The Weekend Leader - Strung together

Teaching music through concerts and lectures

Marianne de Nazareth   |   Bangalore


Vol 2 | Issue 3

Shubhendra Rao on the sitar and Saskia Rao De Haas on the cello are strumming up a new interest in Indian classical music among the students in Bengaluru. While Shubhendra was born and brought up in Bengaluru, Saskia is from Amsterdam. The two musicians are happy to be in India under an outreach programme by SPIC Macay (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth).

“We do lecture recitals in each of the educational institutions slotted for us. We feel that it is important for our young people to know our traditional music,” says Shubhendra, who dropped out when he was in the second year of BSc in National College, Basavanagudi, to live with his guru in Delhi. ‘I have always been a disciple of Pt Ravi Shankar,’ he says.

United for a cause: Sitar player Shubhendra and cello exponent Saskia want to promote Indian classical music among youth 

Saskia has learnt to play classical Cello from the age of seven. “It was only after a certain level of competency that I decided to start learning North Indian classical music in Amsterdam under Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia in Rotterdam.”

“It’s been a journey of discovery right from my first lesson where my teacher sat on the floor and I sat on a chair. Now I sit on the floor, but have had a Cello made especially for me in Holland, adapted to play Indian music. It has five playing strings and ten resonating strings which gives it a beautiful, open sound. I believe it is not the notes you play, but how you play the notes,” says Saskia, comfortable in a saree.

The couple, who are in their 40’s, reveal that the music played by them garners an excellent response from the students.

“Many of them tell us that they have never understood Indian classical music and our lectures have brought a new dimension to the music of the sitar that I play. Both of us talk about Indian music, and its value in today’s society. I also reveal to the students how it is respected in every corner of the globe and not just confined to our national boundaries,” says Shubhendra.

“Indian music is exciting. It is not played out of sheet music, instead it is always something new played out of our heads and heart. It is pure improvisation and that is the beauty of our performances, the music flows from basic Indian raagas and taalas. We need our youth to be proud of their heritage of Indian classical music and by our performances we hope to motivate them to come forward and enjoy our musical cultural tradition,” says Shubhendra.

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