Arun Luthra

The UW–Madison Division of the Arts welcomed Arun Luthra as the fall 2021 Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence.

Saxophonist, composer, and konnakol artist Arun Luthra is an American musician of Indian heritage who fuses modern post-bop Black American Music with elements of Indian classical music – especially konnakol (South Indian classical music vocal percussion). He connects a wide range of modern and classic musical influences to create a vibrant new sound and style.

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About the Artist

Arun Luthra clapping on stage in front of a microphone standSaxophonist, composer, and konnakol artist Arun Luthra is an American musician of Indian heritage who fuses modern post-bop Black American Music with elements of Indian classical music – especially konnakol (South Indian classical music vocal percussion). He connects a wide range of modern and classic musical influences to create a vibrant new sound and style.

He is the leader of the Konnakol Jazz Project, who have performed across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. He has studied and performed with notable Hindustani and Carnatic music masters. Luthra has also shared the stage and recorded with many of the greatest Black American Music, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, pop, and world music artists. He is also a faculty member of the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at the New School’s College of Performing Arts in New York.

Sponsors

Mead Witter School of Music logo Center for South Asia logo Department of Anthropology logo
Art Lit Lab logo Wisconsin Science Festival logo

The Fall 2021 Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching Program is presented by the UW–Madison Division of the Arts and hosted by the Mead Witter School of Music with Professor Johannes Wallmann as lead faculty. Co-sponsors include the Center for South Asia, the Department of Anthropology, and the Wisconsin Union Theater along with the Arts + Literature Laboratory and the Wisconsin Science Festival.

The UW–Madison Division of the Arts has hosted world-class artists-in-residence since 1995 and formally launched the Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program (IARP) in 1999. The program recently changed its name to the Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence Teaching (IART) Program. IART is made possible by funding from the university’s Office of the Provost.

Guest Artists

Rohan Krishnamurthy headshot

Indian-American percussionist and composer Rohan Krishnamurthy is one of the leading voices of Indian classical and cross-genre music in the South Asian diaspora. Acclaimed a “musical ambassador” and “pride of India” by The Times of India, Rohan’s cross-cultural artistry draws from his formal study of south Indian classical Carnatic music. Rohan has performed internationally as a distinguished soloist and collaborator in diverse music and dance ensembles. He has had the honor of sharing the stage with leading artists of Indian classical music. IG: @rohanrhythm; YouTube Channel

B.C. Manjunath headshot

B.C. Manjunath started playing music including learning Carnatic Talavadya from his parents. He is one of the few Carnatic musicians who can read, transcribe, and play from western notation. He has accompanied many great artists from India and abroad and has been a regular member of many percussion ensembles. Manjunath has performed in all the major cultural centers of South India and in over 40 countries. YouTube Channel; photo: Balu Masti

Camille Thurman headshot

Camille Thurman is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and unique interpreter of the jazz tradition. She plays the tenor saxophone along with bass clarinet, flute, and piccolo. She has four recordings and received multiple awards. Thurman has shared stages with numerous R&B and jazz luminaries. She recently toured as part of Jazz At Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis as a saxophonist. Thurman was also chosen by the State Department under the Fulbright Scholarship grant and American Music Aboard to perform internationally. YouTube Channel

Selvaganesh Vinayakram headshot

Selvaganesh Vinayakram grew up in a family of musicians. He is known for his performances, especially percussion instruments, including the kanjeera, and working with multiple musical genres from around the world. Selvaganesh’s recordings include Indian classical duets, Carnatic-meets-Hindustani hybrids, and jazz-fusion. He has composed scores and performed on numerous films’ soundtracks. Selvaganesh formed the group Arka, which explores rock with jazz and Carnatic elements. He also established the Vinayakram School of World Rhythms in multiple countries.

Resources + Media Mentions

Profile image of Arun Luthra playing the saxophoneThe Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music

Course: Music 497, Sec. 096
Day/Time: Monday and Wednesday | 4:00-5:15 pm  (both days will be synchronous)
Credits: 3 | Counts toward certificate and major requirements through Music and Center for South Asia*
Location: 2441 Humanities Building | 455 N. Park Street
Prereqs: None; no prior musical study required
Other Info: *This course counts towards the degree requirements of the B.M. in Performance (jazz studies track) and the undergraduate Center for South Asia’s certificate and Foreign Language and Area Studies.

Watch the course promo video.
Download the course flyer (PDF).

Description: This course will be an introduction to konnakol – the Carnatic (South Indian classical) music discipline of vocalizing rhythms. Students will learn konnakol and explore the universality of rhythm through science, history, politics, and other disciplines. Blending konnakol with other musical traditions, particularly Black American Music, will also be examined. The course will consist of a weekly konnakol lesson/practice session and a weekly lecture/discussion. The lecture/discussion will explore rhythm’s connections to science, history, politics, etc.; and the parallels between the developments of Indian musics and Black American Music within the political, social, and economic systems of the United States, and of colonialism generally.

Readings, lecture, and discussion will also explore relevant concepts of:

  • cultural influence, racial & economic oppression, colonialism, cultural reframing, and cultural appropriation in the performance of Carnatic music;
  • the impact of colonialism on the emergence of the South Asian diaspora, and the spread of the music of the Subcontinent throughout the world;
  • and parallels with Black American Music’s development within the oppressive political, social, and economic systems of the United States, and with Black American Music’s ubiquity as a prime musical influence across the world.

Additionally, reading and class discussion will probe the concept of rhythm as a universal phenomenon which defines our world. From the frequencies of the beams of light from the sun, to the cycles of the seasons, the regular pace of our steps as we walk, and the steady vibrations of air molecules which produce the pitches used in music, rhythm gives our world form and structure. Students will present works that incorporate konnakol concepts into creative projects ranging from music to poetry, prose, dance, scholarly papers, and beyond.

Image courtesy of the artist.

Announcements

  • View photos from the fall 2021 residency with Arun Luthra on SmugMug.
  • “Tala Mela: A Celebration of the Universal Language of Rhythm” is now available on YouTube!
  • Stream the concert featuring the Jazz Composers Group and the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble (directed by Arun Luthra) on YouTube now!
  • Watch Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Project featuring Mead Witter School of Music faculty perform during the Annual Conference on South Asia on October 22.
  • Watch the promo video for “The Universal Language of Rhythm: Explorations Through Konnakol and Black American Music” course.

Events

Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project

September 10, 2021 @ 7:30 pm CDT
Play Circle, Memorial Union800 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706 United States 
+ Google Map
$10 – $40

Unprecedented, energizing and humanizing are all words to describe this positively unique experience. The Konnakol Jazz Project was founded by saxophonist, composer, and konnakol artist Arun Luthra, who masterfully blends konnakol with Black American Music to create a vibrant new sound and style.

Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project Featuring UW-Madison School of Music Faculty

October 22, 2021 @ 8:00 pm CDT
Collins Recital Hall, Hamel Music Center740 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53706 United States 
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Free

Arun Luthra will be joined by UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music faculty as part of the annual Conference on South Asia. Luthra will perform konnakol – the Carnatic (South Indian classical music) discipline of vocalizing rhythms. Fee to attend the online conference, free to attend in-person.

SoundWaves: The Art of Science of Cities: Specimen: New York

October 24, 2021 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm CDT
Discovery Building330 North Orchard Street
Madison, WI 53715 United States 
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Free

SoundWaves looks into what makes NYC tick. How does the city sustain itself? What happens to New York as the climate changes? What’s the best way to get around town? How does the city address its many problems? And what is it like to be a musician in the cultural capital of the U.S.?

Friday Jazz Series at Tandem Press

October 29, 2021 @ 5:00 pm CDT
Tandem Press1743 Commercial Avenue
Madison, WI 53704 United States 
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Free

UW–Madison Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, directed by Arun Luthra, and Jazz Standards Ensemble, directed by Peter Dominguez, will perform as part of Tandem Press’ Friday Jazz series during the fall and spring semesters. Livestream option available.

Jazz Composers Group & Contemporary Jazz Ensemble

November 1, 2021 @ 7:30 pm CDT
Collins Recital Hall, Hamel Music Center740 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53706 United States 
+ Google Map
Free

UW–Madison students perform as part of the Jazz Composers Group, directed by Les Thimmig, and Contemporary Jazz Ensemble, directed by Arun Luthra. Livestream option available.

Just Bust! Presents: Arun Luthra with music by LA and Big Homie

November 5, 2021 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm CDT
Wisconsin Historical Society816 State Street
Madison, WI 53706 United States 
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Free

Join us for Madison’s longest running all-ages open mic! Arun Luthra is the November feature, with music by LA and Big Homie.

Just Bust! Artistic Workshop with Arun Luthra

November 6, 2021 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CDT
549 Lathrop Hall1050 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706 United States 
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Free

Arun Luthra will lead an artistic workshop with First Wave scholars. This event is open to the public.

Arun Luthra Konnakol Lecture

November 12, 2021 @ 8:00 pm CST
Collins Recital Hall, Hamel Music Center740 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53706 United States 
+ Google Map
Free

Konnakol lecture with musical demonstrations performed by Arun Luthra with the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble (Mead Witter School of Music). Livestream option available.

Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project

November 13, 2021 @ 8:00 am – 8:00 pm CST
North Street Cabaret610 North Street
Madison, 53704 
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$20

Arun Luthra (saxophonist, composer, and konnakol artist) will be performing with Madison-based musicians Matt Endres (drum set), Luke Leavitt (piano), and Nick Moran (bass). Arun Luthra is the fall 2021 interdisciplinary artist-in-residence.

Arun Luthra’s Konnakol Jazz Project

December 2, 2021 @ 9:00 pm CST
Café Coda1224 Williamson Street
Madison, WI 53703 United States 
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$20

Arun Luthra (saxophonist, composer, and konnakol artist) will perform with UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music faculty: Matt Endres (drum set), Nick Moran (bass), and Johannes Wallmann (piano).

Tala Mela: A Celebration of the Universal Language of Rhythm

December 7, 2021 @ 7:30 pm CST
Arts + Literature Lab111 S Livingston St., Suite 100
Madison, WI 53703 United States 
+ Google Map