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Nirmala Rajasekar: the best music of the weekend, for free

The Twin Cities are blessed to have a small but steady stream of marvelous Indian classical music concerts around the metro. The latest is a free performance by Nirmala Rajasekar at Gethsemane Church in Minneapolis Sunday evening.

A resident of the area, Rajasekar has established an international reputation as a vainika, or player of the veena, a lute-like Indian instrument with gourds and strings that is centuries old. The veena happens to be my favorite sound in traditional Carnatic music, and Rajasekar’s ability to conjure up notions of American blues and to improvise in a jazz context (“alap”) alongside top-notch players like bassist Anthony Cox furthers my admirationof her work. Here is an example of her bluesy tone and phrasing.

Rajasekar just returned from a successful tour of India over the holidays, and played a Carnatic concert in Columbus, Ohio, last month. She’ll be joined at Gethsemane by the Naadha Rasa ensemble and guest percussionists Sriram Natarajan on mridgangam and Balaji Chandran on Ghatam and kanjira. Those interested in getting a live preview of the ensemble can tune in to KFAI (90.3 in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul, kfai.org on the Web) at noon Sunday, when Rajasekar and the group will briefly perform.

Here’s another great example of Rajasekar’s artistry, and here’s her website.

Nirmala Rajasekar and the Naadha Rasa ensemble, Sunday, March 1 at Gethsemane Church, 7 p.m., free admission and parking. Sponsored by the Womenfolk concert series.

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