This arrangement intertwines “America the Beautiful” with a melody in Raag Desh (from the Hindustani classical tradition of India). Desh means ‘country’ in Hindi (the reason why South Asians often refer to themselves as ‘desi’ – meaning ‘of the country’. It implies a unity that precedes Partition, and acknowledges that there was a time where India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were not divided into separate countries, as they are now.)
The “America the Beautiful” of India is called Vande Mataram. Just like America the Beautiful, it also celebrates these beautiful, varied landscapes, in a vast country filled with so many natural treasures. Vande Mataram is, unsurprisingly, in Raag Desh.
For immigrants, the love of country is often as much for America as for their country of origin, and I hope this arrangement evokes a sense of multi-national pride, especially among the ever-growing population of South Asians living in America.
See video above
The melody that intertwines with America the Beautiful in this variation is in Raag Desh. Many beautiful renditions of the raag can be found online by Indian classical artists.
This particular melody comes from the second movement of Reena’s Piano Trio:
The virtual premiere of the full set took place in July 2021. View the America/Beautiful project site here.
“For Reena Esmail, whose parents came to the US from India, the synthesis of cultures was the guiding light. “Min was looking for a wide conception of how people respond to America,” she says. “We have lost the idea that patriotism can mean different things, to immigrants, to refugees, to the US Army. To me, it is about making a life you couldn’t have made before. My mother is Catholic, my father Muslim, so they couldn’t have married in India. I love to think that in my music different cultures are interacting to see how they develop.” — Financial Times
Articles about the Project:
Min Kwon Speaks on the Dream of America – San Francisco Classical Voice
Five Questions to Min Kwon (pianist America/Beautiful) – I Care If You Listen