Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao-de Haas

We Americans often seem averse to immersing ourselves in other cultures, especially when it comes to the arts. Take, for example, Indian music. To the untrained ear, it conjures up notions of studious musicians plunking out sitar scales or furiously thumping tablas, all the while caught up in a meditative haze. While it inevitably gets the pulse racing, the lack of easily accessible Western-style melodies gives it a perception of being either intimidating or obtuse. So credit the Broward-based Association of Performing Arts of India for producing a series of concerts that has introduced some of India's most innovative performers to otherwise-unknowing South Florida audiences. The latest offering spotlights sitar master Shubhendra Rao and cellist Saskia Rao-de Haas, a husband-wife duo whose ambitious efforts at bridging the divide with other musical disciplines have won them worldwide recognition. Like his musical mentor, Pandit Ravi Shankar (with whom he started studying at age 8), Shubhendra has been hailed as an international ambassador of Indian music. Accompanied by Saskia (a native of the Netherlands) and Biplab Bhattacharya on tabla, they create a synthesis of emotion and exuberance that slowly turns into something sublime.

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