NORMAN — Months of critiques, early morning practices and dedication finally came to fruition for five Norman students as they performed with 120 other Indian-American youths from across the nation at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival in Cleveland in April.
In honor of famous composer Bramhashri Papanasam Sivan’s 124th anniversary of birth, the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival — the largest Indian classical music festival outside of India — added a children’s choral arrangement, which was conducted by Sivan’s grandson, Ashok Ramani.
Jaishree Raman, of Norman, teaches students traditional Indian music at Padmalaya Music School. Five of her students — including her two sons, Ashutosh and Vinayak Raman, both sophomores at Norman North High School — were asked to perform with the chorale after auditioning live for Ramani. The other students include Sidarth Lakshmanan, Whittier Middle School; Sarada Lakshmanan, Truman Elementary; and Pranav Jayachand, Alcott Middle School.
It is the first time students from Oklahoma have performed at the festival.
Preparation for the festival wasn’t easy, even though all of the students have been or are current members of the Norman Children’s Choir. One hurdle was the language. None of the Norman students are fluent in Tamil, the language in India, which they had to learn for all 10 songs for the festival.
“Everyone had to learn how to pronounce the words, memorize, emote and differentiate beat sequences,” Jaishree said.
In carnatic music, a classical music genre in India, beat sequences are kept in time by beating fingers on hands, called thalam.
“The language isn’t based on Latin characters. And some sounds are hard to make. For example, one sound that we don’t have in English, you put your tongue on the back of your throat. It’s like a ‘r’ and ‘l’ and ‘z’ mixed together. It’s written as a ‘zh,’” Vinayak said.