Australian fest opens with mega concert, endowment

Australian fest opens with mega concert, endowment   New Delhi: The four-month Oz Fest, a showcase of Australian culture in India, has kicked off with visiting Prime Minister Julia Gillard announcing the Ravi Shankar World Music Scholarship, named after the Indian sitar maestro, at Victoria University.

Announcing the endowment Tuesday evening, Gillard said the scholarship will allow musicians to study at the Victoria University from 2013.

"This scholarship represents everything that India and Australia share. Ravi Shankar took Indian culture to the world," Gillard said at the opening of the Oz Fest from Oct 16-Feb 5.

The festival opened with a fusion concert of Australian aboriginal music and a sitar recital by Anoushka Shankar, Ravi Shankar`s daughter, at the historic venue of the 16th century Purana Qila (Old Fort) in the heart of the national capital.

Besides the Australian prime minister, the opening concert was graced by Indian Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Australian envoy in India Peter Varghese and a host of dignitaries from Australia and India.

Set against the backdrop of a small arched relic, the Sher Mandal Observatory, inside the Old Fort complex, the opening act left the audience gasping in delight. A spectacular light show highlighted the Islamic architecture and the intricate floral design - which was magnified on the red sandstone surface of the structure by a complex kaleidoscope of moving laser images and coloured 3D electronic lights.

The light show, produced by the creators of Sydney`s Vivid Light Festival known for its light displays at the Sydney Opera House, was accompanied by a solo didgeridoo concert by virtuoso Mark Atkins. The didgeridoo is an ancient indigenous Australian drone instrument resembling a long wooden horn that produces a deep primal sounds like that of the gongs.

It was followed by a solo concert of iconic Australian vocalist, Gurumul Yunupingu, a blind musician who sang about the ethnic myths, legends, spirits and cross-cultural connections. In 2011, he was named the most important voice from Australia by the Rolling Stones magazine.

Gurumul`s plaintive voice spun a magical web on the sprawling heritage ambience.

Twice Grammy Award-nominated Anoushka Shankar played two cheerful and rhythmic evening compositions, raga Tilang and raga Vachaspati created by her father Ravi Shankar and a Carnatic raga Adi.

Addressing the gathering, Sibal said the ties between "India and Australia" date back to 50 million years ago when the continental drift started to separate Asia from the Australian landmass.

"We share similar values and are striving for a more equitable world. But we have yet another shared passion- our love for cricket...," Sibal said.

The festival is spread in four venues - Pune, Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore - with a panorama of music, performances, indigenous cricket, movies and art.

IANS