By Will Broaddus
---- — SALEM — The Peabody Essex Museum has hosted “Sensational India,” a festival celebrating Indian arts and culture, every April since 2009.
The weekend’s worth of performances, presentations and parties celebrate the museum’s historic connection to India, which dates to 1799.
But this year, the festival will also draw inspiration from its current exhibit of modern Indian art, “Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence.”
“It’s a really energetic show that traces the development of three generations of artists,” said Michelle Moon, assistant director for adult programs at PEM. “What we wanted to do was creative programming that reflected the dynamic interaction between the contemporary and the traditions that those artists are working with.”
The festival will likewise feature figures influenced both by Indian tradition and the larger, contemporary world.
These include DJ Yogz and DJ D-Xtreme of the Boston Sound and Light Co., who will lead the Bollywood Dance Party on Saturday night, mixing contemporary Bollywood and bhangra music with Western dance music.
“We’ve asked them to help us change it up this year. It’s a new DJ for us for this particular event,” said Jennifer Close, senior marketing specialist at the museum. “It’s not something I’m going to turn on the radio and find.”
When they arrive for the party, visitors to the museum may feel like they’ve wandered into a disco in Mumbai.
“We change the whole feel of the museum,” Close said. “We decorate the atrium. A lighting company comes in, we have a decor company coming in. There will be a sitting area with Indian furniture and some backdrops.”
Over the years, this party has evolved into an important highlight of the festival.
“People dress to the nines,” Moon said. “It’s a fabulous evening with high energy.”
But visitors should also find plenty of stimulation earlier in the day, before the dancing starts, when artist Raghava KK gives a talk on his career and his latest project, a “brainwave installation.”
“He’s kind of a character in India,” Moon said. “He’s very famous and held one of the largest weddings ever. It was sort of a weekendlong art project.”
Raghava KK started as a cartoonist but has gone on to work in a wide range of traditional and electronic media, while also moving from India to New York.
“He’s a modern, multimedia, digitally engaged, up-to-date, intercultural, imaginative person,” Moon said.
While most events are free with admission, a few require the purchase of additional tickets, and Raghava KK’s presentation is one of a few that also require reservations.
Dakshina Dance Company, from Washington, D.C., which was founded in 2003 with the aim of mixing traditional and modern dance styles, will perform on both days of the festival.
“Bharatanatyam is a very highly evolved from of Indian classical dance, done in the courts,” Moon said. “They do a fusion version of that, which blends with contemporary and modern dance.” The company will perform “Vasanth,” a retelling of an ancient Indian myth that celebrates the return of spring.
Dakshina works with an artist, Adrian Galvin, who will create a backdrop on Saturday — with help from festival visitors — that will hang behind the company when they dance on Sunday.
On both Saturday and Sunday, Lakha Khan will sing and play the sarangi, a stringed instrument like the violin.
Khan belongs to the Manganiyar, a caste of Muslim musicians in the state of Rajasthan who have passed their skills down from generation to generation.
“He’s a master,” Moon said. “He is a very traditional artist, trained by his family in the pure tradition.”
Khan’s music was recently recorded by Amarrass Records, a company that is trying to preserve traditional forms of music in India. Founder Ankur Malhotra will be giving a talk on this kind of folk music on Sunday.
Malhotra has compared his efforts at preservation to those of American folk music collector Alan Lomax, who went into the field in the early 1900s century to record blues, folk and bluegrass music for preservation.
“Malhotra and his partner traveled the back roads, doing in India what Alan Lomax did,” Moon said. “Their work ends up being picked up by house DJs; it’s another example of the play between tradition and today.”
There will also be a talk on Sunday by New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas, who was born in Cleveland but moved to India to report on the land of his forefathers.
“He became fascinated with the study of contrasts in India, how old systems are breaking down and new, market-driven cultures are springing up,” Moon said. “He’s brilliant, funny and insightful.”
SENSATIONAL INDIA What: A festival celebrating Indian arts and culture When: Saturday and Sunday Where: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Cost: Daytime activities, with two exceptions noted below, are free with museum admission (adults $15, seniors $13, students $11, kids 16 and under free, Salem residents free. Bollywood Dance Party, $20 at the door, $15 for Salem residents More information: www.pem.org or call 978-745-9500 Schedule of events Saturday, April 6 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., collaborative art project, all skill levels. Work with artist Adrian Galvin to create backdrop for Sunday's dance performance. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., drop-in art activity: painting with pigment. Families with children 3 and up make artwork inspired by "Midnight to the Boom" exhibit. 11:30 a.m. to noon, story time: "Elephant Dance," families with children 4 and up. Noon to 12:45 p.m., dance performance, all ages. Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company presents "Vasanth," a retelling of an Indian myth that describes the return of spring to Earth after years of desolation. 1 to 2 p.m., artist talk, adults. Must reserve today at 978-745-9500, ext. 3011. Raghava KK, a multidisciplinary artist who combines painting, technology, film and performance, presents his journey as an artist and showcases his latest project, a brainwave installation. 3:30 to 4:45 p.m., concert: Rajasthani folk music with Lakha Khan. 9 p.m. to midnight, Bollywood Dance Party. DJ spins the latest Bollywood, Bhangra and Western remixed music. Cash bar, 21 plus. $20 at the door, $15 Salem residents. Sunday, April 7 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., drop-in art activity: painting with pigment. Families with children 3 and up make artwork inspired by "Midnight to the Boom" exhibit. 11:30 a.m. to noon, story time: "Elephant Dance," families with children 4 and up. Noon to 12:45 p.m. and 4 to 4:45 p.m., dance performance, all ages. Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company presents "Vasanth," a retelling of an Indian myth that describes the return of spring to Earth after years of desolation. 1 to 2 p.m., "The Eternal Essence of Music." Ankur Malhotra, co-founder of Amarrass Records, talks about folk music, how it shapes the Indian ethos and how its performers are challenged despite a favorable Indian economy. Reservations due today; buy tickets online ($17.70 adults, discounts for seniors and students, members $2.25). 2:30 to 3:45 p.m., keynote, Morse Auditorium, New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas discusses the emerging prominence of India in the global sector through the lens of his book, "India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking." Reservations due today; buy tickets online ($17.70 adults, discounts for seniors and students, members $2.25). 2:30 to 3:45 p.m., concert, Rajasthani folk music with Lakha Khan.