TAMPA — Heather DeRigo once placed an ad in Khaasbaat, Tampa's local Indian publication, seeking to put together a world fusion band.
Shankh Lahiri answered, never realizing the woman on the receiving end would become his wife.
"It turned out we lived 1.7 miles apart," Lahiri said. "We started to play together and not long after, we went to India to be married."
Now, all these years later, Lahiri and DeRigo have formed another union. Their Shruti Foundation will partner with the Indian Cultural Center for Saturday's Tampa Bay Indian Music and Dance Festival, which will be held in the center at 5511 Lynn Road.
"Everyone was very positive about the concert," said Lahiri, who first shared the idea with Ashok Modh, the cultural center president. "Everyone was very interested to get this idea started. There was a great response from the community with volunteers stepping forward and not just within the Indian community but with non-Indian community organizations."
The festival embodies the goal of the Shruti Foundation. It's aiming to draw in Tampa residents of every age, ethnicity and orientation and continue introducing the music to this culture.
"We are bringing the music in a non-threatening environment where the whole family can come," Lahiri said. "There is going to be the experience of great Indian music and dancers along with food vendors, clothing, crafts."
Traditionally, Indian music concerts are a more conservative affair.
"When we perform (as WAHH! World Fusion) at different festivals, we saw that there is always a different setup," Lahiri said. "A lot of times with Indian concerts, they are more intense, quiet.
"Because it (Indian music) has the same energy and excitement (as western music), I had a wish to break down that barrier and bring this music into the main stream."
Lahiri and the Shruti Foundation have taken several different steps to break down the barriers. Lahiri teaches music through the Shruti School of Music. His band, WAHH! World Fusion, plays at various venues and the Shruti Foundation offers public concerts around Tampa Bay, including St. Petersburg College.
The festival lineup includes a range of different disciplines: tabla/sitar player Nayan Ghosh, award-winning singer Sangeeta Lahiri and Madhuri Gudla and Tara Priyadarshini, who will perform traditional dance dramas in south Indian styles.
Radharaman Kitrtane, KV Mahabala and Lavanya Dinesh — established Indian artists that have made Tampa their home — also will perform. Yoga facilitation by Val Spies of the Lotus Pond Yoga Studio will be part of the program. Kirtan chanting by Cheryl Chaffee will open the festival in the ICC's Magnolia Ballroom.
"We are delighted to begin the whole festival with that ancient chanting," Lahiri said. "There's no need for any special training, you can just come and participate."
The event will include a free guided tour of the Hindu temple on the festival grounds from 3:30-4:30 p.m. And there will be programs to teach children about Indian music and culture.
Lahiri's vision for Saturday's festival is to take more traditional disciplines and present them in a contemporary, festival-like atmosphere.
"Our goal is to share this rich heritage and music and bring awareness of eastern culture and music," Lahiri said. "We want to share with local people, with the Indian and non-Indian community."
Contact Andy Warrener at [email protected].