Bridgefest 2017, now in its second year under the auspices of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc. will present A Bridge Together, a special concert and Newport Jazz Festival® “extra” that connects Jazz, African Beats and Indian Carnatic music, on the Quad Stage at Fort Adams State Park.
This pre-Newport Jazz Festival event will showcase the multicultural connections between music and movement. The two-part concert features dance segments by 17-year old twins, Riya and Sara Kapoor, accompanied by a Carnatic music orchestra featuring musicians from India. Guru Swati Bhise is the Conductor and Choreographer for the music and orchestra arrangement for this dance segment. The jazz quartet will be led by award-winning guitarist Rez Abbasi and West African compositions, directed by the noted West African choreographer and dancer, Maguette Camara, will round out the evening.
Fusing Indian, African and American dance and music while demonstrating the shared cultural roots that these traditions have in common, A Bridge Together raises the question: “Are we so different after all?” The answer is up to the audience after seeing and hearing this upbeat, visually exciting melding of cultures.
Part I is an exploration of music from West Africa, India and the US. To start, there is “The First Beat,” blending Indian Classical and traditional West African genres with instruments such as the mridangam and tabla played interactively with the West African djembe. Western musical traditions eventually get a turn with familiar sounds from guitar and saxophone. The result is a harmonious, unexpected cohesion, which makes the point that together we can choose to thrive.
Part II introduces the expressive, athletic Kapoor sisters, whose intense study of Bharatanatyam has continued for more than a decade in New York City. The Indian-American sisters first appeared on stage at age 15 at their debut event at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Newport Festivals Foundation CEO/founder George Wein was in the audience when Riya and Sara made their debut and was determined to bring some of the magic he saw on stage to Newport.
“These young women are tremendous,” said Wein. “The dances are very intricate and beautiful, but what I loved is how they brought jazz into these very traditional art forms. They’ve modernized the dances in a wonderful way while adding a delightfully different perspective to jazz music.”
The first element, “The Invocation,” will amaze audiences with heavy percussion created by multiple drums, while dancers clad in traditional costumes in shades of saffron and eggplant dance in the Bharatanatyam style, a challenging series of steps performed in accordance with ancient rules. Here every muscle, every facial expression, every bell trilling from the dancers’ ankles, become part of the performance. “The First Foils” and “The Ten Apostles of Peace” rev up the sound and excitement with a full Eastern orchestra, vocal chanting and jazzy beats. The songs and dances celebrate Shiva, the Hindu god known as the “cosmic dancer.” The evening reaches a crescendo with “Bridge Together,” which focuses on the dancers with slow, easy movements to begin and progressively rises to leaps, pirouettes and bold percussive beats. The choreography is enhanced with improvisation by the jazz artists and African drummers.
A Bridge Together, like many of the Newport Festivals’ events, aims to educate and entertain audiences by introducing them to cultures from distant places and celebrating what unites us all here in Newport: the love of music and movement, the inspiration it provides and sharing the experience.