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Is there one day that goes by without news of people getting hurt? Of lives lost in blatant acts of hatred? What can we do as a society? If this is the direction that the world is going in, where and how do we plant the seeds of love and harmony? Well, for an exuberant experience of eclectic music that breathes melody, harmony and great vibes, look no further than our artistic Midwestern band Surabhi/Ensemble of Ragas featuring Saraswathi Ranganathan and friends.

I play an ancient Indian instrument called the Saraswathi Veena. From Ragas to Rap, I can make this instrument sound pretty versatile! I perform with super-talented cool fellow artists playing other acoustic instruments from different parts of the world: the Arabic Oudh, cello with Syrian influences, flamenco guitar with Andalusian sounds, North Indian Tabla and Turkish frame drum. Throw in Peruvian / Dubka and Bharatanatymam / Rajastani folk dancers and, Whoa!, you’ve got a heady mix. Yup, you probably don’t need drinks with this thing going on! Imagine picking one person from every neighborhood in the city and asking them to have pizza together around one dinner table – that’s kind of the idea. So, my dear Chicago peeps, bring your family, friends, snacks and gather round the good stuff (us!). It’s deep dish!! 


My goal in a nutshell has always been “One Stage. One Music. One Community.” I strongly believe that what the G20 Summit can’t achieve in 20 years, we can achieve in 20 minutes!! That music is unifying is an age-old concept – but how we present it is what makes our band refreshingly different. Rollicking Ragas from South India meet mellifluous Maqams from Turkey. Dubka dance movements from Arabian sands make a happy confluence with jovial gypsy dances of Rajasthan. Raga-Maqam-Andalusian connections flourish with ease in the one-of-a-kind soundscape of rarely seen Veena-Oudh-Cello-Guitar instrumentation.

While a piece like “Morning-Ushas” gives deep sedate sounds, “Speak” makes you want to dance for its foot-tapping beats. Traditional Rajastani folk dance for Nimuda with novel choreography and contagious rhythms will leave you asking for more!

We are performing at the Garfield Park Conservatory on August 3 at 6:30PM, Women’s Park and Gardens on August 4 at 6:30PM, and at Walsh Park Playground on Saturday, August 6 at 3PM. The park concerts are all free – sponsored by the City of Chicago as part of their NOIP series for 2016. At least Rahm knows how to help with the starving artist’s supply! But I bet you, my dear Chicago music-patron, you know better than that! So we are waiting for you to hang with us and buy our CDs. Your applause and appreciation is music to our ears! It’s how we thrive. You will enjoy our distinctive original music and dance. You will make new friends. You will understand a bit more about some cool instruments and cultures!

I chose Raga and Maqam to highlight some of the beautiful music and dance heritage of parts of the Middle East as it relates to the deep rich ragascapes of India. Both these cultures have had a history of warmth, hospitality and kinship that traces back to a long time ago, when families shared dinner and you would hear laughter and music from miles away! Not gunshots.

My fond hope is to revive that spirit of friendship, sharing, and warmth through our exuberant yet artistic music!

Heck, forget about all this deep junk. Just stop by! Chill. Life’s a celebration.

P.S. I am so happy to have Kinan Abou-Afach from Syria on cello and Chicago’s own Ronnie Malley from Palestine to present our Raga Maqam concept music!

Love and Peace,

Saraswathi Ranganathan

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