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Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam dance

Faculty of Business and Law 

Project Lead: Roopa Aruvanahalli Nagaraju (Staff project funded in Round 1)

Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam dance are Indian classical art forms, believed to have originated around 200 BCE. These art forms are cultural foundations of South India and S. E Asia and there is a strong emphasis on learning at least one of these art forms from a young age in South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil families.

In UK, due to migration and displacement, the number of South Indians and Sri Lankan Tamils has increased considerably. This increase has led to the formation of local communities and support businesses that are actively encouraging the learning and performing of Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam dance. Coventry, with its large South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, is developing as an important centre for learning and promoting Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam dance. The city is leading the development of an ecosystem that is currently sustaining the art forms both culturally and economically. Using qualitative interviews and stakeholder analysis, this research aims to map this ecosystem with a view to establish Coventry as a major hub for Carnatic music and dance learning in the UK and to ideate the hosting an annual Carnatic music and dance festival in Coventry from 2020.

There are multiple benefits to various stakeholders through this project. Firstly, the ethnic minority community in Coventry, West Midlands and Warwickshire will directly benefit from this project. Typically, children start learning Bharatanatyam or other format of Carnatic music from a very young age and they usually learn the art for an average of 15 years. This long commitment helps them to become confident, develop perseverance and shape their personalities. Secondly, it benefits the teachers of this art form. It creates self-employment opportunities, which in turn supports the local economy. Bharatanatyam requires particular types of costume and other props and there is a lack of access to quality products. Currently there is just one shop in Coventry, which sells these items, but as when the visibility and the number of performances increase, it will create scope for further enterprises to supply the demand. Local business in food and hospitality industry will benefit from proposed Carnatic music festival, as people will travel from all over Europe to Coventry. The university will also benefit from its increase in brand value, the role it plays in building better communities, support for businesses and a source of knowledge exchange and creation for this art form.

This project aimed to ideate and execute the Carnatic music festival in 2020 in partnership with community organisations. This will elevate Coventry as the centre in UK and Europe for learning and performing Carnatic music and dance. This will help to increase the brand value of Coventry as a cultural hub of UK. It will highlight the cultural contribution of south Indians and Sri Lankan Tamils to UK and over a period of time Coventry can become a European hub for Carnatic music and dance.

A reference to the success of this art form outside India is Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival in US. The festival has become the largest gathering of Carnatic musicians and Bharatanatyam dancers, outside India. The festival is organised in partnership with local community, businesses and Cleveland University. What started as a two-day festival is currently run over for 10 days, that not only contributes to the growth of local economy but also as a node for experimentation and fusion of western and eastern music and dance forms. Coventry can aim to replicate this success in Europe and with the active participation of universities and local communities and businesses, the future sustainability of the event can be ensured.

The festival was postponed due to COVID-19 so further updates will be available once the event has taken place.

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