| Pandit Shubhendra Rao (right), accompanied by tabla exponent Ustad Akram Khan, performs at Belhar Government Model Middle School on Thursday. Picture by Sanjay Choudhary |
For a change, sitar strains filled the air instead of bullet shots and explosions at Belhar in Naxalite-hit Banka district on Thursday.
Students of Belhar Government Model Middle School were treated to classical music, as Pandit Shubhendra Rao and tabla exponent Ustad Akram Khan put up a blend of sitar and tabla performances, respectively, in an open stage, around 40km west of the district headquarters. The event was aimed to create a peaceful atmosphere in the Red belt.
Rao, a disciple of maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, performed for about 50 minutes in an open theatre, leaving pupils spellbound. Ustad Khan of the Arzara gharana supported him in perfect rendition.
The performance was a part of the district administration’s initiative to create awareness on Indian classical music among schoolchildren hailing from Maoist-affected villages of the district. Residents were also invited to the show. Before Rao could prepare himself for another round of performance, he had to face a volley of questions from students, who were eager to learn the nuances of Indian classical music.
Questions like “How can I become a sitar player?” or “When did you first try your hand at the instrument?” touched an emotional chord with the musician, prompting Rao to interact with the kids for around 15 minutes.
“Guruji (Rao) had to answer the students’ questions to keep the tradition of classical music alive,” said probationary IAS officer Mithilesh Mishra.
The officer said: “Panditji performed at two places — at Belhar Government Model Middle School and at Pratappur Government High School on Thursday. Both the villages are considered to be hit by Maoist activities,” he said.