Natraj: “Ragamala Paintings Alive!”

Fri, May 13 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

A musical interpretation of India’s historic Ragamala paintings performed by the world-jazz ensemble Natraj. Doors open at 7 pm.

An antelope dances to a mambo set to Raga Gujari Todi. A tango in Raga Malkauns portends Ragini Bilawal’s love-tryst. The king sets out to prove his prowess by defeating the mightiest of beasts, but will he succeed? Expect the unexpected in this adventurous contemporary work!

The extended suite “Ragamala Painting Alive!” musically interprets India’s historic Ragamala paintings. Performed by the world-jazz ensemble Natraj, Phil Scarff composed the music, inspired by the selected paintings, and guided by narratives developed by Jayshree Rajamani.

Ragamala paintings, created across North India from the 1500s to the 1700s, are a series of artworks belonging to the tradition of court paintings, with each depicting an individual raga. A raga is a musical framework used for improvisation and composition, characterized by a specific set of attributes, such as a particular scale, phrases, ornamentation, and tonal sequences.

“Ragamala Painting Alive!” brings the classic Ragamala paintings to life through music, images, and narratives. The movements are set to the North Indian classical ragas illustrated in the paintings. The raga-based melodies are infused with jazz influence and are set to Indian, West African, and other rhythms from around the world. The musical form is inspired in part by Modest Mussorgsky’s definitive paintings-based musical suite, Pictures at an Exhibition.

About Natraj

“Natraj is… better than ever… driving percussion and now-searching, now-soaring melodic excursions… And for all of the intensity, there’s still plenty of open space,” raves the Boston Herald. From Boston to Toronto, and Mumbai to Ghana, Natraj has delighted listeners since 1987. Natraj seamlessly melds the classical music of India, traditional music from West Africa, and contemporary jazz creating its own adventurous and infectious style. “Natraj… a soul-stirring performance… intoxicating, meditative music… an exotic blend of… West African rhythms with the fluid and complex ragas of Southeast Asia… an unforgettable musical journey,” extols India New England.

In this concert, Natraj features Phil Scarff, soprano and sopranino saxophones; Rohan Gregory, violin and viola; Mike Rivard, bass; Jerry Leake, tabla and multi-percussion; and Ben Paulding, drums and percussion.


Phil Scarff, Composer

Composer Phil Scarff integrates contemporary jazz with the musical traditions of India and West Africa, as well as modern Western classical methods such as fractals and 12-tone rows, to create his own unique and compelling style. His works are the core repertoire of his world-jazz ensembles Natraj and the Lewis Porter-Phil Scarff Group, and are showcased on acclaimed CDs by these ensembles. Natraj has performed his works in international festivals including India’s JazzYatra and Prayojana International Music Festival, Ghana’s PANAFEST, and Canada’s Guelph Jazz Festival.


  • Advance purchase: $25 / $21 (members).
  • Suggested donation at the door.
  • Attendees must be vaccinated. Proof of vaccination may be required.

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