Ragas Live Festival 2016 @ Pioneer Works

Ragas Live Festival 2016 @ Pioneer Works

Words by Diana McClure / Photographs by Anders Jones

Whether you are a devoted student of Ragas Indian Classical Music, an avid listener or you have simply heard it streaming out of yoga studio sound systems, the Ragas Live Festival, now in its fifth year, is an awesome joy to behold.

Mesmerizing in its annual 24-hour continuous labyrinth of aural pleasure, this year’s program broke new ground; its presentation live and in person at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Epic in its scope, the festival has streamed live in-studio performances by connoisseurs of Indian Classical Music for 24 hours straight, once per year, on New York’s WKCR 89.9 since its inception in 2012.

Created by musician, producer and radio host David Ellenbogen with Brooklyn Raga Massive, HarmoNYom, Chhandayan and several other community partners this year’s festival, supported by the Rubin Museum, featured 24 sets of music and over 70 musicians performing live in Pioneer Works’ cavernous main gallery.

Ragas Live’s international following could tune in, per usual, in real time via partner media outlets Clocktower Radio, NYC Radio Live Podcast and Radio Al Farouk 89.0 Timbuktu.

According to festival materials, “The beauty of Indian Classical Music and the Raga system around which it developed is that it is closely tied to the rhythms of nature.”

Ragas can be understood as musical modes or essences that are associated with the mood of a specific time of day or season. Each raga is meant to be played at a particular time in order to color the mind and feelings with its fullest essence.

Arriving at 3:30am and blending into melodic cyclical rhythms over the next several hours, I was graced by the Sohini Paraj (pre-dawn), Bhatiyar Lalit (dawn) and Bhairav Ramakali Jogia (early morning) hours of music from the Raga Samaya System.