Music

Musical sadhana guided by an app

Sandeep Ranade   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tabla exponent and music composer Bickram Ghosh recently stirred up a hornet’s nest with a Facebook post that said, “There was a time when how you performed determined how you did in your career. Now it’s about views... I’d rather spend my time striving for perfection. But then you can’t be in denial; you have to adhere to the times you’re living in too.” His post drew vociferous responses from musicians and music lovers. most of them agreeing with his point of view.

Since the pandemic started last year, artistes have realised they cannot remain immune to the virtual world and the need to use technology to stay connected.

Even the somewhat reclusive Bombay Jayashri has enhanced her social media presence considerably in the last 16 months and says, “I have never been much of a technology person; in fact am still learning. I always felt its usage takes up too much time. But I realise now that it’s good to know what technology offers. Sitting at home one can record, teach and connect with other musicians online.”

Almost every practitioner, Carnatic or Hindustani, echoes Jayashri’s sentiment. Since hybrid training and concerts seem to be the way forward, the performing arts-digital medium bond is here to stay.

The younger generation is better equipped to deal with this; and most of their music is inextricably intertwined with technology. In fact, a mutual interest in technology resulted in violinist Nandini Shankar and music arranger Mahesh Raghavan deciding to get married recently.

Very apt

Mewati gharana vocalist and software engineer Sandeep Ranade has gone a step further and created an app, NaadSadhana, that won the Apple Design Award (ADA) in the Innovation Category at the Worldwide Developer Conference, 2021. The app also features a Smart Swarmandal (an instrument with 40 strings) that understands more than 100 ragas with each phrase that it plays being distinct. What’s more, there’s also an AI-driven tabla player that recreates a classical performance ambience to enhance your riyaaz.

“For Apple to acknowledge my app is equivalent to receiving an Oscar. This has put Indian classical music on the international stage from the tech point of view for the first time,” says Sandeep, excitement palpable in his voice. Last year, Sandeep received the Universal Design Award from the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People for an app that can be used by those with vision and hearing impairments.

Sandeep’s app has multiple uses — it helps learners remain in sur, by acting as tuner, (as his guru Pt. Jasraj used to tell him, “sur chipakna chahiye”, which essentially means being totally shruti-aligned. While there were several tuning apps for instruments, Sandeep found none for the voice. The app also offers studio-level recording quality with multi-track sessions. It helps vocalists share their music online with AI generated accompaniment, and helps teachers with online classes.

“Existing tabla apps that offered only simple theka bols actually confuse a practitioner when he performs with an actual accompanist, who improvises between beats. Instead of adding to the musical experience through interaction with another musician’s inputs, the youngster is distracted and intimidated. The tabla component in my app has been fed with simulated sounds, pauses, different weight pressures of the hand, to intelligently accompany the singer,” explains Sandeep. Apparently, renowned tabla player Pt. Suresh Talwalkar acknowledged Sandeep’s experiments in rhythm accompaniment.

Initially released by Apple in March 2018, Sandeep has been constantly adding features to update the application.

Could be subtler

According to well-known sitar artiste Purbayan Chatterjee, “NaadSadhana has a lot of potential; it’s very useful since the dynamics of the tabla and tanpura are very real. I would hope for a little more subtle approach for the accompaniment, especially the tabla. But I guess it’s a work in progress.”

Describing the purpose behind creating the app, Sandeep says that young musicians cannot devote 8-10 hours a day to learn music in a gurukul system, which impacts their quality of music.

This spurred him to use technology to help them focus on the essentials, sur and laya, and additionally use the app to reach out to online audiences. Every day a few thousand use his app, and Sandeep hopes the usage will grow.

The Delhi-based author writes on Hindustani music and musicians.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 11:16:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/musical-sadhana-guided-by-an-app/article34841570.ece

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