Indian American composer Charu Suri performs at Carnegie Hall

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Charu Suri. Photo: Twitter

NEW YORK – South-Indian born composer Charu Suri became one of the first Indian American women to premier work at Carnegie Hall in New York City, with her double bill “Book of Ragas” and “The New American Songbook” CD releases, on December 20, 2019.

Born in Madurai, and now settled in New York City, Suri began learning the piano at the age of five and won an international piano competition at the age of 15. After emigrating to the United States to attend Princeton University, she composed several pieces in her teenage years for orchestra and chamber orchestra, but never recorded her music commercially until recently.

“I really wanted to create a fresh sound using the jazz trio,” says Suri on how she got inspired to compose the songs. “I was excited by the possibilities of combining jazz with Sufi and Indian sounds.”

Suri collaborated with the Agra-born singer Apoorva Mudgal, who extensively performs ghazals and Sufi music, for her album ‘The Book of Ragas’.

“The journey of ‘The Book of Ragas’ was one of discovery,” says Mudgal, who chose the text and improvised sargams based on the musical framework.

The program at Carnegie Hall also included “The New American Songbook,” a series of original pieces that are a homage to the style of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Bill Evans and others.

“I wanted to show –in one program—two completely styles of jazz, and the idiom’s amazing possibilities,” she says.  The lyrics to these tunes are sung by Danielle Erin Rhodes. The album artwork was created by Upasana Asrani, an abstract artist based in Chennai.

Suri’s first album, ‘Lollipops for Breakfast’, was scored for a traditional jazz trio and won a Global Music Award. She and her band have toured several cities including Miami, Denver and soon, Chicago. Her plans in 2020 include performances in India.

In “The Book of Ragas”, the opening raga is based on the Bhimpalasi scale. This piece combines a soft rock beat with the afternoon raga, with the voice introduced in the middle section. The poetry is “Naina De Akhay” — a Sufi kalaam (a devotional song) by the legendary Punjabi Sufi poet Hazrat Shah Hussain, which describes the feelings of silent remorse, where a lover repents falling head over heels for an uncaring beloved, who has now abandoned them. The core verse, “Ni saiyon asaan naina dey aakhey lagey” (My friends, I fell for what my eyes saw), is repeated.

There are also ragas inspired by ‘Raag Kalyani’, considered the ‘Queen of Indian ragas,’ ‘Raag Bhairavi’, and ‘Raag Hemant’.

DEVA PREMAL NOMINATED FOR GRAMMY AWARD

Photo: Deva Premal

Singer Deva Premal has been nominated for a Grammy for her 2019 album ‘Deva’. Shortlisted for Best New Age Album of the year, ‘Deva’ joins the ranks of outstanding albums by previous nominees including Enya, Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Krishna Das and Tangerine Dream.

Premal, with her partner in life and music, Miten, has spent her life creating music for meditation and the celebration of spirit, according to a press release.

Released on Prabhu Music/White Swan Records, ‘Deva’ has already achieved seven million streams across audio and visual platforms and has set the bar at new heights in a prolific recording career spanning more than 20 years and encompassing more than two million albums sold and 140 million streams, all told.

A superlative collection of mantras and devotional music, ‘Deva’ opens and closes with the Seven Chakra Gayatri Mantra, acknowledged to be the oldest prayer known to humanity, which induces a supreme sense of well-being and deep relaxation. Also featured on the album is Nepali bansuri maestro Manose, Canadian producer, multi-instrumentalist and Grammy nominee Joby Baker, and special guest Anoushka Shankar, who features on two pieces — including Prabhujee, written by her late father Ravi Shankar.

Premal was born in Germany to parents versed in the eastern philosophy of meditation and chanting. She journeyed to India as a young woman, where she met her eventual partner, composer, producer and mentor Miten at the Osho ashram. Since their immersion in meditation, the duo have travelled the world sharing the healing power of mantra to millions of devotees in over 40 countries.

Their admirers range from the Dalai Lama (“Beautiful, beautiful music”) to rock icon Cher, who continues to feature their version of the Gayatri Mantra in her current shows (“My favorite music for Yoga”).

WORLD’S FIRST CANDY DEPARTMENT STORE

Photo: IT’SUGAR

New Jersey has a new attraction for the young and the old: IT’SUGAR, known for its over-the-top sweets and giant candy. It has opened a new outlet in American Dream, located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. At three stories and over 22,000-square-feet, IT’SUGAR American Dream is the world’s first department store of candy.

The new store greet visitors with a three-story tall Statue of Liberty replica covered in over 1.5 million Jelly Belly beans, symbolizing the freedom to treat yourself, said the store in a press release.

Once inside, customers can explore the first floor’s centerpiece, an immersive lollipop garden filled with nearly 10,000 lollipops. Surrounding the garden is over 5,000 square feet of candy bins housing an endless variety of sweets.

The second floor is home to dozens of branded shops like Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, Nerds, Starburst, Reese’s, Kellogg’s, and more. Coming Spring 2020 to IT’SUGAR’s third floor will be a new Oreo café concept called Oreo TWISTiD. Overlooking American Dream’s entertainment atrium, Oreo TWISTiD will provide guests with a view of the DreamWorks Water Park and Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park.

Covering approximately three million square feet, American Dream will include once it’s totally finished, over 450 retail, food and specialty shops. These are complemented by over 15 entertainment offerings including fully-enclosed DreamWorks Water Park and Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park; a 16-story Big Snow Indoor Ski & Snow Park; Kidzania; a live Performing Arts Theater; a 300-foot tall Observation Wheel; a Sea Life Aquarium, Legoland Discovery Center; The Rink (NHL-sized ice rink); and The Dining Terrace with over 15 full service restaurants and the world’s only Munchie’s Food Hall.

“Creating a candy department store has been a long-time dream of mine,” said Jeff Rubin, Founder and CEO of IT’SUGAR, in a statement. “I’ve been thinking about this concept for over 25 years and our IT’SUGAR team is thrilled to partner with American Dream to make it a reality.”

The IT’SUGAR portfolio consists of over 100 retail locations in the US, including in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas, Houston, and Chicago.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)

 

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