Classical vocalist Subhendu Ghosh, who performs this evening, is researching the biology of emotions and aesthetics

“I am a performer and a scientist. I am trained in the Rampur gharana (of Hindustani music), but my field is neurobiology,” says vocalist Subhendu Ghosh. A disciple of Ustad Hafeez Ahmed Khan and Pandit Ramesh Nadkarni, the Delhi University professor says he found it increasingly difficult to maintain the two identities of scientist and musician. After all, if one is perceived as the dry man of facts, the other swims in universe of emotions that is raga music. But of late he has found a happy coalescence of the two.

Ghosh, who performs under the banner of his organisation Pratidhwani this Saturday evening in New Delhi, says, “What I am working on now is the biology of emotions and aesthetics” he explains that this research comes under a subject called social neuroscience. “Scientists feel that natural science has no social basis,” says the multifaceted professor, who also acts, directs and composes music for stage productions. His contention, among others, is that the way Indian people perceive and cognise or learn, is significantly different from the way people from other cultures do. A professor in DU’s Department of Biophysics, South Campus, he is engaged in researching “how we learn patterns, for example, musical/ auditory patterns, ragas, rhythms.”

His work spans numerous disciplines such as neuro-physiology, physics, computer science and psychology. In India we are too prone to compartmentalising science and arts, he states, and the reason we are practicing “mediocre science” is, “The way we are taught is very Western. We have simply copied the British. We have ignored cognitive science.”

But what does all this have to do with performance arts, after all? “As an artist I always want to relate to people,” says Ghosh. While still a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University, he states, he had formed Pratidhwani with like-minded friends. The organisation offers a spectrum of folk and popular programmes to reach out to the public at large. In the long term, says Ghosh, “Scientific rationality and cultural aesthetics and social relevance — these we are trying to build in a complex chemistry.”

Also performing this evening will be young sarod exponent Susmit Sil. Though Susmit inherited a tradition of tabla playing, he gravitated towards string instruments. He has trained in the sarod under Pandit Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, a disciple of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur. He has also learnt from Pramod Shankar, a disciple of Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Susmit is now receiving advanced training from Sunil Mukherjee.

Pratidhwani presents a sarod recital by Susmit Sil and Hindustani vocal by Subhendu Ghosh, February 8, Triveni Kala Sangam, Tanssen Marg, Mandi House, New Delhi, 5.30 p.m.