Preserve, propagate and popularise. For the past quarter of a century, the ITC Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) has stuck to this simple, yet difficult, motto to reach Indian classical music to a global audience. From a grooming ground for classical vocalists to the vanguard of a rich lineage, the sprawling 1, NS Bose Road premises, in Tollygunge, has seasoned into a hotseat for music enthusiasts. In its silver jubilee year, the institution, which has restricted itself to Hindusthani vocal so long, will introduce lessons in the sitar and the sarod.
“The instrument faculty was informally introduced a year-and-a-half ago and the results were very satisfactory. We are going official this year and will appoint more gurus in this section,” says SRA executive director Amit Mukherjee, who is also interested in reviving the sarengi, a dying craft, “if we get enough interested students and teachers”.
Exposing students and scholars to modern technology is another area that the SRA wants to focus on. “The quality of a recital improves dramatically if musicians are well-versed with the intricacies of the microphone, or say, sound engineering,” says an SRA spokesperson. “Our students are being exposed to the related software for a better grasp of the subject.”
Alongside training the young generation and spreading awareness, the SRA authorities are also keen on a two-way traffic with the west. “Classical music would get a boost if foreigners come over to SRA for training, or we hold seminars and sessions there to explain the nuances of our art,” says Mukherjee. “People abroad think instrument is the only domain of Indian classical music because vocal music has never been propagated with the same fervour.” The SRA official received “a tremendous response” from European universities, where he recently held lectures and demonstrations on vocal and instrumental music. “Quite a few of them have approached us for training at SRA.”
Back in the Tollygunge complex, preparations are on in full swing for a three-day anniversary special concert, starting November 7. The list of luminaries includes Ustad Vilayat Khan, Girija Devi, Parveen Sultana, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty and Ustad Rashid Khan.