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ITC-SRA Seminar, 29 & 30 August 2006

Hindustani Raga Music - Future Responsibilities
ITC-SRA Seminar, 29 & 30 August 2006
Seminar Report

Day 1
The two-day seminar of ITC Sangeet Research Academy entitled ‘Hindustani Raga Music – Future Responsibilities’, got underway at its auditorium on Tuesday, 29th.August. In his welcome address, the executive director, Amit Mukerjee, said that because of the fast changing socio-economic scenario, what worries today’s performing Hindustani classical musician is how effectively raga music will retain its strength in its apparent struggle for survival in the days to come. He emphasized the need to discuss relevant issues so as to arrive at cohesive decisions for subsequent implementation

At the inaugural session entitled ‘Young Performers and Students of Hindustani raga music’, noted young vocalist, Ashwini Bhide Deshpande expressed that although the term “good quality music” is highly relative, today’s young performers are quite aware of their responsibility to develop a consistent urge towards perfection and reach greater levels of achievement in the raga according to one’s own way of approaching it, something which she termed as “solving” the raga. Tanmoy Bose, the ace tabaliya of the present generation, was the next speaker. Efficiently handling the topic, ‘Expectations of young performers and students of music’, he opined that the gurus should instill in the students a sense of organized efficiency by which they are able to create opportunities besides being a popular performer and earn a respectable living. ‘Stage presentation and handling of electronic equipment; knowledge of computers, internet, etc.’ was the issue Purbayan Chatterjee, the bright young sitarist, addressed. He said that while the artiste is always required to respect his traditional taalim and maintain a high standard of performance through consistent practice; in today’s environment he would also do well to learn computer handling, internet browsing and manage his secretarial affairs himself as far as possible. Noted researcher and musician Dr. Suvarnalata Rao, who moderated the session, supported the panelists’ views, as also did several distinguished musicians and students from the audience.

Speaking on ‘Studio experiences - precise and compact renditions to meet time constraints’ eminent sarodiya, Tejendra Narayan Mazumdar highlighted on the performer’s requirement to learn how to deliver a skilful and yet emotionally rich and relevant music piece of a short duration, something that is warranted in films, documentaries, commercials or jingles. He also reiterated on the student’s task to educate himself in areas like microphone usage and knowledge about recording and mixing technology. The heartthrob in today’s world of percussion, Bikram Ghosh, then spoke on the state of changing circumstances and the musician’s requirement to be successful in being able to canvas that change in his artistic expressions. Veteran sarode exponent and guru of the Academy, Buddhadev Das Gupta presented the audience with audio examples of some marvelous musical gems from the western classical world. These compositions of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, among others, proved that somewhere deep within lay a perceptible link between the movements of western classical music and those of Hindustani raga sangeet. The moderator for this session, Amit Mukerjee, as well as other distinguished persons from the audience said that while a high standard of producing a refined, finished and emotive musical expression within a very short span of time is very much expected of the modern-day performer, it is no alien concept in our music. Stalwarts of the past have all done the same with enviable efficiency in their 78rpm discs as well as film situations.

‘Teaching methods’ was what comprised the post-lunch session of discussion. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, dealing with the topic ‘Evolving new techniques of training to suit modern needs’, said that though one should be open enough to accept innovations like the electronic tabla or tanpura in their day-to-day practice, the shades of finer nuances offered by the real tanpura or the benefits obtained from riyaz with a human tabla player are simply irreplaceable. She suggested that tape recorders as a teaching tool should be used by the modern-day student with great caution. The need to have ‘adequate training in associated streams’, a satisfactory knowledge and awareness about accompaniment and the need to grow a collaborative attitude with the tabla accompanist – these were the issues addressed by tabla maestro, Shankar Ghosh subsequently. Sitar exponent and teacher Prof. Sanjoy Bandopadhyay dealt with the subject of changes in ‘music curricula and the examination system’. He said that in his capacity as a faculty member of the Rabindra Bharati University, he is trying to bring about changes in the syllabus and evaluation system there, so as to help make the learning more meaningful and bring about significant improvements in their employment prospects. Moderator Dr. Suvarnalata Rao added that similar efforts are also in progress at their S.N.D.T Women’s college in Mumbai.

Following the tea-break, the subject ‘Audience and society at large’ was taken up. ‘Changes in society; cultural conflicts and new tastes’, ‘Music appreciation course for the audience’ and ‘Organising baithaks & small soirees as a mass movement - especially for upcoming artistes’ - these were the topics spoken on. Amit Mukerjee started the session calling on the youth to feel inspired to become hard working, patient and deeply rooted to the traditional ways of practice so as to achieve a guaranteed level of success in future. Vijay Kichlu, speaking on the same lines, also emphasized on the need to spread the message of music appreciation on a far wider and deeper scale, and called on everybody to focus more seriously onto the burning question of the day, namely the ‘survival’ of Hindustani raga sangeet in future. Eminent santoor exponent and organizer Satish Vyas addressed the financial and technical problems that one comes across while endeavoring to promote young and deserving musicians. Veteran singer and head of the scientific research department, ITC-SRA, Dipali Nag moderated the session with articulacy and pinned great hopes on the present band of young classical musicians across the country.

Day 2

The inaugural session on 30th.August, the second and final day of the seminar, addressed issues relating to ‘Basic Indian raga music training at educational institutions’, ‘Indian raga music as a compulsory subject in schools’, ‘Regular workshops & lecture demonstrations in schools and colleges’ and ‘Family support and early exposure to raga music for children’. Susmita Chakrabarthy, teacher at a reputed school of Kolkata, spoke on the need to make the guardians and parents aware of the greatness and importance of Indian classical music, whereby it would become easier for the children to imbibe it. Ranjan Mitter, Principal of another well-known school, said that the tradition of Indian raga music should be given utmost priority in our day to day culture and whether or not children grow up to become performers in future, this sense of identity and oneness with our very own fundamental art form is vital. Dr. Suvarnalata Rao spoke of the valid necessity of organizing regular workshops and lecture-demonstration in schools, to rouse the interest and involvement of children. She said that explanatory programmes in Radio like those that happened in the past, with a tint of illustration also from film music, greatly helps the cause. Mala Mukerjee, who is an active career counselor interacting with various schools, echoed the same feeling and stressed on the need to correctly develop the faculty of multiple concentration that is rooted from birth in everybody. Falguni Mitra, prefect and guru of the Academy, said that the problem nestles in the family and in the attitude of the parents, who eye their children as becoming popular stars overnight. For this they cling to the glamorous world of film music and send the kids to appear at the commercial music competitions on television. Moderator Satish Vyas supported this thought and quoting from personal experience, expressed his personal anguish about these private TV channels who are promoting child star-making for their own monetary interest.

‘The role of governmental institutions and media’ was taken up at the subsequent session. Anuja Chakravarty, regional director, ICCR Kolkata, neatly elaborated the activities of the council and stated some of their future dreams keeping the interest of the Indian classical musicians in mind. Ratnottama Sengupta, a reputed arts correspondent in English daily, said that it was more a responsibility of the readers of newspapers to build up a movement for any good cause and get it endorsed in the pages of the paper. She stated that the kind of awareness of our cultural heritage that once existed amongst journalists and reporters in the past is no more there now, and papers basically promote the marketing interests of their corporate sponsors. Geeta Sahai, representing World Space Radio, urged to the Academy and to the musician fraternity at large to help them bridge the gap between the “class” and the “mass”. She invited ideas and suggestions towards progressive improvement of this channel and hoped to work together with ITCSRA in this endeavour.

A sumptuous lunch over, the floor was all set for general discussion comprising all sections of the audience. Amit Mukerjee, supporting the previous day’s discussion said that one should consider the options of video conferences, DVDs and other modern day audio-visual formats, all of which should act as strong supplements to traditional one-to-one learning. Eminent singer and Academy guru, Girija Devi advocated the launching of CDs by reputed houses wherein the scholars of the Academy and other deserving young musicians should perform alongside a great maestro and because of the appearance of the superstar in the album; its sale-prospects would be tremendous. The young musician would benefit from this in terms of exposure. She also wanted ITC to come up with an independent TV channel or at least buy substantial hours from one such, to project the music produced at ITC-SRA. Satish Vyas suggested that the interaction between musicians of different statures be smoother and easier than in the past, and communications be stronger, so that the guru-shishya taalim gets more effective and the young brigade feel at ease to express their views. All agreed unanimously that classical music as a profession would be the ultimate gainer in the process.

Amit Mukerjee finally declared the conclusion of the seminar, profusely thanking all the participants for their extremely valued suggestions and thoughts.

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