Indian classical music's audience grows younger

Judging by the increasing number of youngsters at a popular annual festival, organised by the Indian Music Group, the generation often chastised for its decreasing attention span is certainly hooked on. The Guide looks at what keeps the charm alive for its young audience on the occasion of Janfest 2012, which kicks off today

The number of applications to the Indian Music Group (IMG) of the St Xavier's College, Mumbai was close to 30 in 2007. Five years later that number has doubled, despite there being only 11 spots to fill.

A glimpse of last year's  Janfest

It isn't just the IMG that is seeing an increase in volunteers. The Mumbai University and the Ruia College are among colleges in the city that are witnessing the trend.

If membership to these clubs is any indication, the Indian classical arts, especially music, is becoming increasingly popular with youngsters, who want to meet more artistes and gain more exposure.

Janfest, one of the most prestigious cultural events organised by a college, continues to witness an impressive line-up of artistes, year after year.

This year, their line-up includes Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ustad Rashid Khan and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

Artistes perform at Janfest 2011

Ask 19-year-old IMG committee member Megha Kakkad why she wanted to be a part of the group and she says, "I have learnt classical music for four years.
But, more importantly, I wanted the experience to be able to meet the artistes and to witness them in concert."

She's not the only one. Sonali Gupta, who was part of the IMG in 2007, makes it a point to return for concerts. The last time she attended a concert organised by them was the Begum Parveen Sultana concert on January 15.

"IMG gave me exposure to classical music that was at an  entirely different level: We got to witness concerts by stalwarts in the field.

When I heard the Wadali brothers in concert, for example, I was ecstatic," she says adding, "Through the concerts, the artistes established a connect, a bond with each student that continues to draw us back."

According to Sonali, seeing the artistes perform live encourages more youngsters to listen to, and be drawn towards the classical arts.

"It is groups like the IMG that play an important role in keeping the interest in classical arts alive for youngsters."

Shamali Gupta Bose, who is the chairperson of the Ruia Performing Arts Society, says that while the number of students learning classical forms may not have increased, there is certainly more interest among the students.

"Ruia is situated in a place, which has a rich Maharastrian culture. We have teachers who are trained in classical music," she explains.

Ruia has a dedicated room, where students can practice. "The Culture Centre has videos, recordings, books on music along with instruments like the tabla and dholak.

Students can go there and practice when they have the time," she says, adding, "It is in a place where they won't disturb anyone and they will not be disturbed."

According to Shamali, curiosity about the arts and culture is increasing among the youth. "There is an eagerness to know about the music. Many students, who don't actively learn music, watch performances and interact with the artistes. There is definitely an increase in interest levels," she says.

Her opinion is endorsed by Dr Manisha Kulkarni, head of the music department of Mumbai University. "The number of students we have this year is more than in previous years," she confirms.

"Classical music has never been glamorous and never will be. But, with enough exposure, and also thanks to the media, it is getting noticed. Students are more aware. They listen to all types of music, including traditional music."

38 years and still counting...
Established in 1974, the Indian Music Group (IMG) at St Xavier's College was formed with the intention to encourage the appreciation of classical music among its students. The idea was conceptualised by the ex-students of the college with support from Principal Fr Lancy Pereira and Ustad Alla Rakha Khan. Baithaks and music appreciation courses are held at the IMG library, which was set up in 1975 and is home to rare albums and records of past concerts. Popular draws at the event were the late-night concerts, which have recently been discontinued.

FROM: Today, 5.30 pm to 10 pm
TILL: Saturday and 26
FOR: Rs 50 and Rs 100 (for each performance); Rs 200 upwards
(for a season pass)
Call: 22634548

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