Big Picture: 'Raga is That Which Colours The Mind'
A Conversation with Ragamala Experts Sonika Soni and Vir Amar Dasmahapatra
Developed over a thousand years ago at South Asia's royal courts, Ragamala (literally "a garland of musical melodies") combines three traditional Indian art forms: music, poetry and painting. Artists imagined Ragamala as parts of family members interacting with each other, which in turn created intricate melodies and a unique aesthetic experience for both the audience and the performer.
Curator and Ragamala researcher Sonika Soni and vocalist Vir Amar Dasmahapatra guided us through the fantastic world of 'Ragamala' via a series of pictures from the Museum Rietberg collection. Sonika contextualized the discussion, while Vir sung the complementary Ragamala songs to complete the picture. In this immersive experience, they discussed with moderator Samira Müller how music, poetry, and painting interact and influence each other, the contemporary and historical context of Ragamala and tackled the question: what does personified art even look and sound like? Watch to find out for yourself.
Sonika Soni is a guest curator at the Rietberg Museum, Zurich. She is currently engaging in the scientific analysis of traditional Indian paintings with a special focus on the "Ragamala", i.e. paintings illustrating classical Indian music. She is a GBF 2021 fellow at the Rietberg Museum, Zurich and an IFA 2012 grant awardee of India. Her Masters' degree is in Art History from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU Baroda, and a post graduate diploma in Museology and Conservation from CSMVS, Mumbai. She has worked on a number of royal and private art collections including the Kasturbhai Lalbhai and City Palace Museums in Jaipur and Udaipur. Some of her published essays appear in Gauri Dancers (Mapin, India), Painting and Photography at the Jaipur Court (Niyogi Books), and The Indian Portrait-VIII (Archer). (Picture: ©Rainer Wolfsberger)
Vir Amar Dasmahpatra serves as Vice President of Talent Management & Learning in a European multinational company. Alongside his professional pursuits, he nurtures a passion for Indian Classical Music. He has had the good fortune of learning vocal music from Gurus of Jaipur, Banaras and Agra Gharanas. Over the years he has participated in the conceptualization of several thematic concerts blending music with other performing arts like theatre and dance. Currently based in Zurich, he has been collaborating actively with Sonika Soni on the exploration of the Ragamala paintings – looking at the interplay of music and literature with visual art in both historical and contemporary contexts. Vir has a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology and is also a Coach to senior leaders and executives.
Samira Müller is a researcher specializing in sino-xenic cultural and linguistic contacts in premodern China at the University of Zurich. She holds a Master's Degree in Sinology and Sanskrit and is currently pursuing her doctorate in a collaborative arrangement of the government-funded SNFS project Sino-Indo-Iranica rediviva: Early Eurasian migratory terms in Chinese and their cultural implications. She has gathered experiences for her studies via various transnational university programs in Oxford, Leiden, Saint Petersburg, Beijing and Yangzhou. In her studies, she works with primary sources in Ancient Chinese, Sanskrit, Pāli, Prakrit, Persian and Ancient Greek. Her research interests include Eurasian linguistics, Han dynastic manuscripts, early Buddhist and medical texts and their translation.
About Big Picture
Big Picture is a quarter-annual, public event series where we celebrate art in all its forms and shapes: Be it food, movies, museums, or literature. We invite artists, curators, and experts to talk about their practices and how these can help shed light on the world we live in. These talks are designed to further the dialogue and exchange across disciplines and regions and to travel beyond the events.
Big Picture is made possible with the support of Bergos.
This event is organized in collaboration with Museum Rietberg.
The event series is hosted in cooperation with Karl der Grosse.