Festival History

A message from one of Vindhya's longest serving members:

It was sometime in August 1983, during a casual conversation between Vindhya members on music festivals in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, the early idea of having a music festival of our own was born. Usha Char, the former Director of All India Radio in Bangalore, India, volunteered to coach interested singers in Pancharatna Kritis and other songs of Thyagaraja and Purandaradasa.

Mr. Char, then President of VCA, was very supportive and instrumental in chalking our initial plans for the first music festival. Until then, VCA had not undertaken a function of this magnitude. Naturally, selling this idea to the VCA executive members was not easy, to say the least. Char, sensing the magnitude of the task ahead, insisted on getting voluntary contributions. Needless to say, there was overwhelming support from the community for this endeavor!

Char formed a committee which initially included Usha & Char, Meera & Dr. Asur Srinivasan, Sumathi & Ram Anathan, Geetha & myself. We met in long sessions many times, mostly in Char’s house. Despite disagreements about various things, we all stuck to the core idea of making the function a grand success.

The first music class was held at Usha’s house on Vijayadasami day with pooja, prasadam and devotion. Men and women with hidden musical talents started practicing together from that day onwards meeting more than once a week at Usha’s house. With enthusiasm and rigorous practice, they were able to successfully sing in unison Pancharatna songs of Thyagaraja and few more of Thyagaraja's and Purandara Dasa's compositions. Thus, Nadatarangini music group was born in Columbus , Ohio ten years ago.

While the music classes were going on in full swing, responsibilities were delegated to take care of all other matters, such as preparation of food, soliciting sponsorships and advertisements, preparation of the souvenirs, pooja arrangements, decorations, audio system, etc. Char arranged to have the festival in Wellington School auditorium and cafeteria with free admission to all attendees. He cajoled the cable channel to video tape the function for subsequent telecast.

The first Carnatic Music Festival was held on a grand scale, TV crews, Dispatch articles, with participants coming from all the USA. More than 500 people showed up on the second Saturday of January, when the weather was -16 F! Music lovers had their ears full. Also, everyone enjoyed the delicious food items contributed by a number of volunteers. Several cultural associations in Central Ohio pitched in too!

When the Chars moved to Washington two years later, some thought the annual event was going to fizzle out without the lead person. But the Chars promised to come back at least once a year just for the music festival. And sure enough... they have, actually more than once every year, since then!

In the first year, Rama Pooja was performed by Sri Manavala Iyengar, a priest from the Pittsburgh Venkateswara Temple. Folks from Cincinnati and Cleveland also have helped us out for the pooja.

As a group sharing common interests, we have always been resilient. We have banded together with the same zeal and have done a better job each succeeding year. I am pretty sure VCA will continue to grow and hold this festival for many more years.

-Raman Ravishankar (President, 1999, 2007-2008)