Challenging myths about Indian Classical Music

An account of first ‘Baithak @ Classes’ concert at RSM

A sweet-sounding melody filled a small classroom at iTeach Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj (RSM) School in Mundhwa, as two young and extremely talented musicians performed for the students of the school. Nearly ninety students from grades VIII, IX and X had registered to attend the concert of Indian Classical Music organised by Baithak Foundation. The Foundation, as part of its ongoing programme Baithak @ Classes, presented Yuji Nakagawa on the Sarangi, accompanied by Shruteendra Katgade on the Tabla. The concert was held on the 23rd of June 2018.

Yuji Nakagawa hails from Japan and has trained under late Pt. Dhruba Ghosh while Shruteendra Katgade is a disciple of Pt. Yogesh Samsi. 

Baithak ensures that a poster is published 2 weeks before the concert and wiling students are asked to sign-up t be the audience. The large turnout of more than ninety students was unexpected and the students had to be divided into two groups. It was heartwarming to see the teenagers, all excited, standing in long queues to grab good seats for the performance – a strong indication that the good work done by Baithak Foundation is bearing fruit. 

A classroom was transformed into a small auditorium for the students. The organisers ensured that each student sat comfortably and enjoyed the concert in close proximity to the performers. Dhurries were laid out on the floor for students to sit on. A few cushions were provided for the musicians, and chairs were arranged for guests and staff members to create an informal and intimate setting for the performance. 

The two musicians performed enthusiastically, and generously gave of their art to both groups of students. Yuji played an enchanting Basant Mukhari for the first group and the second group was delighted with a Nat Bhairav. Shruteendra ably accompanied Yuji with an Ektaal for the first composition and a Teentaal for the second piece. The musicians played aalap and bandishes like they would do in any other public concert. 

Though almost all the students were listening to Indian Classical Music for the first time, they intuitively understood the importance of ‘sam’ and appreciated the musicians when they effortlessly landed on it. Instead of clapping loudly the students chose to snap their figures to show their appreciation during the performance. These soft and melodious snaps added a certain calmness to the environment. 

Post the performance, students had the chance to interact with the artistes. Most of them had never seen or heard a Sarangi before, and so they were curious to know more about the instrument. Their observations lead them to ask questions like – Why do you use powder while playing Tabla? What is the language of Tabla – can ragas be played on the Tabla?, Why did you choose to play Sarangi and not any other instrument? Also, there were questions about the artistes and their journeys in music. One student, who had keenly observed the artistes interacting with each other through eye contact, had a question on the importance of chemistry between the artistes when they improvise during a performance. Another student requested Yuji to play her favourite Raag Patdeep for a bit. Yuji was so delighted with the interest the young minds showed that he went on to play a pentatonic Japanese tune very similar to Raag Bhoop on the Sarangi. 

As Yuji continued to play, the students sat with eyes closed, silent, still, and so absorbed in the music that the outside world ceased to exist for them. When was the last time you saw high school students so drawn in by Classical Music? 


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