Monday, 24 August 2009

Parimal and Ravi Shankar (Ruairi)

Hi all, for the second time today!

This one was actually supposed to be written quite a while ago, but it's still fresh in the mind so I'm going to go for it. The WAM team are very lucky to have as the chair of their advisory board Sir Rob Young, former High Commissioner to India. Amongst a plethora of other things, Rob gave us the contact details of the Ravi Shankar centre in Delhi so that we could make some inroads into this potentially very useful connection. I dutifully obliged by sending them a no-frills email talking about WAM, with the hope of maybe organising a concert for some of my piano students at the centre. After not having heard anything for quite a while, I was eventually contacted by a man called Parimal Sandaphal and I arranged a meeting with him to talk about our ideas.

I didn't know much about him at the time but I assumed that he had a least vague connections with the centre. When I eventually met him at his office, he was an extremely lovely and accommodating man. He told me that he was working for the UN and the World Bank (very impressive, but not exactly very musical). But then he told me that he was also one of Ravi Shankar's disciples, and that he had travelled the world performing with him. Given that I'm a complete sucker for getting star-struck, I found it quite hard to remain calm throughout the meeting after hearing this. Nevertheless, I just about managed.

It quickly became clear that having some kind of student concert this summer at the centre would be impractical and poorly organised. However, we instead came up with numerous ideas about some kind of fusion project that would be organised over the next year that would include seminars, masterclasses and performances showcasing the differing styles and approaches of Western classical and Indian classical music. This being part of WAM's longer term goals, I thought this sounded perfect. Happily, Parimal also sounded genuinely excited by the idea. This was made clear when he casually stated that he would get THE Ravi Shankar himself involved if we developed it into a substantial and feasible package.

With my internal excitement nearly boiling over by now, he then asked if I and the other WAMers in Delhi would like to come over to his house for a meal and a mini musical exchange. Just to reinforce the point - this man is one of Ravi Shankar's best disciples, and he had essentially invited us all to a private sitar recital. At his own home. I can't remember whether I responded to him with proper words or whether I was simply making funny noises, but I managed to convey back to him that we would all definitely take up the offer (offer is probably not the right word - I prefer opportunity. Honestly, how many people get "offers" like that?).

All of this may have been helped along by the fact that, by complete coincidence, his daugther had decided to take up Western classical music on the piano (despite her father's basis in Indian classical). Given that we WAMers were all there as Western classical piano teachers, this seemed almost too convenient to be true. But true enough it was, and within less than a week all five Delhi WAMers were sitting in Parimal's home listening to him playing sitar for us (which was totally stunning), and reciprocating with our own piano playing. We also listened to his daughter (who we were very impressed with - real talent and potential, and a genuine possibility for future admission into a UK music college). The whole afternoon/evening was sublime - we all had such a wonderful time listening and playing, and I think we all really felt like there was genuine musical exchange in the making.

These were definitely fertile grounds for what will hopefully be an immensely exciting musical collaboration/exchange next year which will involve Ravi himself if we work hard enough. At dinner, we discussed many different aspects of our respective musical approahces ( a conversation which I had swotishly prepared for by purchasing Ravi Shankar's book a few days earlier and giving myself a quick crash-course in Indian classical music). There were many interesting points made, and Parimal was very keen to meet up with us again and discuss some more ideas before we left. So this Sunday we are all going over to his house again, and this time we're taking Neil and Olivia who were previously in Kerala. Incidentally, Parimal is also perfoming a concert tomorrow very near to where Theo V and I are living, and has invited us to it, and for dinner with him afterwards. I don't really understand how I've been lucky enough to get caught up in all of this, but I'm certainly going to make the most of it!

So tonight I'm going to get stuck into Ravi's book again, and perhaps listen to one of the 8 CDs of his which I bought the other day, in an attempt get savvy about Indian classical music before I see Parimal again tomorrow. Perhaps I'm trying too hard?? Maybe, but it's so worth it! There's the possibility of coming up with something really special here, so we might as well make the most of it.

I'll let you know how the concert goes - it's almost certainly going to be amazing.

Ruairi x

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