Indian flavour in Sydney Festival (Jan 8-26, 2015)


The best of our city in summer is back with a vengeance as Sydney Festival returns to our favourite destinations across Sydney, Parramatta and beyond. Expect a spectacular program of free and ticketed events spanning contemporary and classical music, theatre, dance, visual arts and much more.

Sydney Festival 2015 is comprised of 179 events, a staggering 85 of which are free. With 495 performances across 25 indoor and outdoor venues, Sydney Festival 2015 features 974 artists from across 30 countries. With 18 world premieres, 11 Australian premieres and 22 Australian exclusives, summer in our beautiful city is not to be missed.

Sydney Festival will present a number of large-scale works of international reputation, bringing to Sydney some of the world’s greatest artists in theatre, dance, and music. The program will feature a variety of world premiere and Australian premiere works of cultural significance. The music program is larger than ever before and features more than 60 acts, performing contemporary, classical, experimental and world music.

There is plenty for Indian audience this year when Sydney Festival starts on Thursday, January 8, 2015 and lasts till Monday, January 26, 2015.

  1. Debashish Bhattacharya performs in a premier concert at Sydney Festival



One of the world’s greatest slide guitar players performs his borderless take on traditional Indian music

Debashish Bhattacharya, considered by many to be the world’s greatest slide guitar player, brings his borderless take on traditional Indian music to his Sydney Festival debut.

Grammy-nominated Debashish Bhattacharya’s revolutionary arrangements blend traditional raga with global influences, resulting in an electric sound. Accompanied by his daughter Anandi on vocals, renowned percussionist Tanmoy Bose and special guest Jeff Lang, Bhattacharya’s music showcases the past, present and future of Indian music. Trained in Hindustani classical music, Bhattacharya also injects a good dose of the blues into his work as racing melodies and frenetic beats deliver sounds straight from the soul.

With the desire to accommodate the expansive soundscapes of the Indian origin, Bhattacharya created the Hindustani slide guitar. The unique construction is inspired by the Hawaiian lap steel guitar, an instrument he started experimenting with at the age of three. The 51-year-old musician has invented his own slide guitars that are unique to his compositions, calling them the trinity of guitars. Adding chikaris and sympathetic strings, the 24 string instrument is positioned across the legs, and uses a sliding metal bar to produce the fluid melodies. The instrument’s evolution continues to this day, with Bhattacharya continuing to create revolutionary versions to suit his transformative styles.

A musician, composer, innovator, revolutionary and Guru, Bhattacharya is based in the West Bengal city of Kolkata, where he runs his own ‘School of Universal Music’. Incorporating North Indian classical music and a variety of music genres, he does not believe in the separation of eastern and western styles. Universal Human Music is his faith and he believes that it brings peace and joy to those who embrace it.

Playing for All India Radio by age four, Debashish Bhattacharya studied under the father of Indian classical guitar, Brij Bhushan Kabra, as well as vocalists Ajoy Chakrabarty and Ali Akbar Khan. Since gaining his renown, Bhattacharya has worked on a number of guitar tours and multicultural projects, most notably John

McLaughlin’s Shakti and with slide guitar master Bob Brozman. In 2003, Bhattacharya released Mahima with Brozman, fusing Hawaiian and Indian music. He has won the BBC Planet Award for World Music in 2001 and was nominated for a Grammy in 2009.

  1. Sri Lanka’s oldest and most prestigious dance ensemble makes its first Australian visit since 1972, bringing to the Sydney stage an artform 2,500 years in the making.



Sri Lanka’s most prestigious dancers, the Chitrasena Dance Company brings a fresh perspective to a 2,500 year dance tradition when it tours to Sydney for the first time in 40 years.

From a demon dancer driven by pulsating drumbeats, to a homage to Ganesha, to a reflection on the Buddha, Dancing for the Gods charts the evolution of the ancient Kandyan dance tradition and transports it boldly into the present.

Propelled by singing and drumming, time-honoured classical movements unite with modern choreography and theatre craft in these 2,500 year old Sri Lankan rituals.

With its origins based on offerings to a pantheon of gods, deities and demons, Dancing for the Gods is a gift ”“ one of the world’s oldest continuous dance forms unveiled to a new generation of Sydney theatre-goers.

The Chitrasena Dance Company, Sri Lanka’s internationally acclaimed traditional dance ensemble, was established in 1943. Born in 1921, Chitrasena (born Amaratunga Arachige Maurice Dias) was a pioneering dancer on the world stage, internationally known for establishing a modern Sri Lankan tradition of dance and popularising it worldwide. The Chitrasena Dance School was the centre of new forms of arts and culture from the 1940s to the 70s and became a cultural haven to leading artists of that period who travelled from across the globe, including film stars, performers and dancers including Martha Graham, Paul Tailor, Nurtan and Ravi Shankar.

Chitrasena was the first Asian dance company to visit Australia in 1963. It toured again to Australia in 1972, but has not returned for more than four decades. Now the third generation of the Chitrasena family brings its explosive dance styles again to Sydney, with choreography by Heshna Wignaraja, the grand-daughter of the school’s visionary founder. Dancing for the Gods is anchored to rigour of strict tradition and discipline. But it is not held hostage to ancient rituals. The work’s creators have added technical mastery, precision and sensuality to captures contemporary imaginations. Expect to be transported to a different time and place.

  1. The Kitchen ”“ Australian exlcusive


the kitchen


A sumptuous, multi-sensory spectacle of smells and sounds, culminating in something for the tastebuds too Indian director Roysten Abel makes his return to Sydney Festival with an exclusive and flavoursome fusion of folk traditions and theatrical spectacle. The Kitchen will be Sydneysiders’ second taste of Abel’s arresting creations, after The Manganiyar Seduction, presented by Sydney Festival in 2010.

The Kitchen is a wordless drama that unfolds between a husband and wife as they cook payasam, a traditional Indian dessert. Departing on a ritualistic and fragrant experience, the audience observes as the couple bond over preparing a meal from 150 kilos of rice, sugar, almonds, milk, cardamom, ghee and raisins.

The process draws parallels between the act of cooking, relationships and life itself. The performance is heated by a battalion of drummers playing the mizhavu ”“ a traditional barrel-shaped copper drum from the South-Indian region of Kerala. The drummers are elevated in tiers on a gigantic 6.8 metre high structure as they provide the vigorous soundtrack to the performance in a meditative rhythm.

Inspired by a visit to the tomb of Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi, Abel describes this exciting and unconventional theatre piece as “a metaphor for human evolution. It shows us how we get ‘cooked’ to be palatable to ourselves and to the people around us. It’s about the journey of life.”

The sharing of payasam at the end of the performance is an intimate exchange between the storytellers and the audience. This references the traditional Indian practice of offering Prasad, or devotional food, in both Sikh and Hindu temples. The dessert is cooked and then first offered to God before being shared amongst the devotees.

Roysten Abel is a respected director who has created works that blend traditional and contemporary forms. He founded the Indian Shakespeare Company before branching out into the more unconventional theatre for which he is now renowned.

A delight for the senses, The Kitchen provides a unique theatrical, musical and culinary experience. It is truly a performance to be feasted on.

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