Review: Seattle Symphony composer in residence Reena Esmail’s curated program fusing Western and Hindustani music

Posted on: May 19, 2022

“On May 13, students at the Swaranjali School of Music performed pieces composed by the 2020-21 Seattle Symphony Composer in Residence Reena Esmail, accompanied by the Seattle Symphony string quartet,” writes Nandini Daga in Wednesday’s (5/18) University of Washington Daily student newspaper. “The free community concert, held at Benaroya Hall, was a fusion of Western classical and Hindustani classical music…. The singers of the Swaranjali School are trained in Hindustani classical [music] under Vasu Sundarraj…. Esmail, an Indian American composer … studied Hindustani music in India after receiving an education in Western classical music from the Juilliard School and the Yale School of Music…. Performances ranged from spirited renditions of Bollywood classics … to the symphony string quartet’s crisp Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, as well as group performances of Esmail’s own compositions…. The string quartet … fluidly adapted to the Hindustani classical style…. The concert ended with Ram Tori Maya, a bhajan (devotional song)…. Esmail worked to notate the piece in a way that could be read by Western-trained musicians…. Swaranjali students performed the original version of the song, accompanied by the quartet, while Esmail herself sang the arrangement for Western-trained singers.”