Southbank Centre launches Alchemy, a major new festival celebrating contemporary and traditional culture from India

Southbank Centre launches Alchemy, a major new festival celebrating contemporary and traditional culture from India

On 7 – 11 April, Southbank Centre launches Alchemy, a major new festival celebrating contemporary and traditional culture from India. With a full programme of music, dance, literature, food, debate and fashion, events range from a rare classical concert by celebrated composer A.R. Rahman to the very best UK Bhangra, to an evening of music and chat with The Grewal Family from Channel 4’s hit documentary The Family. Add to that free classical and folk dance workshops, early morning yoga, the Alchemy Market and an immersive installation that recreates the sights and sounds of Southall, this five-day festival will take over all venues and spaces of Southbank Centre.

Festival highlights include:

• A.R.RAHMAN (7 April) – Academy Award-winning composer hosts a special performance of music from Slumdog Millionaire, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Bollywood classics by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
• A MUSICAL EVENING WITH THE GREWAL FAMILY (11 April) – From the hit C4 series The Family
• NIHAL: DESI LIVE (8 April) – Radio 1 DJ presents live performances by the biggest names in UK Bhangra
• RAJ: RELOAD (10 April) – mini festival featuring Mother India 21st Century Remix
• THE SOUTHALL STORY (7 April – 11 May) – immersive street-scape, evoking sights and sounds of London’s ‘Little India’
• CHANDRALEKHA & GUNDECHA BROTHERS (11 April) – UK Premiere of last piece created by legendary founder of Indian modern dance
• FREE SCREENING of the classic Bollywood film Sholay to close the festival

Brought together by Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly and Artist in Residence, choreographer/dancer Gauri Sharma Tripathi, the partners in the first Alchemy festival are: Radio 1 and BBC Asian Network DJ Nihal, musician/producer Kuljit Bhamra MBE, South Asian arts development agencies London-based Akademi and Birmingham-based sampad, festival and music producers Darbar and Swaraj Music, the Nehru Centre London and British Council. Working together for the first time, they present a programme of events that explore the classical and contemporary, questioning current perceptions and definitions of India and its relationship to the UK, celebrating British Asian talent.

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre said:
“Like the mix of peoples, traditions and boundless energy that conspires to produce one of the world’s great cultures, Alchemy – as the name suggests – is the result of an unprecedented coming together of individuals and organisations, all of whom champion different facets of Indian culture in the UK. We could not attempt to tell the story of this most complex and compelling of cultures without them.”

A.R.Rahman, Composer, said:
"It’s a great honour to be part of Southbank Centre’s very first Alchemy festival, and to be performing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall – a concert hall that holds a special place in the hearts of Indian audiences, ever since Ravi Shankar and Ustad Alla Rakha made their first UK performances there in the early 1950s."

Headline acts at the Royal Festival Hall include Indian film composer, musician and singer A.R. Rahman (7 April), who hosts the first concert of his work in London since winning the Academy Award for Best Song and Best Score for the film Slumdog Millionaire in 2009. The evening features some of his most famous works, performed by Southbank Centre Resident Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, including music from Slumdog Millionaire, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and scores to many much-loved Bollywood classics. The performance will be followed by a Q&A with the composer.

A Musical Evening with The Grewal Family, from the hit Channel 4 series The Family (11 April) is hosted by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Asian Network presenter Nihal. Reflecting on how the hugely popular fly-on-the-wall documentary series has impacted on their lives, The Grewals reveal what daily life is like for them post screen and recount intimate moments in their life story. The show is interspersed with The Family’s favourite music, with son Tindy playing DJ.

In a night hosted and curated by Nihal (BBC Radio 1; BBC Asian Network), with top bhangra producer Bee 2 as Musical Director, Nihal: Desi Live (8 April) marks the first time three of the biggest names in UK Bhangra – H-Dhami, Jaz Dhami and Juggy D – have performed together on one stage, with a full live band. On 10 April, RAJ:RELOAD takes over the spaces of the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a mini-festival which showcases some of the most innovative artists from the UK and India. With live bands, film soundtrack performances, VJs, DJs and spoken word, this special night features Mother India 21st Century Remix (a live score to the iconic film Mother India), Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee with Chandrasonic and Marty Savale (Asian Dub Foundation), Engine-Earz Experiment with Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Bishi and more. Other musical performances include The Teak Project (9 April) which fuses Indian music and jazz to re-interpret traditional British folk songs and Milun (9 April), who combine Irish music with well-known Indian ragas and a chance to learn Indian vocal techniques with Tofail Ahmed (11 April). In a double bill of dance and music, UK-based collective Samay merge a range of contemporary influences including jazz, flamenco, samba, funk to create a unique sound. They are joined by the acclaimed Sunil Kant Gupta on bansuri (flute).

For over two decades, Southbank Centre has been working with pioneering organisations Akademi (30th anniversary this year) and sampad (20th anniversary this year), to present an innovative programme of South Asian dance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. Now, all three come together to present UK premieres from India, as well as new work from emerging British based talent. Sharira (11 April) is the last work by the legendary Indian choreographer Chandralekha (1928-2006), often referred to as the founder of modern Indian dance. Dancers Shaji John and Tishani Doshi are accompanied by classical Dhrupad music and song interpreted live by the Gundecha brothers, who are joined by acclaimed guest artist from India, Ravishankar Upadhyay (11 April).

On 8 April, Gauri Sharma Tripathi appears in a double bill, including the work in progress of her new piece Kireet, which will premiere in full in Autumn 2010. This will be followed by a solo performance of Bharatanatyam by dancer Mavin Khoo, in his new production Dancing the Shiva (8 April). South Asian Dance – An Introduction (9 April) is hosted and performed by acclaimed British-based Kathak dancer and choreographer Sonia Sabri. On 10 April, British-born artists Aakash Odedra, Seeta Patel and Hetain Patel perform in an exciting triple bill of dance and film, which explores their Indian cultural heritage, together with dancers from America (Kamala Devam) and India, (Sanjukta Sinha). In a UK premiere, acclaimed Chennai-based dancer and choreographer Malavika Sarukkai performs one of her renowned Bharatanatyam solos (9 April). On 10 April, Akademi presents a preview their new site-specific dance piece Sufi:Zen in an atmospheric roof top performance, while The Clore Ballroom hosts a giant carnival folk dance. On the closing day of the festival, Gauri Sharma Tripathi will be joined by special guests to evoke dance performances from the Moghul era (11 April).


The Alchemy Debates, part of British Council’s UK-India Cultural Connections programme (7/8/10/11 April) explores the foundations and context of Alchemy, opening with the timely discussion India: Global Powerhouse? (7 April). Throughout the festival UK and Indian artists come together to begin the process of creating new collaborative work and share progress with the public on two occasions.

Set amidst the Bangladeshi War of Independence of 1971, Tahmima Anam’s novel, A Golden Age is currently being adapted for stage and will premiere later this year as part of Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival. Telling the story of a country and family at war, audiences can catch a sneak preview of this-work-in-progress in a scratch performance on 8 April. Other literature highlights include Contemporary Indian Poetry with Jeet Thayil, editor of the The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (11 April).

A free events programme throughout the Festival will transform The Clore Ballroom, Spirit Level and surrounding areas with a range of events including Daandiya Raas Stick Dancing, The Southall Story: Live featuring performances by Bhangra musician Kuljit Bhamra and Mohindra Kaur Bhamra and an insight into life in Southall with The Southall Storytellers. There’s something for everyone on offer including free daily yoga sessions and Indian Voice Workshops. Southbank Centre will mark the close of Alchemy with a free screening of the classic Bollywood film Sholay which features the work of top Indian designer Lil’Shilpa (11 April). The Clore Ballroom plays host to a glamorous fashion show featuring a retrospective from renowned designer Manish Arora and a special showcase from Lil’Shilpa.

The Alchemy Market in Southbank Centre Square will offer Indian food, hot chai and crafts and The Nation’s Dish will see a guest appearance by celebrity chefs. On 8 April BBC Radio 1 DJ, Nihal hosts his BBC Asian Network show at Southbank Centre, broadcasting live from The Clore Ballroom. He brings together a panel of artists and decision makers to discuss the ingredients that make Indian culture what it is today, followed by a ‘cook off’ between celebrated chef, Atul Kochar and Sarbjit Grewal, the mother from Channel 4’s The Family.

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