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More Musical Connections

Maggie Holtzberg, Program Manager

We once again collaborated with Revels on its folk music podcast series

a polka-dotted background with the words "#RevelsConnects: Musical Connections - a performance and podcast series exploring musical traditions from around the world" overlaidIn FY22 Mass Cultural Council’s Folk Arts & Heritage Program once again collaborated with Revels on its #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections podcast series. This virtual programming provided a digital alternative to much-missed live public events due to the pandemic.

Musical Connections’ Season 2 included four virtual salon-style performances and companion podcast episodes. Neena Gulati, Suzannah Park, Hawk Henries, and Christiane Karam shared deeply rooted music and dance traditions of South India, Eastern Woodlands Native flute making and music, Appalachian balladry and storytelling, and vocal music of the Middle East and Balkans.

Hosting the podcast was a wonderful opportunity to get to know these individual artists while learning new things about the incredibly old traditions they carry.

Season 2 episodes touch on:

  • The founding of Massachusetts’ first school of Indian classical dance
  • Growing up in a singing/storytelling family steeped in the heart of the 1960’s folk revival
  • Eastern woodlands Indigenous flutes and music compositions
  • The healing properties of singing and listening to Bulgarian folk choirs
  • How “world music” implies a western Eurocentric supremacy, e.g., microtones are not “extra notes;” they are the notes in Arabic and South Asian music.

Of the four traditions featured, I was most familiar with that of Indian classical dance. There is a large Indian community in New England for whom dance is an essential part of its cultural heritage. I was unaware, however, of the vital role Neena Gulati has played in nurturing this art form. She founded Triveni School of Dance in 1971. I was moved to tears listening to her speak about passing her tradition on to young Indian girls who had been adopted into white families here in Massachusetts, some of whom have been with Triveni Dance for 50 years.

During our conversation, Neena spoke of a woman, whose 50th birthday Triveni Dance had just celebrated.

“She came when she was seven years old, and her mother has also adopted four girls from India. When she came into my studio, even though she was seven, she looked like a four-year-old, scared little girl, undernourished, no confidence, ‘Where am I? What am I doing?’ And [after] three months of dance, you cannot believe, her eyes were sparkling. When she did her arangetram [graduation recital] a few years back, she said ‘Neena Auntie, I was like a little cocoon, and you gave me wings, and I’m flying.’ And then tears rolled in her eyes and mine. . . I promised myself no child adopted from India is ever going to pay tuition, and I included single mothers, who are often struggling. Because to me, Triveni is to keep this art form alive.”

How beautifully this speaks to the power of culture and how important it is to hold onto and reinvigorate traditions such as these, no matter where in the world one settles.

Partnering with Revels has been gratifying, enabling us to further our organizations’ missions where they intersect – identifying, documenting, and promoting traditional artists and the cultural communities to which they belong – connecting diverse cultures and communities through the arts.

Listen to #RevelsConnects: Musical Connections

a woman with dark hair pulled back and a bindi wears a richly colored sari of reds and golds
Neena Gulati

Neena Gulati: Dancing to Connect


man with gray hair and mustache playing a traditional flute into a microphone
Hawk Henries

Hawk Henries: Songs of the Earth and Spirit


smiling woman with long brown hair and eyes wearing a purple and gray top
Suzannah Park

Suzannah Park: Appalachian Musical Storytelling


photo of a brown haired woman holding a microphone and smiling during a performance. She's wearing a red flower in her hair and a black off-the-shoulders top
Christiane Karam

Christiane Karam: Music of the Middle East

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