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41st Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival

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On Wednesday, March 28th, we stopped by the 41st Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival at Waetjen Auditorium at CSU to say hello to our friend, Mr. R. Balasubramiam (known to all as simply "Balu") and to hang our banner from "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" as a show of support for the festival which has taking place here in Cleveland since 1978. At first we struggled to hang the banner from a railing, but "Balu" directed Mr. Hari Ayya and Mr. Shankar Krishna to help us and, subsequently, we got in up in just a few minutes.

This year the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival runs from March 28th to April 8th and, besides the Waetjen Auditorium, has venues at Drinko Recital Hall at CSU and the Comfort Inn Ballroom.

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As the its website (see http://www.aradhana.org/) states, it is the "largest Indian classical music festival outside of India" and is a product of a collaboration between the Aradhana Committee, Cleveland State University, the Siva Vishnu Temple of Greater Cleveland and the Sree Venkateswara Temple of Cleveland. It is supported in part by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Art Works and the National Endowment for the Arts.

We did some research and learned from Wikipedia (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Thyagaraja_Festival) that the "festival is a celebration in honor of Thyagaraja, the famous composer of Carnatic music, who composed thousands of devotional compositions, mostly in Telugu language." 

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We read a little further in Wikipedia and discovered that "in the early 1970's Cleveland was home to an informal group of Indian immigrants and their families, known as the 'Cleveland Bhajan Group', When Ramnad Raghavan, the noted mridangam artist from India moved to Cleveland in 1977, he discovered that many members of the group had learned music as children, and wanted to start some activities to revive their interest in music."

Mr. Raghavan encouraged such activities and not long after that the Aradhana Committee was formed to organize what came to be the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival which first took place at the Faith United Church of Christ in Richmond Heights in April, 1978 and was attended by relatively few people. But in 1979, largely due to the efforts of Mr. Raghavan and Professor T. Temple Tuttle of CSU, the festival locale was switched to CSU where it taken place ever since and the growth has been continuous.

We talked to Mr. Shankar Sundaram, the Technical Director of the Festival, who told us that this year the affair is expected to be attended by 8,000 to 9,000 fans from all over the United States and Canada including some who will come even further. All told, perhaps 120 artists have come to Cleveland from India to perform. What's more, 1000 children are expected to perform in the music and dance competitions.

Several Ohio leaders sent letters of support/resolutions/proclamations which appeared in the souvenir program. For us, two of the best readings came from Ohio Governor John R. Kasich and Lt. Governor Mary Taylor as well as from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

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The Resolution dated March 28, 2018 from the Governor and Lt. Governor read in part: "Whereas, the state of Ohio recognizes the rich cultural heritage of the Asian-Indian community in our state that is passed along to future generations through festivals, celebrations, and through culture and religious organizations; and whereas, Ohio is proud to be called home by many people of Asian-Indian ancestry-individuals who contribute daily to the vast fabric of America and the quality of life in the state of Ohio through governmental service, science, education, business and industry, and especially the arts and cultural organizations..."

Likewise, Senator Brown's letter (of the same date) addressed to the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival read in part: "For more than four decades, you have brought the sounds of India to Northeast Ohio, reminding us how Indian-American culture enriches our state and country. With the help of its committed volunteers, the festival strengthens the bonds of your community, and allows Clevelanders to experience the richness of traditional Indian culture through dance and music."  

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC