In December 2016, Dipankar Singh won the Spanish Guitar Competition. As first prize, the Embassy of Spain in India covered all expenses for him to attend the Cordoba Festival in the summer of 2017. El Festival de la Guitarra de Córdoba is the biggest guitar festival in Spain. Dipankar was given 3-day courses with the maestros Jose Manuel Gallardo, Ricardo Gallen and Alex Garrobe. On his return to Calcutta, he spoke to Veda Aggarwal about his trip. Here are highlights from that conversation:
My guitar broke before I left
I was packing my guitar, loosening the strings, making it ready for the flight. Then something happened. I heard a crack sound and I could see that a guitar screw near the tuning peg was gone. And I had no time to fix it.
The first day I got there I had class with Gallardo. He said I have to get the guitar fixed before having a class with him. Someone from the festival helped out. He gave me a number and told me where to go. And I went after the class. I walked there.
The guitar maker told me he’s the nephew of Paco Pena. I asked him how much his guitars cost and he said 2000 EUR. He fixed my guitar.
After that I was lost for one hour. It was hot and my phone got overheated and hanged, so I couldn’t use Google maps. I was walking and walking, and one of the people from the festival – the one who gave me the address to come here – I saw him. He was in a car. I waved at him and yelled, “I’m lost! I don’t know the directions.” He waved back and said, “Okay! That’s nice!” And drove away. He didn’t understand what I said. It was very funny.
Gallardo taught me and I gave him Soan Papdi
I had a good class with Gallardo. He taught me and I gave him soan papdi. He took us to have coffee and asked for a lighter. But I could not help him. I said, “In India students don’t smoke in front of our teachers.” And he said, “But I am like your friend.”
In his classes, he would take a motif and use that to develop it and create a composition. It was very useful for my own compositions. It was supposed to be a course, but because there were less students in all, it turned into personal masterclasses.
Gallardo would teach the others in Spanish for three hours, then me at the end for an hour. I did the whole English Suite with him using the dynamics I wanted. He said, “Good.” I played some compositions for him. He gave me some inputs. He said, “You’re a very nice boy and you’re spiritual.”
David Russell came to my room
David Russell came to my room but I was out. He left a note saying Dear friend, we are here. If you need anything you can come to us. He wrote that I could go and see his masterclass if I wanted. The hostel manager came to me, he said, “How do you know David Russel? He had come to meet you?” I said, “He’s my friend. I had met him in Calcutta, had a masterclass with him.”
David Russell’s masterclasses were at the same time as my class with Ricardo Gallen. It was difficult to manage to attend both. The first day there was some confusion. But the next day I was able to see his class. And after the class I met his wife, Maria. I really talked with them. Till then, I was so lonely in Cordoba. There were people around, but I was not able to connect with them. The guitar students were mostly Spanish and spoke to each other.
With David Russell and Maria, it was like meeting people I really knew. They left the next day because they were at the festival for only three days. But they said if I need anything I can call them.
Ricardo Gallen is like a genius
Ricardo Gallen is like a genius. Have you seen Big Bang Theory? He’s like Sheldon.
Suddenly would get very serious, almost like he was possessed. His concert was fantastic. I’ve never heard anything like him. He played the Bach Sonata No. 2 and some other pieces. Leo Brouwer was at the festival. I saw him too. Gallen played for half an hour, then he stood up and said (I think this is what he said), “I am looking for Leo Brouwer.”
For my masterclass with Gallen I played him some Bach and he showed me how to resolve parts of the piece, how to breathe, different techniques for legato, how to hold the basses. I learnt mostly about Bach from him and about articulation.
I learnt good right hand technique from Alex Garrobe
He told me to play not from the fingers, but from the elbow and arm. He showed me how the muscles work in the elbow. It took me a long time to understand. But I’m doing it now and it’s good.