KINGSTON, R.I., Sept. 1, 2015 – Jazz and the music of India will merge at the University of Rhode Island with concerts by Dhanashree Pandit-Rai, a world-famous singer from Mumbai who is visiting the University for two weeks.
Dhanashree will give two free concerts at URI during her stay as a Distinguished Visiting Artist.
• On Sunday, Oct. 4, at 4 p.m. she and New York-based jazz pianist Richard Bennett will perform at the Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Road on the Kingston campus. The performance will feature songs that blend classical Indian music and jazz. The duo’s first album, “Mumbai Masala,” was released in 2015 by Times Music, India’s biggest record label.
• On Friday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m., Dhanashree will perform semi-classical Indian music called “thumri” in Paff Auditorium on URI’s Providence Campus. Nitin Mitta on tabla will accompany her. Thumri originated against the backdrop of the Mughal courts, as a semi-classical romantic song to entertain noblemen in the early 19th century in northern India. The concert is co-sponsored by the India Association of Rhode Island.
Dhanashree will give a talk about Indian music Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m., at the Multicultural Center, on the Kingston campus. Her talk is part of URI’s annual Diversity Week.
She will also host a workshop Friday, Oct. 2 for URI music students. The workshop will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center, and is open to the public for observation only. During the two-week visit, Dhanashree will also meet with faculty, administrators and students from other departments besides music.
A highly accomplished artist, Dhanashree has a master’s degree in Hindustani classical music from the University of Bombay. She’s a regular performer on All India Radio and has also recorded for Music Asia and Star Plus. She is one of the leading exponents of the thumri, characterized by its sensuality and greater flexibility with the raga, one of the melodic modes used in Indian music. Dhanashree’s repertoire also includes khayal, chaiti, hori, kajri, sawan and jhoola.
She has performed in most of the leading music institutions and festivals in India, and traveled abroad extensively giving workshops and concerts on classical Indian music. She has also trained many jazz artists in Indian music.
Critics have praised her work with Bennett as music with a “wide emotional reach – frequently transporting.” One critic said the duo make an unlikely pairing, but the result is “glorious.”
Dhanashree’s visit is part of URI’s Distinguished Visiting Artist Program, which provides funding for artists in the United States and abroad to visit URI to meet with students, faculty and administrators, with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of music today.
URI’s Office of the Provost and Department of Music are sponsoring the visit. For more details, contact Nina Kajiji, an adjunct research professor in computer science and statistics at URI, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty and the public to hear classical Indian music, as well as the remarkable and moving fusion of that music with jazz,” says Kajiji. “We’re also excited that students and faculty will have a chance to meet with such an accomplished Indian vocalist. Much can be learned about our global community.”
“Dhanashree blends musical languages into a new sounding aural dialect that is fresh and innovative,” says Joe Parillo, chair of the music department. “We’re looking forward to her visit.”
To listen to her music, click http://www.dhanashreepandit.com.
Photos above: Dhanashree Pandit-Rai, a world-famous singer from Mumbai who is spending a week at the University of Rhode Island as a Distinguished Visiting Artist. Photos courtesy of Dhanashree Pandit-Rai