Indian-American wins “Best Asian Entertainer” at Chicago Music Awards gala

Chicagoland veena player Saraswathi Ranganathan receiving the award for “Best Asian Entertainer” at the Chicago Music Awards held March 18, from president of CMW Ephraim Martin. (Photo courtesy Saraswathi Ranganathan)

An Indian-American veena player won an award at the Chicago Music Awards held March 18, at the University of Chicago Logan Center for Performing Arts.

At the glittering event which will be telecast on NBC Chicago on April 21, well-known Chicagoland veena player, Saraswathi Ranganathan was nominated and awarded “Best Asian Entertainer.”

The awards honor “Chicago’s Best” in various categories such as pop, blues, reggae, classical, rock, R&B, jazz, gospel, African, hip-hop, Asian, kids, rap, Latin, European, spoken word and more, according to the website  The signature event is marked by a proclamation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County clerk declaring March 18, 2018 as the 37th Annual Chicago Music Awards & 36th International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) Day.

“Congratulations to Chicago Music Awards “Best Asian Entertainer” winner Sara Ranganathan aka Saraswathi – a performing Carnatic Classical Veena artiste and cross-cultural music ambassador, who believes in the power of ‘one-stage-one-music, one community’ #Raga Blues” is among the comments on the awards Facebook page.

At the Chiaravalle Montessori School in Evanston, Illinois, veena player Saraswathi Ranganathan lets students feel the instrument she plays. (Photo courtesy Saraswathi Ranganathan)

Originally from Mysore, Ranganathan studied at Loyola University in Chicago. She was trained on the veena by her mother Shantha Ranganathan, awarding-winning vocalist-grandmother Sulochana Mahadevan and distinguished Veena artiste “Karnataka Kalashree” E.P. Alamelu from Bangalore, according to a write-up sent by Ranganathan.

She is the first veena artiste to be selected to perform in an off-Broadway show Jungle Book musical, sponsored in part by Disney Theatrical Productions, Ranganathan said. Last year, her original composition was commissioned by the Chicago Humanities Department in the “My Story, My Song” evening, aside from being featured in the one-of-a-kind “Chicago Sings” programs organized by six-time Jeff Award winning music director Doug Peck. Her double album “Refreshing Raga Blues” with Indian classical and original scores has been featured on several radio shows and productions, she said.

Ranganathan founded the Surabhi Ensemble, “a melting pot of music” she says, which presents unique compositions that include  “Raga-Flamenco-Senegalese-Blues-Jazz-Andean folk music, and features a wide variety of ancient acoustic instruments like Veena, Oud, Kanjira, African Kora, Mridangam, Ghatam, Tama, Charango, Bombo, Siku, Erhu (to name a few),” Ranganathan said.  Surabhi Ensemble has been invited to participate in a cultural exchange and performance tour of Vietnam, Portugal, Spain and Senegal in 2019. Core artistes of Surabhi Ensemble are Saraswathi Ranganathan, guitarist Carlo Basile and multi-instrumentalist Ronnie Malley.

“The more aware the audience is of diverse cultures, the less fear there is and consequently less and less hate,” Ranganathan opines in her release, adding, “It is a delightful way to transcend race, religion, culture and color.”




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