Srinath Bala's esishya is an effort to make Indian classical music and dance accessible globally.

Virtual is the new reality in classical arts. Trainers and learners, living even seven seas away, exchange notes in cyberkul. Raga and rhythm are now just a click away. After phone-in lessons, Skype, online lessons comes esishya. Designed and developed by Washington-based mridangist Srinath Bala, it is an effort to make Indian classical music and dance accessible globally. Since he has been teaching mridangam in Washington, he is aware of the requirements of long-distance learning, and that has helped in shaping this online facility. “The process includes both video and text. Most importantly, it allows gurus and sishyas a flexible schedule,” says Srinath during his brief visit to Chennai for the formal launch of esishya. It's an ambitious attempt that aims to impart lessons on Carnatic and Hindustani vocal, violin, veena, flute, mridangam, Bharatanatyam, sitar, santoor, and tabla.

“The gurus on the panel are not only good performers, but have a penchant for teaching with effective communicating abilities,” says Srinath. So there's M.S. Sheela (vocal), Gayathri K. (vocal), R. Kumaresh (violin), Jayanthi Kumaresh (veena), Sikkil Mala Chandrasekhar (flute), Neyveli R. Narayanan (mridangam), the Kirans (Kiran & Sandhya for Bharatanatyam), Purbayan Chatterjee (sitar) and Abhay Rustum Sopori (santoor).

The gurus will conduct online classes through the esishya portal. Classes will be assigned in various categories or levels such as junior, sub-senior and senior. Students can sign up for these classes from the website directly. The esishya service will conduct classes via weekly recorded lessons and post them on the site. Students can view and listen to the lessons and post their videos. The gurus will periodically review the performances of the sishyas and send appropriate feedback again via video.

Says Srinath, “What it requires is a PC (desktop or laptop) with high speed Internet (at least 512-600 kbps speed), webcam, mike and speakers. The gurus have received training and been provided customised laptop and high-definition recording devices to post video lessons from their homes.” The server uses a Linux platform, and the software is scalable to any number of sishyas located across the globe. The site also allows live video conferencing. Each class will have a virtual conference room with video, audio, and chat facilities. This will allow students to practise, discuss and get instant feedback from their respective gurus.

“The interactive sessions can also be used by students from different countries to share their musical ideas. Besides, other online features such as bulletin board, text messaging, blogging, sharing of class files for notation, lyrics, etc are present to aid in the learning process,” adds Srinath.

Classes are expected to commence from January 1, 2010. Visit www.esishya.com for details.