Thursday / August 3 / 6:30PM

Fort Adams State Park


Newport Festivals Foundation’s Bridgefest Crosses Continents with “A Bridge Together”, an International Music and Dance Event Connecting American Jazz, African Beats and Indian Carnatic Music at Fort Adams State Park, August 3, 6:30 pm.

This Newport Jazz Festival “Extra” Is Free and Open to All

NEWPORT, RI, May 24, 2017 ­­– Bridgefest 2017, now in its second year under the auspices of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc. will present A Bridge Together, a special Free concert and Newport Jazz Festival® “extra” that will take place on Thursday, August 3, at 6:30 pm on the Quad Stage at Fort Adams State Park. 

This pre-Newport Jazz Festival event will showcase the multicultural connections of music and movement.  The two-part concert features dance segments by 17 year old twins, Riya and Sara Kapoor accompanied by a Carnatic music orchestra featuring musicians from India.  Guru Swati Bhise is the Conductor and Choreographer for the music and orchestra arrangement for this dance segment.   The Jazz Quartet will be led by award-winning guitarist Rez Abbasi and the West African compositions, led by the noted West African choreographer, Maguette Camara, will round out the evening. 

Fusing Indian, African and American dance and music while demonstrating the shared cultural roots that these traditions have in common, A Bridge Together raises the question: “Are we so different after all?” The answer is up to the audience after seeing and hearing this upbeat, visually exciting melding of cultures. 

Part I is an exploration of music from West Africa, India and the US. To start, there is “The First Beat,” blending Indian Classical and traditional West African genres with instruments such as the mridangam and tabla played interactively with the West African djembe. Western musical traditions eventually get a turn with familiar sounds from guitar and saxophone. The result is a harmonious, unexpected cohesion, which makes the point that together we can choose to thrive.

Part II introduces the expressive, athletic Kapoor sisters, whose intense study of Bharatanatyam has continued for more than a decade in New York City. The Indian-American sisters first appeared on stage at age 15 at their debut event at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Newport Festivals Foundation CEO/founder George Wein was in the audience when Riya and Sara made their debut and was determined to bring some of the magic he saw on stage to Newport.

“These young women are tremendous,” said Wein.  “The dances are very intricate and beautiful, but what I loved is how they brought jazz into these very traditional art forms. They’ve modernized the dances in a wonderful way while adding a delightfully different perspective to jazz music.”

A Bridge Together, like many of the Newport Festivals events, aims to educate and entertain audiences by introducing them to cultures from distant places and celebrate what unites us all here in Newport: The love of music and movement, the inspiration it provides and sharing the experience.

Riya Mani Kapoor (Bharatanatyam Dancer)

Riya began learning Indian classical dance from Swati Bhise over a decade ago. She has performed internationally alongside her Guru at numerous venues — including Symphony Space, the revered Chidambaram temple in India and the prestigious Kennedy Center in D.C.  In addition to Bharatnatyam, she also joined the Alvin Ailey School at the age of 7, and has studied a variety of styles of dance including Ballet, West African, Horton & Limon in their junior division program, where she is an aspiring dancer.  Riya plays guitar, and has previously studied both Western and Hindustani styles of vocals.  She enjoys writing, and is composing a piece about bridging cultural difference through the performing arts, a theme she identifies with personally. 


Sara Mani Kapoor (Bharatanatyam Dancer)

Like her twin, Sara started learning Indian classical dance from Swati Bhise over a decade ago.  She has performed alongside her teacher at numerous prestigious venues—including Symphony Space, the Chidambaram temple and the Kennedy Center.  She enjoys the athleticism of dance as much as its form, and chose to use it as a springboard to a competitive sport.  She is a competitive squash player.  A strong vocalist, she too has trained in both Hindustani and Western style of vocals. Sara Mani Kapoor,17, is a rising senior at Trinity School in New York City.


Swati Bhise (Conductor & Choreographer)

Swati Bhise has had a career over the last 30 years in the creative arts spanning Indian classical music and dance, media talk shows and arts in education along with film production. She is the CEO of Cayenne Pepper Productions and Executive Producer / Associate India Producer for the 2016 film “The Man Who Knew Infinity”.  She serves on the executive committee of the Asia Foundation focusing on global women’s empowerment issues. She has had a stellar career as a Bharatanatyam dancer spanning many decades including training a generation of American children in Indian classical arts. She was the U.S. correspondent for Sruti Magazine and also the anchor of the TV program Spotlight on Culture for India Broadcasting Network.  She has spent many years choreographing and composing music for her concerts, theatre and crossover projects at Lincoln Center Institute and Symphony Space amongst others. 


Rez Abbasi (Jazz Guitarist & Composer)

Voted #1 “Rising-Star Guitarist” in 2013’s DownBeat Critics Poll and placed in the "Top-Ten Guitarists" in 2015 & 2016 alongside Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny, guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi has become one of the most significant musicians on the current scene. Making New York home for the past 25 years, Abbasi has created a unique sound that is stimulated by his jazz pedigree and Indian-Pakistani upbringing. With twelve albums, multiple awards and composition commissions, Rez Abbasi continues to find creative ways to enrich diverse audiences with his musical projects.



Pawan Benjamin (Saxophone)

With influences drawing from Jazz, Contemporary, and South Asian musical traditions, saxophonist Pawan Benjamin is a versatile musician, who has performed across the globe with artists such as Roscoe Mitchell, Candido Camero, Bill T. Jones, and Ranjit Barot among others. Raised in Madison, WI, Pawan has been active member of the music scene in New York City since attending the Manhattan School of Music in 2006.

Michael Gam (Bass)

Michael Gam is a sought-after upright and electric bassist and composer living in New York.  As a versatile musician skilled in many musical styles, Michael has performed with cutting edge Jazz musicians, top Classical virtuoso Hilary Hahn and Carnatic master percussionists.  Michael has been studying Indian classical music since 2010, and is a budding sarod performer of the Maihar Gharana. 

Sharik Hasan (Piano)

Sharik Hasan is one of the leading pianists and composers of his generation to emerge from India. He started his tryst with the piano at the age of five and by sixteen, had completed the curriculum of the Royal School of Music, London. He then went to the US to attend Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music.  In 2007, Hasan moved to Paris to study at the Bill Evans Piano Academy where the young pianist integrated quickly into the jazz scene. He has performed at venues all over the world including the Blue Note (NY), Panama Jazz Festival, Kriol Jazz Festival (Cape Verde), Nancy Jazz Festival (France), Lincoln Center (NY).  Sharik Hasan received his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in 2014 and currently works in New York City as a pianist, composer, and educator.

Alex Ritz (Drums)

Based in Brooklyn, NY, Alex Ritz lends his approach to a breadth of artists and ensembles, including Expansions: the Dave Liebman Group.  He has been featured on many recordings, including Rafiq Bhatia's Yes It Will, which was listed among the Best Jazz Albums of 2012 by critics from The New York Times, Village Voice, and JazzTimes. Modern Drummer magazine observes that Ritz's “pleasantly disorienting" playing "keeps the music aloft,” and The New York Times speaks of his “drum rhythms in broken-field runs with stuttering delays before downstrokes.” 


V. Umashankar (Ghatam – clay pot)

Ghatam Umashankar comes from a lineage of highly accomplished Carnatic musicians.  He is the second son of Ghatam maestro T.H. Vikku Vinayakram and the only one to have followed in his illustrious father’s footsteps by becoming a Ghatam master.  He is regular percussionist of choice for all the leading Carnatic vocalists, as well as leading western, jazz and alternative artists.  His virtuosity has enthralled audiences worldwide. In addition to performing, he also teaches the Ghatam and Konnakkol, the rare art of reproducing rhythmic intonations vocally.

Ramchandran Iyer (Mridangam)

In his fiftieth year of stage performances, Ramchandran Iyer aka Chandran, one of the most sought-after percussionists of India finds himself renewing his commitment to Indian classical music and dance tradition and heritage, even while engaging with experimental styles fusing the customary with the postmodern.  A hobbyist in math, tennis and a cricket enthusiast, his love for arts is matched by his affinity for humor.  At 71, he is a doting father and grandfather, but remains a lifetime student of Indian music, scriptures and mythology. 

N.N. Siva Prasad (Carnatic vocalist)

N.N. Siva Prasad is renowned throughout the subcontinent and beyond for his command of classical Indian composition.  Born in Kerala to a family of musicians and Kathakali artists, he provides accompaniment for classical dance performance and festivals in India and internationally and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious accolades and awards for artistic excellence. 

Nitin Mitta (Tabla)

Nitin Mitta, is one of the most sought after Tabla players of his generation. Apart from a dynamic soloist, he has performed with many of India’s celebrated classical musicians. Nitin joined forces with Grammy Nominee Pianist Vijay Iyer and electric guitarist R. Prasanna to produce a studio album titled Tirtha. Nitin actively teaches Tabla in New York, Boston and Rhode Island.

Jay Gandhi (Bansuri - Flute)  

Shaped by years of intensive training under the legendary bansuri maestro, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Jay's music is reflective of his devotion to his Guru and a diverse range of musical influences.  His musical pursuits are not limited to that of the Indian sub-continent, he has great love for the music of the African diaspora and America classical music – and Jazz as well.  A recipient of the prestigious AIIS Performing Arts Fellowship, Jay maintains a busy schedule performing to critical acclaim for audiences across the globe. He currently is based mainly out of New York City, where he is very active as a performer and a founding member of Brooklyn Raga Massive, a prominent Indian Classical musicians collective.


Maguette Camara (West African Choreographer and Dancer)

Maguette Camara is a recognized West African choreographer, musician and teacher who is based in New York City.  He began his career with the Ballet Bourgarabou Dance Company and he performed and presented workshops in Morocco, Canada, Sengal and the US.  As a faculty member at the Alvin Ailey School, Barnard College and Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, he teaches both African dance and drum to all levels and all ages.  As an artist, Maguette Camara has performed at the Guggenheim Museum, The American Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Series, The Rolling Stones World Tour, Epcot Theater and the World Trade Center Jazz Festival among others. 

Boubacar Diabate (Djembe)

Griot singer, guitarist and storyteller, Boubacar Diabate from West Africa comes from the Mandinka lineage.  He has played with renowned singers such as Salif Keïta, Toumani Diabate, Nani Oumou, and Tamango tap dancer.   He has been the solo drummer of the Ballet Koteba from Côte d'Ivoire for over 20 years.

Kavi Mani Kapoor (Indian Percussion) 

Leonardo Brito de Mendonça (West African Dancer)


Swati Bhise Photo: Avinash Gowariker  /  Rez Abbasi Photo:  John Rogers  /  All Other Photos: Kristin Hoebermann