Messiah Lutheran Church’s community center on Curry Road in a working-class neighborhood.

The vibrant, diverse congregation managed to raise almost half a million dollars to upgrade the church on Guilderland Avenue to be handicapped accessible, adding an elevator and more parking. This once-struggling church aims to offer the community free mental health counseling in addition to space for local artists to show work.

The Rev. Dustin Wright, who has been candid with his congregation about his own struggles with depression, sees a crucial role for houses of worship in supporting a community’s mental health. And he grasps the therapeutic value art can provide. Currently, Messiah offers Zentangle, a combination of Zen and drawing that helped a congregant navigate rehab. Messiah also hosts three 12-step programs. Wright hopes to offer free services for people wrestling with depression, anxiety and grieving – if he can find enough certified therapists to volunteer.

“As a pastor, I have some training in counseling but the need goes beyond that,” Wright said. “I’ve spent three hours cold calling therapists. I Googled to find one that a member of my congregation can afford. Not everyone has insurance covering mental health.”

Wright encountered the problem personally as a teen. His eighth-grade yearbook christened him one half of the school’s cutest couple. Yet by freshman year, he was so plagued by social anxiety that he missed three months of school.

“It was scary; the roller-coaster manic highs and deep lows,” Wright said. “Then I saw an MTV special about depression. I realized that might be me.”

He told his mother, who tried for months to find a counselor she could afford for him. Wright’s pastor came to the rescue by helping Wright become part of a community. The pastor organized small social events for teens with common interests and invited Wright. Now, as a pastor himself, Wright observes how creative groups like Messiah’s crafting and makers class become supportive communities. Messiah hosts an array of events and classes at Trinity Community Center. The congregation and Wright felt it was important to have a social center close to – but separate from – the church.

“Some people have had damaging experiences in organized religion,” he explained. “Trinity Center helps us serve and welcome neighbors and others who might not feel comfortable in a church.”

Messiah has become well-known for welcoming students, people of all income levels and members of the LGBTQ+ community. And the congregation has been unwavering in its generosity. Congregants produce bumper crops of vegetables in the church garden each summer and give it away via a produce pantry.

Shortly before pandemic lockdowns began, in February 2020, Messiah was shocked to hear the cost of making its church accessible to the disabled would be double what was projected. Like most houses of worship, Messiah endured “lockdowns, way too many Zoom meets and no in-person activities for over a year,” Wright says. Yet Messiah launched a mostly virtual capital appeal campaign called “A Place at the Table for Everyone.” The goal was $570,000. In two years, the congregation has raised $483,274, or 85 percent. Donations are still coming.

The money will pay for installing an elevator, a handicapped-accessible bathroom and a library with study areas. 

The architects are John Fry and Jaclyn Tyler of Nexus Creative Designs and the general contractor is Wade Coton of Manchester Homes, LLC.

The project will include building a new main entrance that allows visitors and congregants to gather and mingle, two new all-gender restroom stalls, the transformation of the church narthex or antechamber into a community art gallery and better lighting in the parking lot. Construction is expected to begin in July and be completed by Thanksgiving.

Dave Barnett, co-chair of the A Place at the Table for Everyone Campaign said in a statement, “I am so appreciative of the time and talent support from the congregation members for the Capital Campaign effort and for the generosity of our members and friends towards meeting our goal.”

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, Trinity hosts a free ice cream social (Stewart’s is donating ice cream) and a bluegrass concert by Midnight Anthem open to all. It’s a chance to wish Wright well before he gets married next week and heads off to his honeymoon.