5 Minutes With Kala Ramnath – Strings Magazine – Bay Area, California
Celebrated North Indian classical violinist and “singing violin” clinician on taking music to the massesWhat’s the current state of North Indian classical music? Does it resonate with the young people of India? Indian classical music has never been there for the masses—it’s a very small, select audience that is catered to. If one looks at music catering to a section of the population, it is doing well. But my wish is to take this music to the masses. There are many who are doing their best to promote this amongst masses and it’s slow, but eventually looks like we will succeed. You have written that India’s primary schools lack music as part of the curriculum. What effect has this had on the appreciation and performance of Indian music? If we need to take this to the masses, we need to make listeners for this music from a very young age. This can be possible only if this is taught to children.
Now the government is trying to take baby steps in promoting music as a part of the curriculum in schools. But when it’s the government, everything is very slow, lost in bureaucratic inadequacy. How has the intenational audience changed since you began concertizing? Indian music has gone really international thanks to masters like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Zakir Hussain, and the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.* Today, if I am well known in the West, it’s thanks to these masters who have paved the way for us. Audiences are bigger and more aware of our music. What’s a common misconception people have about North Indian classical violin playing? The most common misconception is that the instrument is not the same as the violin found here in the West. It’s the same violin, it’s just that it’s played differently with technique created to suit Indian music and the holding posture of the instrument is different.
All this is because of the sound produced from the same violin playing Indian music. What is it about North Indian classical music that moves you? The independence I get within a structure and the immense creativity, which makes the music new every time it’s played.—Rory Williams.