Sarangi Recital by Yuji Nakagawa at iTeach BJR Pune

On 18th January 2019, Baithak Foundation hosted a Sarangi recital at the iTeach Babu Jagjeevanram School for their students. The concert started on time. All the students belonged to standard 8 and above. Around 30 students were attending this concert. After Baithak did the artist introductions, all students sat patiently listening to Yuji and Shruteendra. A few of the students were permitted to leave during the performance if they felt uncomfortable / disinterested, while a few others could not join due to tests.

Yuji played an elaborate Raag Bheempalaas (alaap, vilambit and drut Teentaal) and concluded with a Thumri in Raag Piloo. Shruteendra Katagade accompanied Yuji beautifully on the Tabla. At the end, Baithak asked Yuji to explain to the students what Sarangi was made of. Yuji asked the students to guess- some said plastic, some wood. Yuji confirmed that there is wood as Sarangi is made out of a single block of wood. The front side of the Sarangi is covered by a material made of goat skin. The bow is made of hair of the horse’s tail. When asked how does Yuji play the strings as there is no pluck in his hands. Yuji responded that Sarangi is played with the cuticle portion of the fingers.

Shruteendra told the students that the tabla consists of two components – tabla and dagga. Dagga is the bigger drum and has more bass sound compared to tabla. He demonstrated how the language of the Tabla is created from a few basic syllables, and how the syllables are used in many combinations to create interesting designs (tabla compositions).

When asked how they decided to take up these instruments, Yuji replied that in Japan, he used to play guitar. One of his friends used to play the tabla then. Tabla would be an accompaniment for Sitar, which is a very popular instrument in Japan. As there were many Sitar artists in Japan, Yuji wished to take up a different instrument, and hence chose the Sarangi as her got attracted to its sound. He learnt Sarangi for 2 months in Varanasi before finding his current Guru, Pt. Druba Ghosh. He learnt under Dhruba ji for around 12 years.

Shruteendra said that his mother is an Indian classical singer and he himself also has a good voice, but ultimately found Tabla as the right instrument for him. He has been playing for last 25 years and continues to learn new things even today. He was once told that music is not saying the bol but being able to execute them on the instrument at the correct speed. 

One of the students observed that Shruteendra and Yuji made a lot of eye contact during the performance. Shruteendra said that he has been playing with Yuji for the last 8 years and after initial few performances, started understanding how Yuji plays, his speed and his expectation from his accompaniment. Maintaining eye contact helps in understanding when either one of them might slow down or pick up speed. Plus Yuji added that there are times when the Sarangi takes a back seat to give Tabla the floor.

Another student asked if they get nervous while playing, to which both Yuji and Shruteendra admitted that they at times do get nervous and feel less confident and it can happen, amongst other things, due to showcasing a new piece or losing control of the instrument. Shruteendra added that there have been performances during which he had a migraine, but he had to continue as it is a show and it must not stop. 

Yuji and Shruteendra beautifully played a small piece to end the performance.

Written by Dhanashree Deshpande, Baithak volunteer


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