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“Sarode: The Flower of Tradition” by Karina Nishi Marcus

“Play Like a Lion”

This film, along with a concert by Alam Khan, will be featured at the Santa Rosa International Film Festival Friday, September 27th at the Glaser Center located at 547 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, starting at 6:30pm.  Tickets are available at the door. I, along with other artists, are participating in a part of the program called “A Duet-Dialogue: Cinema and Art” where each artist takes for their inspiration for an art-work one of the films in the Festival.

This documentary “Play Like a Lion: The Legacy of Maestro Ali Akbar Khan” by Joshua Dylan Melliars centers on internationally recognized sarodist Ali Akabar Khan, while exploring the dynamics of the past that cycles to his son Alam as his musical successor. The film covers the history of Ali Akbar Khan as he brings his family’s long North Indian musical tradition, with roots that reach to the 16th century, to America. There he establishes the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Raphael, California. We understand how the music takes this journey. It also follows Alam’s first solo concert tour in India.  We see the process of the son evaluating his relationship with his ailing father (Ali Akbar Khan passes during the filming of the documentary at age 87).

In India, Alam meets the deep influence of his family’s history, which extends to the traditional court music of the maharajas, to the impact and inspiration of his father upon his life and throughout the world.  We perceive his decision process as he comes to devote himself to continue his father’s legacy and dedicate himself to the gifts of music from his father.  He takes council from his father’s advice: “Don’t worry. Play like a lion.”

The sarode is a 25 stringed, fretless instrument where precision and intuitive improvisation fuse.  As the film states, the music is “solar based on the earth’s vibrational rhythm”.  There are also many interviews with various contemporary musicians such as Carlos Santana and Mickey Hart, as well as jazz and classical.

For my painting “Sarode: the Flower of Tradition” I began with a fascination with the shapes in movement of this instrument. In the process of painting, as I was mulling how I would express the idea that it is the instrument around which all the elements of the film centers: the concepts of the passage of history, family legacy, musical mystique, cultural richness.  I came to perceive the strings as root-threads that interweave all these themes.  My previous study of Indian miniatures of the Mogul period with their floral detail emphasis, and the inlays in marbles of the Taj Mahal manifested during the painting process.  I hope that my painting expresses the scope of this flowing tradition.

Karina Nishi Marcus