Sumkali enriches culture on campus

Melissa Orzechowksi

Using a sitar and a tabla (similar to a drum) as well as Western instruments like the violin and the guitar, the upcoming Northern Nights performance Saturday, Sept. 13 by the Indian jazz and funk band Sumkali will be a unique cultural experience.

“The best way to describe Sumkali,” Northern Nights director Dan Truckey said, “is they play traditional Indian raga music using traditional instruments but they fuse it with jazz and more rock-ish sounds too so it is not just traditional Indian  music.”

The Sumkali performance is part of Northern’s larger performing arts series, Northern Nights, that aims to provide culturally enriching opportunities to students, faculty and staff and community members.

“The series, in a way, is geared toward being part of the educational experience at Northern. We want (students) to have that exposure,” Truckey said. “It is not just about hearing cool music; it is about experiencing a different culture as well so you are part. Not only do you get to hear the music, you also get to experience their culture for an hour and a half and get a sense of what these people are like.”

Rebecca Tavernini, university editor in the Identity, Brand and Marketing department is a member of Northern Nights’ planning committee. She said listening to different music has intrinsic benefits.

“Sometimes you learn things about yourself that you didn’t realize you appreciated or enjoyed,” Tavernini said. “It also may open up avenues that you might want to explore more about that particular culture. I know that India is just a booming economy in the world that is having a lot of impact in the United States. We are having more interaction with people from India, so I think that it is important to know about other people of the world. And doing that through their music is an easy door.”

The music in Northern Nights performances is distinct, and so are the performance areas.

“They’re usually in a really intimate venue and unfortunately they are not for a really huge audience. We’d like to get a larger audience,” said Tavernini. “Often you are there with the band. You can reach out and touch them.”

Senior graphic communication major Elizabeth Klarecki is a former member of the series’ planning committee and is looking forward to seeing Sumkali perform.

“I think it’s fantastic that we have opportunities like this to learn and enjoy new music and dance from different cultures because they broaden perspective and awareness,” Klarecki said. “I am especially looking forward to Sumkali because I am interested in Indian music and culture after traveling in India during my sophomore year at NMU.”

Truckey said because of the differences between the types of music Sumkali combines, the performance should be interesting.

“I think the unique thing about it is that  it is hard to describe Indian music because it is completely different from Western music in the way that they approach it,” Truckey said. “Where Western music we think of songs in a chord and progressions, in lyrics and solo breaks, they don’t have any of that; it is a rhythm and patterns.

“I mean, the music is really intended to try and help meditation, transcendental meditation, to try to take you to a place. It is not to try to describe a place to you necessarily, which is where Western music tries more to describe a place rather than to take you to a place. And the dance, I think it will be more of a traditional type dance. But their music is beyond that too. It is not just traditional so it is going to be really interesting to see what they come up with.”

Sumkali will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13 in the Forest Roberts Theatre.

Tickets for the concert can be purchased at the EZ ticket outlets. For more information about Sumkali and the upcoming performances in the series, visit