Are youngsters interested in classical music?

Are youngsters interested in classical music?

Quite contrary to the general feeling that interest for Indian Classical Music is dwindling, organisers feel that new talent gets recognition and youngsters are looking at it as a career

Shruti PanditUpdated: Sunday, October 09, 2022, 12:40 PM IST
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Jayateerth Mevundi |

Today, Grace Foundation and Prithvi Theatre present eight novices from varied classical gharanas in a whole day program - Raagdari GenNxt. This has thrown open a debate, yet again, – whether there is audience of young classical singers or classical music in general?

“Of course, there is an audience for classical music,” says Mahesh Babu of The Banayan Tree. “We have noticed that for over a decade now that the attendance by millennials at classical music concerts has significantly increased, which is a very positive development.”

While Mahesh Babu is sanguine, Devina Dutt and Shashikant Vyas differ. “Classical music is not an issue…” says Devina. “We do have audiences for that… but… most are obsessed with popular artistes. Our eco system has failed to create sensitive audiences who prefer quality over popularity. They have an inane and senseless fixation on celebrity musicians.”

Shashikant Vyas’s woes are different. “One does not see many youngsters in the audience for a classical music concert these days,” says Vyas. “This impacts the economics.”

Pandit ShivKumar Sharma

Pandit ShivKumar Sharma |

This said, one must not forget that around 50 years ago, it was at Sur Singar Sansad’s Kal Ke Kalaakar that the santoor maestro, ShivKumar Sharma, first performed. 20 years ago, today’s popular singer, Jayateerth Mevundi, first sang at Aarohi, a platform introduced by Shashikant Vyas’ Pancham Nishad for budding talent.

Most classical programs are sponsored by corporates or banks. Organisers depend on the sponsorship for the basic costs of the concerts and the ticket money, is usually their profit. If the show is not sponsored, quite often the organisers are out of their pocket.

Is it true that sponsors are scarce these days, especially for newcomers?

“Quite often!” feels Vyas. “The tendency is to patronise the known artistes because they guarantee full house, which in turn gives them mileage. However, they tend to forget that even talent gets audience and it’s important to promote young talent who will be popular in the coming years if they get a platform and the right boost,” he says. “Though I must be honest and admit that I have been lucky to have institutions like Union Bank, Central Bank who have backed our initiatives to promote young talent.”

Mahesh Babu feels that it’s a fifty-fifty situation. “The reason being, in general the sponsors feel a popular musician will ensure good attendance as well. And they don't want to take a risk of a bad turnout. Which of course is not true. Featuring younger / non popular musicians can be just as good.”

“I have been lucky,” Devina. “Indian Oil approached me to create a property that will promote youngsters just after the first lockdown. And we created Now Hear Us — calendar for an year that promoted young talent through a concert every month.”

“It is very important to promote young talent in Indian classical music… because it’s the next generation that ensures continuation of the tradition,” says Mahesh Babu. Promoting young talented classical musicians is one of our main focuses. In fact, we have created a special festival called Mumbai Green Raaga that features more than 100 young talented classical musicians in one edition.”

“Investing in budding youngsters is imperative,” says Vyas. “Because they are the future…”

Devina feels that it is important to scout for the right talent. “One has to diligently travel lengths and breadths of the country to listen to the youngsters. Only then can you spot the bright star on the horizon.”

Vyas, who has been curating Aarohi, a platform for young talent, for last twenty years emphasises that it is extremely important that not only organisers, but promoters, sponsors and senior classical artistes should come together to encourage young talent. “Quality should rule. We have young, talented musicians in all corners of India. The talent should be taken seriously and tapped. Everything else like nepotism, groupism should take a back seat,” he says. “Only then will the youngsters feel motivated to learn classical music and take it up as a profession. Only a combined effort of all stake holders can ensure that the future of Indian classical music will always remain bright,” Vyas concludes.

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