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'Rhythm of Rajasthan' brings the sounds of India to UB

Chances are good that Indian music is relegated by many Americans, when and if they think about it, to performances by sitar master Ravi Shankar, percussion wizard Zakir Hussain or the florid vocal and orchestral underpinnings of Bollywood movies.

This weekend's "Rhythm of Rajasthan" program at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at UB's Center for the Arts is proof that the Asian subcontinent is home to a great deal more than that.

According to Dr. Arvind Bhargava, a spokesperson for Triveni, the nonprofit organization sponsoring the event along with the UB Asian Studies program, Rajasthan is "perhaps the most popular tourist attraction [in India] besides [the] Taj Mahal."

Sharing a border with Pakistan, this largest of Indian states is home to a diverse blend of cultures, meshing Hindu and Islamic influences into an exciting whole but Barghava notes that the "music is above and beyond any geographical boundaries and religion."

He talks instead of songs that "sing in praise of Hindu gods as well as Sufi music" and speaks about Suva Debi, the gypsy dancer who travels with the troupe, calling attention to her "hundreds of performances all over the world."

Groups of musicians, anywhere from two to five at a time, will take the stage while a spokesperson offers brief, informative backgrounds about the music before the players jump into action.

Musical instruments with names like sarangi, dholak, khartal, algoza and pungi will reveal themselves to be, respectively, a set of bowed strings, percussion, castenets, flute and a member of the reed family best known for its prominence in snake charming.

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