On Tuesday, December 7 starting at 7:30 pm, saxophonist, composer and konnakol artist and UW-Madison Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Arun Luthra, residency students, the UW-Madison Contemporary Jazz Ensemble and special guest percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy will present “Tala Mela: A Celebration of the Universal Language of Rhythm.” The free event will take place at the Arts + Literature Laboratory at 111 S. Livingston Ave, Madison, and is open to the public. All attendees will need to wear masks, even if they are vaccinated.
Tala is an Indian music word for rhythm and mela translates into a celebration or fair: मेले (Hindi: mele), ਮੇਲਾ (Punjabi: mēlā), मेला (Sanskrit: melā). The mela will feature music performances by the residency students, the UW-Madison Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, Carnatic percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy, and Arun Luthra, as well as works by students in Luthra’s residency course that incorporate konnakol concepts into creative projects.
There are 18 students in Luthra’s 3-credit course, “The Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music.” Their majors include music composition, civil and environmental engineering, percussion performance, general music teacher licensure, music education, jazz studies and communication sciences and disorders. They have been learning konnakol – the Carnatic (South Indian classical) music art form of vocalizing rhythms; exploring the blending of konnakol with other musical traditions, particularly Black American music; and surveying the concept of rhythm as a universal phenomenon which defines our world.
The UW–Madison Contemporary Jazz Ensemble will be performing with special guest artist Rohan Krishnamurthy. California-based Krishnamurthy is an Indian-American percussionist and composer and is one of the leading voices of Indian classical and cross-genre music in the South Asian diaspora. Acclaimed a “musical ambassador” and “pride of India” by The Times of India, Rohan’s cross-cultural artistry draws from his formal study of south Indian classical Carnatic music. Krishnamurthy has performed internationally as a distinguished soloist and collaborator in diverse music and dance ensembles and has had the honor of sharing the stage with leading artists of Indian classical music. He recently performed at the Wisconsin Union Theater on September 10 as part of Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project. The Contemporary Jazz Ensemble members include Bennett Leclaire, tenor saxophone, Luke Leavitt, piano, Henry Ptacek, drum set, Aden Stier, bass and Michael Wolfe, guitar.
Attendees at the Dec. 7 event will also be able to view the current exhibitions “Dissimulations” by Jason S. Yi and “Just As I Am” by Alice Y. Traore. Both exhibitions are on view through Dec. 18 at the Arts + Literature Laboratory.
“My interdisciplinary arts residency has been an amazing journey of exploration of discovery with a brilliant group of artists and scholars who have wholeheartedly embraced the study of Carnatic music rhythms, and have deeply examined with me how rhythm is a phenomenon through which our whole world can be illuminated. I can’t wait to share our “Tala Mela” with the UW-Madison community, and the Madison community at large.” – Arun Luthra
About Arun Luthra & residency
Saxophonist, composer and konnakol artist Arun Luthra is UW–Madison’s fall 2021 interdisciplinary artist-in-residence, a semester-long residency presented by the Division of the Arts and hosted by the Mead Witter School of Music with Director of Jazz Studies Johannes Wallmann as lead faculty. Co-sponsors include the Center for South Asia, the Department of Anthropology and the Wisconsin Union Theater along with the Arts + Literature Laboratory and the Wisconsin Science Festival.
Based in New York City, Luthra is an American musician of Indian heritage who fuses modern post-bop Black American Music with elements of Indian classical music – especially konnakol (South Indian classical music vocal percussion). He connects a wide range of modern and classic musical influences to create a vibrant new sound and style.
Luthra is the leader of the Konnakol Jazz Project, who have performed across the Americas, Asia, Europe and Australia. Luthra has studied and performed with notable Hindustani and Carnatic music masters and also shared the stage and recorded with many of the greatest Black American Music, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, pop and world music artists. He is also a faculty member of the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at the New School’s College of Performing Arts in New York.