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‘The Instrumentalists’ Revisits Legacy of Indian Classical Music

The first edition of the music series will highlight the tradition of the sarod; to feature performance by UK-based Arnab Chakrabarty

Rolling Stone India Nov 11, 2016
Arnab Chakrabarty. Photo: Courtesy of the artist/FEA.

UK-based sarod player Arnab Chakrabarty will perform at the first edition of Indian classical music series The Instrumentalists. Photo: Courtesy of the artist/FEA.

For Devina Dutt, founder-director of Mumbai-based arts company First Edition Arts (FEA), Indian classical music can be “just as exciting as rock music.” Says Dutt, “Most of the music that the artist is performing is improvisatory and they’re creating it in the moment; what could be more exciting than that?”

Exciting as it may be, Dutt is also wary of diluting the rich tradition of classical music even as FEA, in association with city-based not-for-profit arts and culture center, the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, ventures into its new lecture/performance series The Instrumentalists. “There’s a popular notion that we should simplify or lighten Indian classical music, but we shouldn’t demystify it,” explains Dutt. “We should take the listeners by the hand straight to the music, which is what we’re doing.”

The Instrumentalists aims to craft a holistic experience that includes a display of the heirloom instrument, intimate narratives about its history by the performing artist, and a more regular format concert. The debut edition, which takes place today at the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, will highlight the tradition of the sarod and the artistry of UK-based musician Arnab Chakrabarty (whom Dutt describes as a “thinking musician”). The session includes a direct experience of an heirloom sarod that dates back to1880, and a performance of rare, legacy repertoire on the instrument. This will be followed by a talk by Chakrabarty on the musical history of the sarod spanning the past century, and finally a full-length concert with accompaniment by veteran tabla player Pt Abhijit Banerjee.

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Even ahead of its debut, the organizers are looking to host The Instrumentalists as a quarterly series, with future editions highlighting the sitar, the table and the veena; but more importantly, as a venture that welcomes both “hardcore listeners” as well as the uninitiated. Says Dutt, “We hope to ignite wider interest in classical music not by going lightweight, but by doing the exact opposite: by taking listeners to the heart of the multiple traditions, ideas and narratives that constitute classical music, as close to the real thing as possible”.


The Instrumentalists: Session One, The Sarod takes place on November 11th at the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mumbai, 7pm onwards.  Click here to buy tickets or visit www.g5a.org for more details.