February 4 2016
Fusing both Western classical music and Indian Classic music, and addding poetry to the mix has seen Saudha develop a growing and flourishing audience for its offerings and a mini-festival which starts tomorrow promises to be another landmark event for it, as we catch up with one of the group’s founding members, Ahmed Kaysher…
by Tasha Mathur
www.asianculturevulture.com (ACV): What can visitors expect from this year’s festival?
Ahmed Kaysher (AK): Last year, we only did two days of Ghazal and Thumri but this year, there’s Khayal as well; a supreme form of classical music. These three genres will be presented by leading classical Indian musicians. We work with the finest performers to give the best to the audience.
ACV: How do you decide what events to hold and who to feature each year?
AK: We try to research the audience to connect with them deeply. So with this being in London, people are already familiar with classical Indian music, so we can easily find an audience for this. But when it’s for purely new audiences, then we try to balance it. For instance, Thumri is becoming prominent in Bollywood now so people can easily connect with that genre. That’s also why we amalgamate different art forms as they all have their different audiences; poetry, dance and so on, and so that brings more people in.
ACV: What sort of audience do you appeal to?
AK: I’m glad you asked because we aim to appeal to everyone. We are campaigning to create new forums for classical music by targeting fresh audiences. We’ve managed to develop a wide network of music admirers over the years. Indian classical music is stereotyped as an art form for certain intellectuals. We’re trying to break that stereotype. Nowadays, we get about 60 per cent who are Western and who have heard of the likes of Ravi Shankar. Once they come, they connect with all of the art forms because I believe music has a universal language.
ACV: How can you get the younger generations to interact more with Indian classical music or is that already happening?
AK: We’re actually doing really well in that area because our performers are a mix of different age groups. Because we do fusions, it gives us the chance to have some young people get involved in the projects. That is quite an eye-opening journey for them to explore the beat of Indian classical music. They then develop a passion for it and then talk about it and share it with others.
ACV: What advice would you give to people who want to explore Indian classical music but aren’t sure where to start?
AK: Coming to Indian classic music is quite a remedial art form, which is what our audience tell us. It’s seen as a form of therapy. Adventurous people can come just to explore something new and I’m sure they will fall in love with the art and form. The tunes and melodies have such a phenomenal impact on people. It’s a soul related art form. It’s a chance for you to create a dialogue with yourself.
ACV: You recently held workshops in Wimbledon to explore how music is seen as therapy. How did that work?
AK: Two performers talked about how classical Indian music was used as a therapy. And then they sang some ragas and asked people how it made them feel. They were really interpreting the meaning of the ragas accurately. There were lots of young people there as well. That’s another observation. I found that the young people were listening so keenly and were so involved in singing themselves. That proves the impact of these sounds on the human soul.
ACV: How has Saudha developed over the years and where do you see it continuing?
AK: We just want to see as many art forms grow and audiences to get involved as possible, both East and West. There’s no set destination that we’re looking at it but would like to see the whole thing as a journey. We’re also trying to target mainstream venues such as Sadler’s Wells, and the Souhtbank Centre, where influxes of diverse audiences have already been proven and target them. Hopefully this will take it onto a more global platform.
ACV: Where did your passion for Indian classical music come from?
AK: I became involved through poetry as the two are closely linked when it comes to rhythms.
ACV: What would you say to people who would like to attend the festival?
AK: This is for people who just love music. We’re presenting an art form that works as a therapy. They’re not just witnessing music but a splendour of different art forms and how they interchange but also seamlessly amalgamate at the same time. For example, reciting poetry to dance adds a largely significant meaning.
ACV: How did Saudha begin? Where did the idea come from?
AK: You’ll find that there are quite a few organisations who are propagating Indian classical music. When Saudha was formed, we focused on a new presentation of Indian classical music. So when people come to our events, they don’t just expect pure, traditional concerts because we’re trying to develop a new way of presenting through amalgamating Western classical music. For instance, we’re putting together an event called ‘Trinities of the Crucifix” to convey the depth of pain of the crucifixion through profoundly painful ragas. This is like a fusion form, while being aware of making it a seamless amalgamation – because Indian classical music in its purest form isn’t interactive. So we’ve worked with poetry and dance to give a visual form of music as well.
Saudha Ghazal, Thumri and Keyal Festival starts Saturday, March 5, 6pm, Raynes Park Library, Approach Road, SW20 8BA featuring Carnatic vocalist, Manorama Prasad, Thumri singer, Dr Ashwin Kalbag from Benares Gharana (school),performance poet David Lee Margon, semi classical vocalist Sayan Gupta.
- Continues Saturday, March 12, Modern Assembly Hall, Tudor Drive, Morden SM4 4PJ doors 6.30pm, includes Kathak dance, and poetry, featuring Hindustani vocalist Chandra Chakraborty, table maestro Sanju Sahai, and Rekesh Chauhan on harmonium and Erik Shcelander doing recitation
- Sunday, March 13, Rix Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E16LA, doors open 6.30pm, leading vocalists from Kirana Gaharana Sandhita Nandi (from USA) and one of the UK’s leading sitar players, Roopa Panesar accompanied tabla maestro Sanju Sahai, and Rekesh Chauhan.