Monsoon Melodies: Connecting the cultural dots



Kolkata: European pianist Panos Karan founded Keys of Change, a charity for peace and harmony through music. He has travelled to far-flung places such as the Amazon basin, the tsunami-affected areas in north-eastern Japan, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Recently, American soprano Meeryung Hall collaborated with Panos Karan and flautists Ana Chifu and Zach Tarpagos.

The program was another effort by the U.S. Consulate Kolkata to foster greater people to people connections and better understanding between the United States and India through the universal language of music.  Mrs. Hall introduced Kolkata’s western classical music lovers to the American song tradition of American poetry set to music. The composer for all four pieces she performed was Ned Rorem, one of America’s most honored composers.  Time Magazine has called him “the world’s best composer of art songs.”  He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 and has been honored with many notable awards in America and in France.  He was also the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship in 1951, an honor he shares with some friends in this room.The first song was from a Robert Hillyer poem, Early in the Morning. The second song was based on a poem by Walt Whitman,Youth, Day, Old Age and Night. The third song is from I Am Rose by Gertrude Stein.  The final song is from Memory by Theodore Roethke.

Panos said,” We visited Kolkata in August 2013 in order to play music for people living in difficult condition in and around the City of Joy. Kolkata is obviously a very important cultural centre, but it is also a place where people are facing many difficulties. We came with a strong belief that music, being a universal language, is one of the most powerful tools of communication, expression and bringing people together.”

Panos informed that he and several other guest musicians from Europe will perform with the KYO (Kolkata Youth Orchestra)  in the month of November in Kolkata. The Kolkata Youth Orchestra was formed under the initiative and endeavour of Sanjib Mondal, with an aim to promote young talents who learn music through the years but do not get the right opportunity and platform to perform in front of an appreciative audience. One of the objectives of KYO is to preserve, promote and improvise the rich tradition of western classical music through energetic and enriching performances.

By connecting American and overseas musicians with their Kolkata counterparts and bringing these international talents to music aficionados here, the U.S. Consulate Kolkata hopes to help strengthen mutual understanding by working in partnership with all communities in Kolkata’s consular district.

-Abhijit Ganguly