Bringing the World to Lexington



By Heather Beasley Doyle


“People know [Lexington] has become sort of a cultural hub for Indian classical music. The artists know us as a prominent organization now.” 
-Rajesh Godbole

When Rajesh Godbole moved from Pune, India to Boston in 1996, he couldn’t take much with him on the plane. Allowed to check two bags and carry one aboard, he knew exactly how he wanted to use his limited space. “Half of one of my checked bags was filled with audio cassettes of classical Indian music that I knew I was unable to get here,” Godbole recalled recently. “I certainly had developed an ear for music, because the city that I come from, Pune, is the cultural epicenter of classical Indian music,” he explained. “Every night there would be at least five, six, seven chamber music concerts happening in one corner of the city or the other…. It’s in the conversation, and it’s in dinner table conversations with friends.”

Rajesh Godbole and Shadaj members

In Boston, Godbole listened to his tapes and got tastes of live Indian classical music by attending concerts at Harvard University. Then, the organizer called it quits. For a while Godbole attended a hodgepodge of concerts before he and some friends (mostly from Lexington) decided they would bring high-quality classical music to the Boston area. “It started out of personal passion and hobby,” he said.

Godbole, who serves as Shadaj’s president, began writing to the artists he describes as “the Yo-Yo Mas” and “the Pavarottis” of the Indian classical music world. Bit by bit, he got to know them, and before long, someone asked this tiny bud of an organization to pull together a concert. With that, Shadaj was born in earnest. Godbole, a Lexington resident since 2011, and his growing community of volunteers began pulling together chamber music concerts and music appreciation sessions—flying artists in from India, footing the bill out of their own pockets when necessary.

Rajesh Godbole

Four years ago, the group became an official 501c3 organization, to better partner with other organizations including the Lexington Cultural Council and the Lexington Symphony, and apply for grants. According to its website, Shadaj (which means tonic, or base, note in Sanskrit) is “…a nonprofit to cultivate, nurture and promote Indian classical music in its most authentic form through intimate concerts, music appreciation sessions, as a platform for cultural integration and community outreach.”

Each year, Shadaj organizes about a dozen concerts, six of which include music appreciation sessions. The sessions give audience members a chance to hear the featured singers and instrumentalists talk about their craft. The organization’s next event, co-sponsored with Lexington Community Education, takes place the week of September 23 at Cary Memorial Library. Known as “East Meets West,” it includes free daily Indian classical music appreciation sessions Monday through Thursday at the library—and culminates Friday, September 27 at the Scottish Rite Museum with a concert featuring Shubhendra Rao on sitar, Saskia De Haas on cello and Aditya Kalyanpur on tabla. Dutch-born De Haas now lives in India with Rao, to whom she is married. Indian-born Kalyanpur divides his time between Los Angeles and India. All three, Godbole said, have studied with revered Indian musicians. “East Meets West” is the latest iteration of Shadaj’s yearly community outreach event, organized around a different theme each time.

“People know [Lexington] has become sort of a cultural hub for Indian classical music. The artists know us as a prominent organization now,” explained Godbole, but he and fellow organizers embraced the notion that Indian classical music isn’t just for those of Indian descent. “The broader community should also be able to benefit from this. So it was this idea that manifested in the community event that we started 3 years ago.”

In addition to offering free music appreciation sessions for anyone, the concert is free to students and seniors. “We’re trying to get through the cost barrier, because if something is new and you haven’t tried it before, there is a little bit of hesitation: ‘I don’t want to invest that much time and money to go out and attend a concert that I don’t even know what it is about,’” said Godbole, who noted that any music genre can be an acquired taste. “My first five years here, and all of my life in India, I did not like jazz or pop music. I hated it; I thought it was weird. And in the last ten, fifteen years, I find myself listening to jazz and pop all the time. With interest,” he said.

U P C O M I N G  P E R F O R M A N C E S

For more information about Shadaj,
and to buy tickets visit:

Monday, Tuesday & Thursday, September 23, 24, 26 at 7:30 pm at Cary Library
Three nights for an informal and informational workshop on Indian classical music.
Monday, 09/23: Similarities and differences between Indian Classical Music and Jazz, with Phil Scarff
Tuesday, 09/24: Indian Classical Violin, with Tara Anand
Thursday, 09/26: Percussion in Indian Classical Music, with Amit Kavthekar
CONCERT Friday, September 27,  8.00 PM
Scottish Rite Masonic Museum, 33 Marrett Rd., Lexington, MA 02420


(Premium: $100,  Regular: $30)
FREE for Shadaj Members and Students (Only upon RSVP)
Upgrade available for Shadaj members to Premium seating ​

Become a SHADAJ Member :

Note: Admission will be handled on a first come first serve basis.  Members must RSVP to secure a seat.
For more information about Shadaj,
and to buy tickets visit:


World On Stage

“You know, people talk about discrimination. I’ve been in this country now since 1967. I’ve never felt discrimination,” he explained. “We as a country are full of communities, and if you do this, you learn that.”
Subhash “Mal” Malhotra, World On Stage

Appealing to the masses was the idea from the get-go for Subhash “Mal” Malhotra. A conversation with his children in 1990 prompted the longtime Lexington resident and father of three (who are now adults with families of their own) to create an experience that would bring a variety of cultures and their arts to American school children. “So one day we’re talking and I realized these kids, they didn’t know too much about the world. They really didn’t. They’d traveled to India with us, but not otherwise,” recalled Malhotra. “So that’s what prompted me initially to start something with school children and field trips to learn something about world cultures and world music, and where the countries are.”

A year later, in 1991, he put down a deposit to hold an event at the World Trade Center in Boston, then began to plan the event. He quickly realized “God, I can’t handle this; this is too much,” he said, and successfully asked for his deposit back. He planned for the next year, reaching out to cultural organizations, consulates and artists. In 1992, Boston International Festival made its debut, featuring a hall of countries as well as dancers and musicians. Students attended on field trips with their teachers, and could go from booth to booth—country to country—with a mock passport, learning and answering questions at each stop. It succeeded beyond his expectations. “The first year I did that event, there were 25,000 children,” Malhotra said; the World Trade Center was bursting at the seams. The following year, he moved to a bigger venue, Bayside Expo Center, only to see attendance grow significantly.

From there, he decided to take his show on the road to Chicago, Philadelphia, and five other cities. “It was like a caravan,” he recalled. It’s like a circus going there; I would have these performers, they would follow me.” The shows went strong until early September, 2001.

“When 9/11 happened, I got scared. We were opening our mail with gloves on, because anthrax might be there, and people were suddenly very concerned about safety,” he said. “If somebody wanted to perform, they wanted the kids to go through security there before coming inside the venue.”

So he quit, but not for long; by 2002 he had founded World on Stage and also re-imagined the international festivals as Learning on Stage, a selection of shows by artists from a range of countries. The shows took place at smaller venues and complemented school curricula. Once again, Malhotra’s efforts quickly gained traction, then momentum. “So we used to go to about 20—25 states each year. And one year I was putting together as many as 250 shows,” he said. After that peak, Learning on Stage ebbed back to 100 shows per year by 2015. That year, facing a family health issue, he again hit the pause button.

World On Stage features well-known performers in many disciplines from around the world.   Courtesy Photo

Earlier this year, though, a local friend, an Indian singer, asked if he might pull together a show for her. True to form, he agreed, and booked two dates at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum theater. Then, his friend’s circumstances changed, and she could no longer perform. Undeterred, Malhotra decided this would be an opportunity to get back into musical event planning.

Under the banner of World on Stage, he will present six acts over two days: Saturday, October 12 and Sunday, November 2. The October event features Liu Liu the Acrobat, Sounds of Korea and Ultimate Tango. A theme links the three November 2 acts. “I wanted this day to have some connection to India, because I’ve never done a show like that before,” Malhotra explained. They include “Dances of the World,” which showcases a local group, MIT Bhangra, and dancers from Greece, the Philippines and other countries; Hamza Akram Qawwal & Brothers from Pakistan; and Flamenco y Sol, a flamenco dance troupe from Spain. Hamza Akram Qawwal “is a descendent of a family dynasty, musicians, they started in Delhi in India,” Malhotra explained. Flamenco dance, he added, has “a little soul of India in it.”

Malhotra described each artist enthusiastically, peppering in details, explaining here and there how far back his connection to someone goes. Clearly, he loves this. “It’s because it’s international. You know, people talk about discrimination. I’ve been in this country now since 1967. I’ve never felt discrimination,” he explained. “We as a country are full of communities, and if you do this, you learn that.”

In fact, with this latestest World on Stage effort, he decided to revive Learning on Stage. “Because, you know, I thought this was too small a project. I didn’t think it was big enough to keep me satisfied,” he said, chuckling.

It’s been harder than he thought, though—Malhotra feels his age catching up with him. And when describing his initial success with Boston International Festival, he credited the public relations professional he hired with much of its initial success. Now, he said, it’s different. “Before, it was much easier to market these things. It was, you put an ad in the papers, you do some radio talk shows, and get some TV shows to happen, get some interviews there, and you do just fine. But now, marketing is all digital,” he said, largely via social media. This shift challenges him; although the project has been fun, he worries about the success of his renewed endeavors, and by extension, the artists he’s booked.

Godbole, too, noted the importance and challenge of marketing. “I’m not a marketing expert. It’s just there aren’t enough hours in the day,” he said; he spends about 20 hours of his free time each week on the nonprofit—and emphasizes that a cadre of fellow volunteers also put in time to ensure the organization’s success. “But I think this is not our strength,” he said of marketing. “We have fallen short on reaching out to the community, I think.”

He invites community members to become involved in Shadaj, whether to help market to Lexington’s broader community, to serve on the organization’s board, or to record its concerts and events. The concerts, he notes, are small, cozy, intimate—the musicians gauge audience members’ enjoyment just by looking at them. At the same time, they improvise within Indian classical music’s specific constraints, reacting to applause in conversation with the audience, Godbole said.

Like Malhotra, Godbole never runs out of descriptions and imagery as he talks about Shadaj’s 23-year journey. It’s maintaining a culture, it’s passing it down to the next generation, it’s sharing it with a community. But for Godbole, at the center of it all, one perk stands out: “You become friends with some of the artists, so that’s the best part.”

As Godbole and Malhotra shared their stories of bringing their cultural passions to audiences, it became clear how much time, work and energy they’ve put into their respective endeavors. They have networked, figured out logistics and put up their own money. Neither wants to give it up, though—Malhotra has already booked the Scottish Rite Museum theater for next year’s performances.

“It’s like telling me ‘don’t breathe in oxygen,’” Malhotra said. “You don’t get oxygen, you die. This is oxygen for me.”


For more information about World on Stage, and to buy tickets:

U P C O M I N G  P E R F O R M A N C E S

SATURDAY, October 12, 2019
2 PM    |   CHINA Li Lui
The Acrobat Originally from Shanghai. Has performed and won prestigious competitions all over the world. Been on David Letterman Show and performed at major events around the world.
5 PM KOREA    |    Sounds of Korea
A star cast of Korean performers, educated and trained in Korea. They have performed extensively in Korea and USA and have won prestigious individual awards in Korea.
8 PM ARGENTINA The Tango – Raul Jaurena & Friends
Raul Jauena is one of the most recognized Tango musicians of our time. He has performed with other illustrious musicians like Yo-Yo Ma, Paquita O’Riviera and has travelled all over the world and invited to perform at the White House.

SATURDAY, November 2, 2019
1 PM INT’L    |   Dances of the world
The Six dance troupes representing 6 countries showcase their youth, talent, training, and exotic traditional clothing to light up any stage.
4:30PM    |   INDIA/PAKISTAN HATA Qawwal from Lahore
This award-winning Qawwali group are descendants of the First Qawwal of the subcontinent, some seven centuries ago. They represent the 26th generation of Qawwali in the Sufi tradition.
8 PM SPAIN Flamenco y Sol
One of the finest group of professional flamenco musicians, singers, and dancers. They have performed in USA and Spain

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