The fall and winter calendar is crowded with holidays originally from cultures throughout the world, all marked by local events.
But you might have overlooked Diwali, India’s “Festival of Lights,” to be celebrated locally this year on Nov. 12 with a feast and concert by Bollywood singing star Kavita Krishnamurti at Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater.
India is a populous place, but the Indian community in Sonoma County is small, drawing from 200 to 250 people to each of its half dozen local events each year.
“Our big event is the Diwali festival, which usually gets from 350 to 500 people,” said Lomesh Shah, president of the all-volunteer North Bay Indian American Association.
This year, the group is celebrating the 25th anniversary and is planning to raise its profile with a concert starring world-class entertainers from India.
Krishnamurti (sometimes spelled “Krishnamurthy” on the Internet) was trained in Indian classical music and went on to become an award-winning singer with a string of hits popularized by India’s Bollywood film industry over the past 30 years.
“She’s a big star,” Shah said. “There are some really iconic stars in India, and Kavita Krishnamurti is among them. She has been in Bollywood for a very long time. She can sing everything from classical to Indian pop, and her performances are high-energy.”
In Bollywood, big screen musicals still dominate the market as they did in Hollywood during the middle of the 20th century. Krishnamurti is what India calls a “playback singer.” “The singers record the song, and the actors and actresses lip-sync,” Shah explained, so live concerts are the only chance to see stars like Krishnamurti perform.
Krishnamurti sings in the Hindi language, but Shah predicts the audience will get into the music easily.
“They will get immersed,” he said. “It’s not the words. It’s the music. You don’t really need to know the language. We have a lot of languages in India. Not everyone there speaks Hindi, and people still enjoy the music.” The concert also features the Andaaz Live Band, directed by its lead singer, Raju Chithambara, famed in his home country as a Bollywood musical pioneer. Local children also will perform at the Santa Rosa event.
“Our main purpose is to bring a little bit of India into the North Bay,” said Shah, 50, who works with a software company serving nonprofit organizations.
“Our goal when we started the association was to keep the cultural threads there for the kids, so they don’t completely lose sight of who they are. Then it slowly evolved into bridging the gap through cultural events within the community where we all live.”
The traditional five-day observance of Diwali actually started in late October, but this weekend turned out to be a better date for the concert, Shah said. “Since it’s celebrated pretty much in every home in India, it works out so a lot of people like to do something together as a family or group of friends on those particular dates during Diwali.
“The whole idea of Diwali is to reconnect in each other’s homes with people you haven’t seen over the past year, and also give blessings for the coming year. Usually there’s an exchange of sweets,” he said. “The lighting of the candles symbolizes the idea of coming out of darkness into the light.”
What: Celebration with Kavita Krishnamurthy and The Andaaz Band
When: 5 p.m. Nov. 12, with concert at 8 p.m.
Where: Jackson Theater, Sonoma Country Day School, 4400 Day School Place, Santa Rosa.