THE melodious sounds of the sitar strings floated through the air, mesmerizing the audience who showed up at the Sound of Harmony music festival at the Penang Harmony Centre.
The soulful music skillfully performed by sitarist Kumar Karthigesu, accompanied by Vick Ramakrishnan on tabla, showed how a soulful instrument like the sitar and the ever-vibrant and solid percussion of the tabla could harmoniously coexist in a single performance.
Kumar and Vick’s first performance that night at Jalan Scotland, surrounded by a cool breeze, greenery and birdsong, was a lighthearted piece in the raag Khamaj, which incorporated a Chinese tune – My Heart is Like the Moon and Rasa Sayang, which caused the audience to cheer and sing along to the happy tune.
The duo’s second piece was Shringar Rasa, a presentation in the romantic Kirwani raag, which saw a vibrant and thrilling exchange of the two instruments without either of them missing a beat.
For their third track, which was a compilation of three short songs in the raag Bhupali, Kumar and Vick performed on an Indian bhajan titled HE Parameswara, the popular Malaysian Ikan Kekek and finally the eternal Chinese Shanghai Beach.
Finally, the duo performed a popular tune called Bhatiyali Dun, used by the fishing community in West Bengal, India.
The inaugural music festival was part of the Penang Harmony Week program held recently to celebrate Penang’s cultural diversity and foster community inclusion.
The week-long event which included arts, exhibits, multicultural musical performances, dialogues and workshops, showcased a community coming together to deliver a promise of color, culture, connection and excitement.
Organized by Penang Harmony Corporation Sdn Bhd (Harmonico), other events held throughout the week were ‘I Am Home’ Art Exhibition, Taoism Exhibition, ‘Let’s Talk’ Interfaith Dialogue, Harmony in Art” and “Walk of Harmony”.
The music festival kicked off with a performance of Bharatanatyam by three skillful dancers from the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA).
The evening continued with moving performances by violinist Premkumar Sockalingam who was accompanied at the mridangam by Nittyanathan Saravanan.
The duo performed a total of five pieces that night.
Among them was a fusion piece combining the soundtrack to the film Bombay by Oscar-winning Indian composer AR Rahman and the bhajan Raghupathy Raja Ram – a devotional song popularized by the late Mahatma Gandhi in his quest for Indian independence while by preaching non-violence and unity.
To wrap up their mesmerizing performance that night, Premkumar and Nittyanathan delivered the former’s own composition titled Prema Lahari in the waltz-like raag Mohanam.