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While most of the Maximum India festival’s remaining ticketed performances are sold-out (except for the Ishara Puppet Theatre and some film screenings), there are some free events this weekend worth investigating. Tonight, if you can’t get tickets on Craigslist for Sunny Jain & Red Baraat (an outfit that blends bhangra with go-go, soca, and jazz), you can catch percussion ensemble Taal India (left) on the Millenium Stage. This drummers collective is led by young, baby-faced Anubrata Chatterjee, a quick-handed masterful tabla player who learned from his father, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee. Reportedly, Taal India will use nine different types of percussion instruments.
Later tonight there’s a free panel, “Politics and Literature,” featuring authors Salman Rushdie and Nayantara Sahgal with moderator Ahdaf Soueif. Rushdie you know. Sahgal has long blended politics and history into her writing, including her 2003 novel Lesser Breeds. Soueif, an Egyptian who divides her time between Cairo and London, is the author of the novel Map of Love.
Saturday offers the first of two sold-out weekend presentations of “The Manganiyar Seduction.” Combining a “Hollywood Squares” look with the visuals of Amsterdam’s red light district windows, this effort places 43 Rajasthan Indian folk and classical players in 36 red-curtained boxed rooms stacked nine across and four high. If you can’t score tickets for that, you can see the Kerala Kalamandalum Kathakali Troupe. This Southern India company offers drama-filled classical movements illustrating portions of Hindu epics. The dancers are usually all male, but perform male and female roles and wear elaborate facepaint, makeup, and costumes.
Sunday night, the festival concludes with Panjabi MC, the 41-year-old British-born Indian rapper and producer who is best known for his role on Jay-Z’s remix of the exhilarating “Mundian To Bach Ke” (“Beware of the Boys”), which melded the synth beat of the Knight Rider theme with funky bhangra rhythms and Punjabi lyrics. The Kennedy Center expects a large turnout for this gig, with people showing up in the late afternoon.
Taal India performs from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday March 18 for free at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW 202-467-4600
Literature Panel with Salman Rushdie, Nayantra Sahgal and moderator Ahdaf Soueif from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Friday March 18 for free in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall
The Kerala Kalamandalum Kathakali Troupe performs from 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday March 19 for free at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage
Panjabi MC performs from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday March 20 for free at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage