SubCat-produced ‘Ragamuffin’ a terpsichorean triumph

Downtown After Dark

East meets West in a spectacular new music video produced at Syracuse’s own SubCat Music Studios.

The video – a version of Michael Hedges composition “Ragamuffin” directed by Jeff Bradbury and engineered by Ron Keck – features Jason Kessler on 12-string guitar and percussionist Josh Dekaney on the African oudou, a ceramic gourd played with a whisk broom, along with a string of tiny metallic cymbals.

While these are two of Syracuse’s most talented jazz musicians, the music they make here simply lays the foundation for a marvelous, mesmerizing interpretative dance by Pallavi Gupta. The little lady from India is a graduate student and adjunct professor at Syracuse University studying for her doctorate in biology.

Gupta may be a scientist, but she’s also an artist.

Gupta has performed professionally in India specializing in traditional dance routines, and she based this particular dance on her native country’s monsoon season. Pallavi calls it Hindustai western fusion, Kessler said.

Nod to the composer

Kessler met composer/guitarist Michael Hedges 24 years ago, a meeting which eventually resulted in the creation of this “Ragamuffin” video.

“I read somewhere that Michael wanted to record this tune with [the Kashmiri percussionist] Trilok Gurtu, so I wanted to doÒ this tribute and add a wonderful dancer,” Kessler said. “I’ll always remember what a great time I had talking with Michael after a half-hour and he would answer any question regarding his unique insightful playing. We both agreed that Julian Bream was a huge influence! Michael was another man who reinvented the guitar.”

Kessler’s version of the Hedges tune is expertly rendered on his 12-string Lowden Honduras/Adirondack guitar and Dekaney adds an aptly understated rhythmic foundation, but Gupta steals the show! Her flowing movements mimic gentle then dramatic rainfall, its reception by the earth and the nurturing of new life. Costumed in a traditional burnt orange skirt with a yellow bodice, Pallavi projects a sense of harmony and happiness as she dances. Not only does she dance beautifully, she is beautiful!

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