If you're looking for the new Ravi Shankars of this world, you might find some good evocations of the Indian music maker this weekend at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The classic and folk music of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be played, sung and danced virtually non-stop at UMBC's Fine Arts Recital Hall in the seventh annual Indian Music and Dance Competition Saturday, Nov. 17, and Sunday, Nov. 18.
The competition is expected to draw at least 170 musicians and hundreds of listeners and observers, especially from the more than 20,000 Indians living in the Baltimore-Washington area. The Indian-born Shankar helped more than anyone to popularize classical Indian sitar playing in the West, especially since the 1960s.
"No politics and no religion, just music and Indian food," promised the organizer, Ustad Hamid Hossain of this weekend's event here, the only one of its kind on the East Coast.
"This is also for Americans without Indian roots -- many of them like Indian music," added Hossain, a Bangladesh native, UMBC music professor and a musician said to play a mean sitar and tabla himself. The sitar, made of seasoned gourd, ivory inlay and teakwood, is the main stringed instrument of the subcontinent, and tabla is a small set of drums.
"You can't compare this kind of music to Western classical, but it is somewhat like Western jazz. It's very melodic but not too much harmony, much improvisation, very emotional, played from the heart."
Hossain teaches the sitar and music theory at UMBC, at his home-based Academy of Indian Music and Fine Arts in Catonsville and one-on-one up and down the East Coast. Contestants this weekend will be allowed 10 minutes each. Most are solo instrumentalists sometimes playing with background accompaniment and groups of dancers. Awards will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
The sitar, the best known instrument on the Indian subcontinent, has seven strings that are plucked with a plectrum worn on the right index finger; 13 sympathetic strings are positioned underneath. One of the tabla drums, called the "tabla," is played with the right hand and high-pitched. The other is the "banya," played with the left hand and lower pitched.
Other instruments will be the tanpura, a four- or five-stringed instrument used for background; harmonium keyboard; electric piano; electronic synthesizer and melodica, a wind instrument producing sound with a keyboard.
Hossain taught Indian music for eight years at several institutions in Bangladesh. His father, Ustad Kader Buksh, was a well-known Indian classical music teacher and performer from West Bengal. The son came to the United States in 1974 and taught at Franklin and Marshall College and Dickenson College in Pennsylvania before coming to UMBC in 1976.
Performances in the UMBC Fine Arts Recital Hall begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and run with small breaks to 11 p.m. Saturday, with a special 9 p.m. concert by Anjan Chatterje, of Calcutta, on sitar, and Hossain's son, Enayet, on tabla. On Sunday the music is played from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $5, valid for both days. For more information, call 747-3950 or 455-0125.
Two other UMBC concerts are planned in the next week. The Americas Trio of violinist Jose Cueto, cellist Daniel Malkin and pianist Nancy Roldan plays trios by Beethoven, Arbos and Brahms at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in a free concert at the hall.
Next Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m., the Maryland Camerata and soloists will perform Mozart's "Coronation Mass" as the second in the sacred chamber music series, Harmonia Sacra, at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, Charlestown Retirement Community, 711 Maiden Choice Lane in Catonsville. Tickets are $7 and, for students and seniors, $5. For more information, call 455-2942.