SIFAS Festival of Arts returns with stunning stage productions at Esplanade, Singapore

The annual cultural festival of the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS) is starting this month at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore. With the theme ‘Kalpana’ (meaning ‘imagination’), the SIFAS Festival of Arts will run from April 20 to May 1, 2023. The world-class productions to be presented at the festival redefine traditions, helping audience members let their own imagination soar.

Jatayu attacking Ravana in Jaya Ram. Photo courtesy: SIFAS

SIFAS says about its Festival of Arts: “Change is the only constant — artistes have stepped out of their comfort zones over the years to reimagine the cultural arts landscape. Inspired to keep the core values of traditional art forms intact, artistes today strive to create works that bring new life to the stage. SIFAS presents ‘Kalpana’, the aptest theme for this year’s festival, as we welcome everyone to explore the past and reimagine the future.”

Highlight shows at SIFAS Festival of Arts 2023

The captivating highlight shows to be presented at this year’s SIFAS Festival of Arts include: Home, a musical production created by the celebrated Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma; Kathambam, a unique musical mélange created by an ensemble group of some of Asia’s most talented artistes, including Guru P Sushanth, a seasoned vocalist and teacher; and Jaya Ram, a magnificent dance production based on the Ramayana, created by Malaysia-based dance legend Ramli Ibrahim in collaboration with renowned Indian Odissi exponent Gajendra Panda.


Venue: Recital Studio
Date: Saturday, April 22, 2023
Timing: 3pm and 7.30pm (70mins)
Price Categories: Cat1 ($35)

A musical production conceived and created by Carnatic vocalist Sushma Soma, Home is based on her critically acclaimed album of the same name, on which she had worked with American composer and musician Aditya Prakash. The stage production has been created in collaboration with multi-percussionist and music producer Praveen Sparsh, and the artistes featured are: Sushma Soma on vocals; Adyar D Balasubramani on Nadaswaram; N Deepan on Parai; M Rajendran on Thamuru;  Sumesh Narayanan on Percussion; and M Vijay on Satti.

Sushma Soma, the creator of Home. Photo courtesy: SIFAS

Home follows the journey of Sushma Soma, as she reflects on her relationship with nature, the environment, wildlife and consumer choices. From sharing her gratitude and love for the planet to disappointment and rage in the current state of the world, she also calls out her own complicity in the destruction of the natural world and the discrimination of the world around her that arises from her privilege.

Nadaswaram, which is a part of Home. Photo courtesy: SIFAS
The Parai team, a part of Home. Photo courtesy: SIFAS

Created with a unique soundscape, Home brings together art forms one would not normally see on the same stage — Carnatic, Nadaswaram, and Parai. From embodying the cry of an elephant to protesting against our collective destruction to taking a playful jibe at mankind, voices and instruments come together with soundscapes from our everyday lives to take the audience through a journey that is familiar and yet challenging, hoping to shake one out of their apathy.


Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall
Date: Sunday, April 23, 2023
Timing: 7.30pm (2hours)
Price Categories: Cat1 ($60), Cat2 ($50), Cat3 ($40)

Kathambam, a multi-genre and multi-ethnic musical concert, encompasses a kaleidoscope of melodies which draws inspiration from ancient poetry, Indian classical music, folk music, Western elements, Oriental music and various languages.

The ensemble group that performs in Kathambam. Photo courtesy: SIFAS

Kathambam is a true amalgamation of Indian and Western music, wherein songs from different parts of India are presented in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi/Urdu. From Shlokas and Bharathiyaar to Qawwali and Sufi music, the showcase is sure to mesmerise its audience with soulful singing, uplifted by a fantastic ensemble.


Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Date: Friday, April 28, 2023
Timing: 7.30pm (2hours with 20 mins intermission)
Price Categories: Cat1 ($70), Cat2 ($55), Cat3 ($45)

An entirely original Odissi production by Sutra Foundation, in collaboration with Guru Gajendra Kumar Panda, Jaya Ram brings to the stage the myth of Lord Rama, hero of the epic Ramayana. While maintaining the format of traditional Odissi presentation, Jaya Ram is a unique Odissi production that infuses influences of indigenous folk genres in both music and movement.

Sutra dancers at the Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh, India. Photo courtesy: SIFAS

Commissioned to Guru Gajendra Kumar Panda, one of Odisha’s brilliant dance-makers and frequent collaborator of Sutra for the past four decades, Jaya Ram is the brainchild of the two Odissi powerhouses, Gajendra Panda and Ramli Ibrahim, that is a culmination of an in-depth research into the folk dance genres of South Odisha. Distinguished experts from their respective fields in Odisha were brought on for further consultation on other aspects, including dance, music composition, and libretto.

Revolving around Lord Rama, the work references primarily Ram Leela and Rama Natakam, but also draws inspiration from genres such as Daskathia and Sakhi Nata, traditional forms from the same region. It does not, however, attempt to replicate the concept of a dance drama or jatra, but stays true to the structure of presenting Odissi repertoire.