TAMIL NADU

Charting a rare musical course

NEW DELHI, JAN. 20. It was 25 years ago that the first chords of a challenging musical journey were struck by an Indian music enthusiast. Rather than joining those who were predicting the doom of Indian classical music, he and his organisation chartered out a different course -- to bring the Indian youth closer to their roots.

And as the doyen of Indian classical music -- Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shiv Kumar Sharma and Imrat Khan summed it up today, the Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth (SPIC MACAY), has been more than just a musical movement that has helped bridge the gap between the magic of guitar and the melody of sitar.

As part of its silver jubilee celebrations, SPIC MACAY -- which has its presence in over 150 schools across the country-- will hold a series of festivals dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. The press conference held here to announce this festival, did not go without the oft discussed topic -- the future of Indian classical music. But it also brought back memories of the golden days of yore.

Reminisced Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma: ``I still remember those early concerts. The only passion that brought us all together was the aim of inculcating interest about Indian classical music among the youth, as the onus of taking the legacy forward was on them. Today more and more youngsters are turning towards Indian music and it has managed to create an impact not just here but even abroad.''

Added flute maestro Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia: ``It has been a learning experience for us too. The kind of love and appreciation that we have received in these small concerts is much more than the satisfaction we derive from an international concert.''

Reflecting on the 25-year journey, the man behind the mission, Kiran Seth, reiterated: ``We never forced anything on the youngsters. Making such things compulsory does not help. The desire to learn has to come from within.''

The evening, of course, saw a ``jugalbandi'' of a different kind -- between the flute, sitar and santoor maestros on the future of Indian classical music. Though Pandit Chaurasia remarked optimistically that learning classical music was not necessary to appreciate it, his comments were not exactly ``music'' to Ustad Imrat Khan's ears.

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