It took a pandemic and a lockdown for nine-year-old Ahana Balaji to finally enrol for Hindustani Classical music classes, something she had been hoping to do for over a year. A student of Carnatic music who also plays the guitar and learns Bharatanatyam, Ahana had very little time to pursue Hindustani Classical music during her pre-pandemic routine.
“Most of my day went in commuting as I had to travel to various parts of Chennai to take my music and dance lessons. However, the pandemic shifted my classes online and I saved a lot of time that I otherwise spent travelling,” says the resident of OMR in Chennai who has been taking online lessons since March.
Like Ahana, several music enthusiasts turned to online classes during the pandemic. Most of the online academies registered a significant increase in enrolments for Carnatic and Hindustani Classical vocal courses with enquiries dropping in from around the world.
Pratibha Sarathy, founder of VoxGuru, an online Indian Classical music tutoring portal says, “E-learning, in general, has seen a lot more acceptance during the pandemic. To keep up with the times, we put out a lot of content and singing challenges on our YouTube channel. We also launched new courses on our app such as ear training and voice culture. The academy witnessed a 100% growth in a single quarter during this period.”
The Shankar Mahadevan Academy (online) saw enquiries for their classes pouring in from across the world during the lockdown. “We have seen a lot of people who started learning out of curiosity and stuck on. We also have seen those who had been learning in the past and had to discontinue due to a number of reasons, and were now returning to their passion,” says Sridhar Ranganathan, CEO and co-founder.
He adds, “I feel online learning removes these and a lot of other barriers — you don’t have to travel, so you are not hassled and are quite relaxed and in the mood to learn when you start your class. Moreover, we do very intimate batch sizes, so the teacher can give individual attention to each student.”
It was such benefits that made Shobha Prabhakar, a corporate employee based in California says choose online classes over in-person ones, However, her pre-pandemic routine barely gave her the time to keep up with her online classes.The lockdown provided her with an opportunity to catch up with her music classes. “I could not keep up with the riyaz and anyone who understands music would know how important it is to practise every day to get the ragas right. Once the work-from-home routine set in due to the pandemic, I decided to make up for all the missed classes. Without having the distractions of going out for a movie or dining with friends, I put in a lot more hours into my practice,” says the native of Visakhapatnam who learns Hindustani Classical music. However, it is not just the students who are taking advantage of the extra time in hand. Established musicians too are branching out.
Twenty-five-year-old Shivani Mirajkar decided that the lockdown was the best time to launch her academy, Sarang in August. A Hindustani Classical singer by profession, she had long nurtured the dream of starting an academy of her own.
“I had been postponing the plan of launching the academy for several months as I had to travel for my concerts and classes. The travel restrictions gave me ample time to work on the functioning of the academy. In a matter of two months, I have over 10 students. Ideally, I would take two or three classes per day but during the pandemic, I had to take more as the enrolments went up significantly,” says the Dharwad-based singer who previously worked as a trainer with VoxGuru.