All the raga: 24-hour Indian music marathon in Red Hook

All the raga: 24-hour Indian music marathon in Red Hook
Courtesy of Brooklyn Raga Massive

Raga ’round the clock!

A classical Indian music festival will take listeners on a 24-hour sonic journey, with the music in each hour aligned with the time of day.

The Ragas Live Festival, which will begin at 7 pm on Oct. 19, at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, will feature 24 performances designed to take audiences away from the hustle and bustle of the city in favor of the soothing sounds of the subcontinent, said the event’s East Flatbush founder.

“We’re used to so much stimulus, but in this case, it’s nothing but beauty and harmony and it sweeps away all the noise that we’re all subjected to,” said David Ellenbogen.

The Indian music tradition has several modes, or ragas, that are limited to particular times of the day, with different notes and sounds to match the mood, according to Ellenbogen.

“There’s specific notes that might be used more in a morning raga but the overall feeling is more devotional, while the evening ragas are more romantic, with a longing kind of direction,” said the guitarist, who will also perform with several acts during the event.

The Indian music aficionado started the marathon show in 2012 as a 24-hour broadcast from WKCR, the Columbia University student radio station, and he brought it to Pioneer Works in 2016.

This year’s lineup features both traditional Indian musicians, such as sitarist Anupama Bhagwat, and artists that bring a more eclectic sound, including Mali musician Yacouba Sissoko, who plays a West African harp-like instrument known as the kora, and jazz bassist Reggie Workman, who played with iconic saxophonist John Coltrane. Ellenbogen said that artists who blend Indian music with other cultures are a particular draw for the show.

“That’s the sweet spot for us,” he said. “Cross-cultural collaborations where these different cultures can meet.”

The annual event, along with popular groups like Brooklyn Raga Massive — which holds a weekly jam session at the nearby Jalopy Theatre — have led a local renaissance of interest in the eastern music tradition not seen since George Harrison started taking sitar lessons from Ravi Shankar in the 1960s, according to Ellenbogen.

“There’s been a resurgence and excitement around this tradition,” he said.

The bash will end on Oct. 20 with Brooklyn Raga Massive performing “In D,” a piece that blends the Eastern tradition with minimalist composer Terry Riley’s work “In C.”

Ticketed audience members can come and go throughout the lengthy concert, and listeners around the world can also tune in to a live broadcast and online stream from WKCR during the event, said Ellenbogen.

“We’re just going to beam this cycle of sound all around the globe,” he said.

“Ragas Live Festival” at Pioneer Works [159 Pioneer St. between Conover and Van Brunt streets in Red Hook, (718) 596-3001, www.pioneerworks.org]. Oct. 19 at 7 pm to Oct. 20 at 7 pm. $35 for 12-hour pass, $60 for 24 hours.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Sitar hero: The around-the-clock show will feature sitarist Neel Murgai, along with jazz and West African artists.
Brooklyn Raga Massive