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Snake charmer Gulabi Sapera

We’re four days into the Kennedy Center’s Maximum India festival and there’s still plenty to see and do before this spectacular ends on March 20.  Although many events are sold out, some are not, plus there are a number of free performances and artwork—contemporary visual art, saris, hand-fans, jewelry and more—on exhibit in the building.  While only special invitees to the opening night three-hour, five-course dinner complete with Bollywood show got to see the Kennedy Center’s Michael Kaiser in a Nehru jacket with diamond and ruby buttons, the rest of us can still nosh on Indian food at the KC Café or Rooftop Restaurant, and see some of the performers who entertained the dignitaries opening night. On opening day I spotlighted events through Saturday (including tonight’s now sold-out blues shows with Soulmate; and the not sold-out playWhen We Dead Awaken tonight and tomorrow in the Eisenhower Theater).  Here are some potentially promising events  through next week.

Guitarist Raghu Dixit will be leading his band through Indian-tinged folk-rock at Millennium Stage tonight. Dixit’s parents originally objected to his playing the acoustic guitar because they said it was an instrument associated with Christianity, but he persevered and has established a reputation for writing non-Bollywood compositions that incorporate traces of Arabic, Jamaican, and Latino sounds.

Kailash Kher isn’t a household name in the U.S., but the pop singer is a huge star in India and his YouTube videos have generated over a million hits.  Popular among the local South Asian community, he’s performed twice in the D.C. area since 2007.  He’ll appear with his band Kailasa tomorrow at Millennium Stage. They’ll be presenting a songbook that includes melodramatic ballads, rock, and speedy Bollywood pop that employs traditional hand-patting percussion, programmed beats, and Hindustani, Sufi, and Western vocal influences.

Gulabi Sapera & Party, performing Tuesday at Millennium Stage, features the daughter of a snakecharmer and her troupe of dancers and musicians dedicated to preserving and keeping vital the movements and music associated with that street ritual. Expect Sapera to wear a long flowing costume and veil as she undulates her stomach, bends over backwards from the waist, twirls, and moves her hands in a manner that mimics the movements of those notorious slithering animals.  She’ll be accompanied by high-pitched, rough-throated vocals, wooden block drumming, and of course, the hypnotic sounds of the flute-like pungi.

The Daksha Sheth Dance Company’s“Sarpagati: The Way of the Serpent” likely won’t feature any traditional outfits or have cobras or vipers onstage.  However, Sheth, one of India’s leading female modern dance choreographers, is reportedly melding the traditional flowing arm gestures of kathak dance with energetic martial arts inspired rituals and aerial movements. They’ll perform Tuesday at the Terrace Theater.

Though Vatsala Mehra moved to the D.C. area many years ago, she makes frequent trips to India and became a celebrated ghazal singer. Ghazals are love poems originally written by Persian mystics, and sung in a ballad-like style accompanied by Indian classical music and sometimes Indian pop.  Mehra performs Tuesday at the Eisenhower Theater.

Can an Australian-born keyboardist play classical and modern Indian sounds?  Devissaro, the husband of choreographer Daksha Sheth, has been studying and playing forms of the country’s music for decades. Since 1995 he’s performed with the male vocal and percussion group Asima, which bring its unique Dhrupad-cum-pop/soul sound to the Millennium Stage on Thursday.

We will have more coverage here of Maximum India  over the next two weeks.

Photo: Christophe Romanin/Flamenco Descalzo