Celebrating Light & Life: Diwali at The Kennedy Center

DATES: Wednesday-Saturday, November 3 – 6

TIME: All programs start at 6:00 pm

LOCATION: The Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.


I’m so thrilled and honored to be invited by The Kennedy Center’s Social Impact department, to curate a Diwali program for the Kennedy Center this year. Keeping with the work of my studio it will be all about:

“How do people celebrate Light? How do we share our stories? How do we inspire each other?” 

Join us as we explore Diwali 2021 at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. through these free events at Justice Forum and Millennium Stage, each day from Wed Nov 3rd to Sat Nov 6th, starting at 6pm.

The programs will also be live-streamed on the Kennedy Center’s YouTube channel

Wed. Nov 3rd, at Justice Forum, starting at 6 pm: Film, A Billion Color Story by N. Padmakumar. (Duration: 103 mins)
Padma and I worked in the advertising industry in ages-ago Mumbai, India, and he is a dear friend. I remember when he told me he wanted to quit being a creative director in an ad agency and wanted to be a filmmaker. I watched his journey and was stunned by his awesome movie, A Billion Color Story, which tells the story of a world rapidly torn asunder by violence, racism and suspicion, where we need more stories that reinforce our faith in each other rather than wait for a mythical messiah who might never arrive to save us.

Thu. Nov 4th, Millennium Stage, 6-7 pm: Multicultural performances by Prio Bangla.
Prio Bangla is a Northern Virginia based organization providing education, training, charity and opportunities for cultural exchange. Their popular colorful street festival in Arlington, VA has been documented over the years by the Columbia Pike Documentary Project and many photos are currently on view in an exhibit in the Library of Virginia, Richmond, called Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community. Contact Prio Bangla at 571.996.9724

Fri. Nov 5th, Millennium Stage, 6-7 pm: Carnatic and crossover vocal performance by Rohith Jayaraman.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Rohith Jayaraman is a vocalist, composer, and educator known for his soulful voice, speed, precision, and infectious energy. Rohith was trained in Indian Carnatic music under his mother and guru, Asha Ramesh, a disciple of D.K. Jayaraman. For the last 10 years, he has been exploring the world of crossover music, working with (and learning from) his collaborators, who come from all around the world and bring expertise in areas as diverse as jazz, pop, Arabic music, metal, Gnawa, folk, electronica, and more. 

Rohith and his band will present a combination of Carnatic and crossover pieces celebrating the spectrum of musical and personal perspectives that exist in the South Indian diaspora.

Tabla: Giri Subramaniam
Violin: Parthiv Mohan
Guitar: João Perrusi

New album Manam:  Manam is a 5-track album, born from many evenings of family discussion in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jeyaraj and Bennicks, the Cisco discrimination lawsuit, and many more. These discussions were often prompted by questions, ranging from topics like race, gender, and caste, to religion, log kya kahenge, and deeply ingrained social norms. These questions morphed into poetry, and then into song. They draw from our roots in Carnatic music, while also exploring other genres like spoken word and jazz. The process of making this album brought our family even closer together, and we hope that the album may spark similar discussions in your own homes, with family and friends.

Manam is not about solutions to the world’s problems. It simply questions norms and beliefs that some of us may take for granted.

Sat. Nov 6th, Millennium Stage, 6-7 pm: My Light, My Story: Inspiration is Everywhere! Listen to the story of how artist Sushmita Mazumdar’s daughter encouraged her to make a book about Diwali, and how PAUSErs made it their own. How Rubén Villalta wanted to translate it into Spanish so people who speak his language can enjoy it too. How making copies of the book inspired photographer Susan Sterner to explore light, paper, and color in her own way and how musician Dena Jennings used her Rangoli book as her Advent wreath and created music for it. Make a Rangoli Book of your own and take it home to remember that inspiration is everywhere!

Stay tuned for more details here TKC.co/MStage.

Vaccination and masks are required.

Image credit: Background Zentangle by Sharmila Karamchandani; Dancers photo, Dewey Tron; Rohith photo, Esha Asser; Rangoli book by Sushmita Mazumdar.

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