ACIT Seattle

Sarod master Tejendra Majumdar (r), accompanied by Ravi Albright on tabla, performed for the 2016 Access to Ustads project. ACIT was among several Indian American organizations receiving grants from the National Endowment for the Arts this year. (photo provided)

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded a $10,000 Art Works award to the Anindo Chatterjee Institute of Tabla Seattle, a nonprofit organization in Seattle, Wash., dedicated to promoting tabla drumming and Hindustani music through educational programs, concerts and classes. It was one of several nonprofits receiving NEA grants this year.

The funding, according to a press release, will help to support ACIT’s 2018 Access to Ustads Project, an effort to bring four Indian maestros to western Washington for public performances and to provide accompanying educational workshops and lectures.

This is the third Art Works grant ACIT Seattle has received in the past three years.

“It’s a great opportunity for music students of all styles and the public to experience something ‘out of the box’ as this musical tradition is vibrant and complex, improvised and structured at the same time, with some similar structural elements of jazz, but painted by the musical colors of the ancient taala (rhythm) and raga (melody) system,” said ACIT’s Indian American educational director Priya Diaz.

The Access to Ustads Project will take place in between April and November 2018 in King County, Washington. Four master guest musicians will demonstrate, engage and share techniques of their art form in the oral tradition with the public, including student and professional musicians of all ages.

Each performance will feature one of the artists on a traditional Southeast Asian instrument: sitar, sarod, bansuri and tabla. In addition, each master will also give a lecture and interactive workshop to engage children, musicians and the general public.

ACIT Seattle is one of 52 recipients nationwide who were awarded $1.2 million in Art Works grants in the Folk and Traditional category by the NEA. These awards were part of $25 million in NEA grants in its first 2018 funding announcement. 

“Musicians, music lovers and music students all over Seattle will benefit from the continued support of the NEA,” said ACIT executive director and co-founder Ravi Albright, who is also a professional tabla player and percussionist. “For the third year in a row, the Access to Ustads Project will bring some of the best musicians of the Hindustani genre from around the world to the Pacific Northwest. The sustained support of the Art Works grant feed these important cultural traditions that enrich our diverse communities and bring us together through learning and experiencing art.”

Other recipients of the NEA grants were:

The Kala Institute, $30,000, in Berkeley, Calif., for artist communities to support residencies for artists from various disciplines and related activities;

Ragamala Dance, $20,000, in Minneapolis, Minn., to support a dance festival celebrating the company's 25th anniversary; and

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, $45,000, in Houston, Texas, to support an exhibition, "Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India."

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