We just received this message from Leo Brouwer!
Congratulations to Jayant Sankrityayana, Rose Eilert and the Pune Guitar Society for putting on an exceptional performance of Brouwer’s Toronto Concerto!!!
Arkopriya Chatterjee and Theophilus Benjamin have been the core production team that made the festivals from 2012 till this year possible. They’ve been the heart behind the growing movement of classical guitar in India. In 2016, they will move out of Calcutta to Mumbai with new and different job roles They will, however, continue to be part of IGF and CCGS events, but from now on, as participants, not organisers.
”Three and a half years of an amazing journey will now be taking a new turn. I’m calling it a new turn and not an end because the bond formed here goes way beyond my leaving CCGS. During this time, I formed a bond with a team that is for life. I have seen young classical guitarists grow under tutelage from good mentors. In fact, it is during my time here that I met Avikda who will always remain my mentor for life. CCGS wasn’t a job, it was and will always be my extended family, so it really isn’t a goodbye. I am excited for the new turn CCGS will take in 2016. I hope everyone will continue to shower love and support as they have done over the years. Here’s wishing Veda the best for taking CCGS to new heights!”
“It’s been an awesome experience being associated with the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society and especially the Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival over the last six years! I started as a wide-eyed participant in 2010 taking in the galaxy of superstars and the future superstars who came as competitors to the festival. Then as an organizer of the last three festivals. It opened up to me a completely different and new world to me! It has been a great journey. Now in 2016, I bid farewell to the Kolkata and start anew in Mumbai. Even though I will miss being an integral part of it I’m sure but will always be there for it!”
Arko and Theo (aka Benjy aka Phil), we will miss you!
Here are 15 of our biggest takehomes from the IGF Festivals at Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore in no particular order.
When we announced that Chennai International Classical Guitar Festival & Competition would be cancelled due to the floods, we gave Chennai guitarists the opportunity to participate in Bangalore. The Bangalore School of Music offered free accommodation to them in their guest rooms. Five guitarists from Chennai made their way down to Bangalore to be part of the festival and to take part in the competition there.
Nandini Sudhir and Anusha Panchumarthi performed solo pieces and a duet, Sonata by Daniel Fortea.
The fact that they had met each other for the first time only a week before, just in time to put this duet together for the concert, was not evident at all from their playing. Bangalore has some serious women guitarists in the making!
Most of the classical guitar community of India has heard of Madhavan Somanathan. He won the first ever Indian national classical guitar competition in 2006 when he was only 14, and last year he became the first Indian guitarist to place at the Calcutta International Classical Guitar Competition with 3rd prize. We knew he is a gifted musician and performer. This year, in Bangalore we realised that he is also a great teacher. He taught all the days he was at the festival, giving great teaching advice in his individual masterclasses and also a very interesting and useful public workshop on “examining and broadening our approach to learning”.
Watch out for this one!
The Bangalore School of Music guitar faculty Poireinganba Thangjam (Len) will be donating the proceeds for flood relief.
Music teachers can’t help but emphasize the need to practice, and more practice. But in her talk with the students at the Bangalore International Classical Guitar Festival, Thu Le emphasized something more specific, the importance of practicing PERFORMING — which is to remove yourself from the comfort and safety of your bedroom, and practice performing your concert items to others, the exact same way you plan to do on the actual stage. It could be your buddy, your parents and grandparents, your relatives, your neighbours, or even your pet!
17-year-old Kabir Dabholkar (1st prize, open category), 18-year-old Nandini Sudhir (2nd prize, open category), Chanakya Saikia (Komrisk most promising guitarist under 18).
Matt showed up in Delhi having discovered just hours previously that he had no guitar to bring…and just 10 minutes before his concert finding a guitar with an oversize neck that suited his big hands, made by Delhi’s own Karan Singh of Bigfoot Guitars!
Joey Woch and Norman Villas were delayed in heavy traffic, arrived at the venue late, and went on stage to present a wonderful concert having taken less than 5 minutes to warm up and get ready.
The unending inspiration that was Pirai Vaca’s daily contribution to all events through his presence, multiple group workshops, and informal interactions with everyone. His participation as an artiste private participant was akin to a blessing on this start to what will hopefully become an annual tradition in Delhi.
Delhi will have not one, but two rising talents to watch!
Over 30 guitarists working together with Pirai Vaca on a warm up technical routine.
None of them had training in event management, most of them hadn’t attended a guitar festival before. Yogi Ponappa and Dhiranjan Dasgupta were the men in the front, leading a small team of two that, as Yogi said in his closing address, “were the very wheels on which this cart kept rolling. They were dedicated beyond any regular sense of that word, and did everything to make this festival a success. They didn’t sleep at times, went without food, got up early and stayed up late, fetched, carried, arranged meals, coordinated transport, met the artistes at the airport and settled them in at the hotel, ran between this place and the hotel and all around Delhi a number of times a day, and did countless other things I don’t even know about – and they did this all with a smile, and with the greatest of good cheer.”
Anie (aka Aanubhav ) and Anjan, thank you so much! The classical guitar community of Delhi (and India too) is grateful to you and to Yogi & Dhiranjan for making a festival in Delhi possible.
Kevin displayed a mastery over his instrument, and proved to be an inspiration for the young guitarists of Calcutta, most of whom flocked for autographs after the concert was over!
Matt was one of the most sought-after teachers at the Calcutta festival. He’s guaranteed a receptive audience and eager students any time he wants to return to the City of Joy.
Arkopriya Chatterjee and Theophilus Benjamin met at the 2012 Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival. Before it was time for the next festival, they were engaged and then married!
They’ve been the core production team that made the festivals from that year till this possible, the heart behind the growing movement of classical guitar in India. In 2016, they will move out of Calcutta to new and different job roles across the country, in Mumbai.
Theo (aka Benjy) and Arko will continue to be part of IGF and CCGS events, but from now on, as participants, not organisers.
We’ll miss them!
With inputs from Yogi Ponappa, Nandini Sudhir, Kamaan Singh Dhami, Veda Aggarwal and Theophilus Benjamin.
By MUDAR PATHERYA
The one company to have evangelised the cause of live performing arts in Kolkata is not a mobile telephony brand, not engaged in the manufacture of fast moving consumer goods and not into marketing products online.
It is a 30-member transaction law firm thumbing boringly through legal tomes in hushed chambers around the Calcutta High Court.
I would have sagely nodded had Saha and Ray promoted the cause of under-privileged individuals desiring to make a career out of the legal profession; I would have pronounced ‘obviously’ had this firm, managed by convent-educated types, promoted the cause of English across Bengal.
But why live music?! In June 2010, the guitarist son of the promoter of the company chanced by a classical guitar festival in Twents and Koblenz in Europe. This is what he reported to the family: the festivals attracted musicians from across Europe; this was more than an event, it was a community brought together by a musical instrument; front-page celebrities strummed anonymously beside upcoming talent; you could carve the ‘we are one’ bonhomie out of the air with a spoon; they were the only Indians present. The father saw his equivalent of the blinding flash on the road to Damascus. Credit goes to Avik Saha that, by December 2010, he had launched the first classical guitar festival to be conducted in India. I would have condescending said, ‘Must have been a rag-tag collection’.
It was not; it comprised 105 performers from 19 countries competing for $5000. And once the last string had been strummed across this fiveday festival, Avik asked one question: if we could have done this with just a few months of planning, what could we achieve with a bit more science? And that is how Avik dreamt up a guitar event one day, flute performance the next and percussion festival the third. Then one day, he said, “We are missing the big picture. The big picture is not music; it is live music. It is not sporadic performances; it has to be a perennial thing.”
This is how a large format transaction lawyer evolved his 8 mm picture into a 35 mm vision of how he could transform Kolkata through the sheer listening pleasure of a live performance. One, he launched events at cafes and restaurants, schools, gardens, old age homes, mental asylums and private residences.
Two, he extended beyond his erstwhile guitar positioning and became genre-agnostic – pop, rock, classical (Indian and Western) etc – so that he had something for everyone. Three, he went deeper within each niche, launching a celebration of prominent musical instruments (flute and drum to start with). The high point was when a performer walked in from Murshidabad, rolled a leaf into a flute and performed for an awestruck audience. Four, Avik expanded his footprint; what started as a tryst with music broadened into a commitment covering the wider performing arts (including puppetry by the famed Dadi Pudumjee and dance by Mallika Sarabhai, where she interrupted her performance to engage with the audience).
Five, Avik sustained and widened the footprint of his annual classical guitar festival; the 2015 event extended beyond Kolkata to occur concurrently in three more cities (Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru), and the number is projected to increase to eight in 2016 (following the addition of Darjeeling, Dimapur, Pune and Shillong, would you believe).
Six, while it would have been convenient for Avik to cherry-pick performers from the urban terrain, he did something more logistically challenging – he sourced performers from remote pockets of Bengal. In doing so, he achieved two objectives: putting more money into rural performers to enable a number to live off their talent, and providing the rural artistes with exposure to Kolkata.
Seven, instead of accessing only those performers he had heard of, Avik democratised the selection process, inviting interested performers to send their clips through YouTube for appraisal. Eight, Avik intends to graduate to crowdfunding for enhanced sustainability (one individual who had been attending his classical guitar festival for the last three years felt guilty enough to put down Rs 3 lakh as a donation this year), quarterly instrument-based music festivals (flute, drum, string and guitar) and a presence across every performing arts vertical. His big moments? When an old lady clasped his hand and told him how his crusade had helped revive memories of when live musical strains filtered through Kolkata neighbourhoods.
When a Purulia artist who would have perhaps never seen Kolkata was surprised to find the audience rise to applaud after he had ended. When 3,500 walked in to listen to the Mighty Trio’s performance (Greg Ellis, Pete Lockett and Bickram Ghosh) at Rabindra Sarobar, were only until a few weeks earlier the writ of prostitutes and pimps prevailed. When someone completely anonymous walks up to say that he has fathered the movement to democratise music across classes, genres, formats and locations. If a legal worm can do this, as he says, then any one of us can do virtually anything.
This article first appeared in the Mumbai Mirror on December 20, 2015.
Delhi International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition 2015
1st Prize: Ungrumso Raman
2nd Prize: Atso Chasie
Komrisk most promising guitarist under 18: (no 1st prize)
2nd Prize: Eshita & Jonty
Bangalore International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition 2015
1st Prize: Kabir Dabholkar
2nd Prize: Nandini Sudhir
Komrisk most promising guitarist under 18: Chanakya Saikya
Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition 2015
1st Prize: Rupkatha Das
2nd Prize: Ajoy Thatal
Komrisk most promising guitarist under 18: Anubhav Dasgupta
CCGS Under 12 prize: Yash Vachhani
We’ve invited the best classical guitar acts from across Asia to participate. Each city will have 8 concerts spanning over 4 days.
In the build up to the big event, we’re announcing their attendance on one at a time.
Click on the photos for a full artiste profile.
India & Philippines
For further consultation, feel free to email me at yogi.ponappa@.
The Pune Guitar Society has just released their first music video!
This is a live studio recording of Veet J Ohnemus playing Invierno Porteno by Astor Piazzola. It was a project was by students of Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, enabled by their professor, Anupam Barve.
And here are some stills from the shoot:
How did the journey with classical guitar begin for you? For most of us in India, classical guitar is not our first choice of instrument. We either start out by playing chords to the songs we like and discover the instrument by chance, and then look for a way to learn. How did your relationship with the instrument start and then grow?
My journey with the classical guitar began when I was 8 years old. While I was in primary school I was taking general music classes taught by teachers from the local School of Music in Canberra, Australia. One day they asked me if I would like to play an instrument, and that very same day my brother came home from high school playing a brand new guitar. I went back to my music teachers the following day and told them that I wanted to play guitar. While I still practice a good 4 to 5 hours a day, my brother gave up after just a few weeks. From my very first lesson I was playing classical guitar, and feel very fortunate to have had great teachers from the beginning. While in high school I got quite heavily into popular music, and for a few years played a lot of electric guitar, trying to imitate the great Jimi Hendrix, and this only increased my love of all styles of music. Nowadays I only perform classical music, but do still enjoy playing some songs by groups like The Beatles, etc. in my spare time.
Who are your musical influences?
I have taken musical inspiration from a lot of sources. I am a big fan of a number of classic rock and roll stars like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, etc.. Then western classical composers like J.S. Bach, Brahms, Granados, Manuel de Falla, Leo Brouwer, Philip Glass, etc. are all composers whose music influences me on a daily basis. In terms of classical guitar, I am a huge fan of Julian Bream’s recordings, and feel that as classical guitarists we owe a large debt to Andres Segovia. For me personally too, my teacher in Australia Timothy Kain (who recorded the album Mantis and the Moon with John Williams for the Sony label) has been one of my main influences. I began taking guitar lessons with him while in the last two years of high school, and then continued studying with him for a four year Bachelor of Music degree. Tim Kain had a most profound influence on my guitar playing and approach to music, and I feel lucky to be able to consider him to this day a mentor and close personal friend.
Do you do anything actively to grow as a musician? As guitarists, how do you recommend we develop our musicality?
I think one of the best ways to develop as a musician is to try to play as much chamber music as possible with other musicians, especially those who are not guitarists. As guitarists we practice and perform alone so much of the time, and it’s a wonderful experience to collaborate with fellow musicians. When working with musicians who are not guitarists, we can have our eyes (and ears!) opened to musical ideas that are beyond the technical limitations of our instruments. All musicians have to surmount the technical difficulties posed by their respective instruments, and working with other musicians can put into focus the goals and ideals of music making. I also find it useful to get feedback from musicians other than guitarists, as they can really focus on the music rather than the technique involved.
I also think it very important to listen to as much music, of all different styles, as one can. At its core music is about expressing something – beauty, emotions, experiences, and to listen to the way this can be expressed through various different genres and different instruments is fascinating and informative.
People living in this day and age are so fortunate to be able to experience at one’s fingertips an entire century of recorded music, and to be able to find online tutorials and reference materials for a vast multitude of topics. This allows people throughout the world to be immersed in any form of music that they like, and really opens all of our horizons to culture and art from around the world.
What makes for a good classical guitar programme? When programming a concert is there anything you keep in mind?
I personally really like to programme a concert that has a good variety of repertoire. As classical guitarists we are so lucky to be able to play music from the renaissance through to modern day, and from all around the world. In my concerts on this Indian tour I will be playing a work by the Renaissance lutenist John Dowland, through to contemporary compositions by the Australian composer Phillip Houghton, and works from Scotland, Ireland and Spain, to Hawaii, Argentina and Brazil. Some of the pieces will be known to classical music audiences, while others are more obscure, and with such variety every audience member will have their favourite pieces, and on the off-chance that they don’t like a certain piece, they can rest assured the following piece will be quite different.
And as the artiste, what makes for a successful concert performance?
I find it so interesting how every concert that I play is different. Even when playing the same programme several nights in a row, each concert is a unique experience. The atmosphere and acoustics of a concert venue can make a large difference, but also at least as important is the audience. I don’t know that audiences realise how much impact they can have upon the performer, but with a live concert experience it is always an interplay between audience and performer. The energy that the audience brings can have such a large impact on the energy levels of the performer, and the absolute best experiences that I have had as either a performer or audience member, are when one can feel that collective experience of a group of people all focussed together in the moment witnessing a work of art.
Obviously too what makes for a successful concert performance is the preparation, whether that be the months of study and practice on the pieces being performed, through to the preparation on the day of the concert including whether we got enough sleep the night before, to what we had to eat on the day of the concert, and for us as classical guitarists we are uniquely influenced by the shape and length of our fingernails. A lot of these things we can prepare as well as we can, then there are a number of other factors which are beyond our control no matter how much we prepare, and which we have to accept and deal with as best we can.
What are you expecting from your tour in India?
While I have never performed in India before, about three years ago I spent a month traveling the country, which has been one of the few times in my life that I have travelled purely for tourism and enjoyment. I found India an enthralling and exciting place, and am very much looking forward to returning. I am expecting it to be an interesting time, with a few adventures along the way, though with 5 concerts in 4 different cities, in just 6 days, I feel that there won’t be much spare time for anything but playing and preparing for the concerts, and getting from one place to the next.
Australian guitarist Rupert Boyd is acclaimed as one of the most talented guitarists of his generation. He has been described by The Washington Post as “truly evocative”, and by Classical Guitar Magazine as “a player who deserves to be heard.” He has performed across four continents, from New York’s Carnegie Hall, to festivals in Europe, China, the Philippines and Australia. His solo CD Valses Poéticos received the following review in Soundboard, the quarterly publication of Guitar Foundation of America: “Boyd’s playing is beautifully refined, with gorgeous tone… musically and technically flawless… [the Granados is] one of the best recorded performances of this work on guitar.”
Kolkata – in association with the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society
Masterclass: Space Music School, C521 Lake Gardens, Jodhpur Gardens, Lake Gardens, Kolkata
Concert: Kolkata Alliance Francaise du Bengale, 7.30pm
57A Park Street, Park Mansions Gate 3, Flat 15,
Opposite Fluyrs, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016
Goa – Art Chamber, 7:30pm
Castelo Vermelho 115a
Gauravaddo, Calangute, Goa
Goa – Menezes Braganza Hall, 7pm
Presented by Pro Musica.
Bangalore – Alliance Francaise, Bangalore; 7:30pm
Presented by The Bangalore School of Music.
Kinkachoo, I Love You
from “God of the Northern Forest”
Phillip Houghton (b. 1954)
4 Celtic Songs
– Loch Leven Castle
– Skye Boat Song
– Cherish the Ladies
– Neil Gow’s Lament
Traditional (arr. David Russell)
Fantasy on a Hawaiian Lullaby
Byron Yasui (b. 1940)
Prélude op. 13
A. Fornerod (1890-1965)
Étude No. 9: Tres Peu Anime
H. Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) (arr. S. Assad)
John Dowland (1563-1626)
Fantasy in A minor, op. 19
Luigi Legnani (1790-1877)
– De el “Homenaje a Falla”
– De unfragmento instrumental
– Sobre un canto de Bulgaria
Leo Brouwer (b. 1939)
Pantomima (arr. R. Boyd)
The Miller’s Dance (arr. T. Kain)
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
Fantasia on La Traviata
Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909)
Everyone has different nails, it’s true. And each person’s technique may require a subtly (or vastly) different nail length and ramp shape. However, there are a few constants when it comes to the physics of how nails move across strings, and for the purposes of guitarists, they dictate that a nail should ideally grow straight out from its fingertip, and be filed to a ramp of some sort. But what do you do when your claws curl down over your fingers, to form hooks? (like mine) If one doesn’t already know how to re-shape hooked nails, to maintain anything close to an ideal body posture, one is forced to either file one’s nails almost down to nothing, or contort one’s body into what amounts to terrible posture, which in turn leads to all sorts of other problems. A large number of people do indeed experience this predicament, and this post is for them.
Nails are made of keratin, just like hair. As a consequence, nails (just like hair) can be straightened with the application of heat. A few solutions are already out there, ranging from David Russell’s mention of a hot-but-not-too-hot spoon in his on-stage interview with Benjamin Verdery at the 92nd Street Y, to Renato Bellucci’s soldering iron (also on youtube, last time I checked). However, if you’re chary about having a hot soldering iron lying about (they’re something of a dangerous power tool, after all), and are a doubtful of putting hot things under your nail or need more specifics than Maestro Russell’s description, here’s a step-by-step guide to straightening your nails like I do.
You’ll note that I’m a little quaint in how I heat my spoon (think of it as the ‘straightener’ in this exercise) – you needn’t use a candle and put up with all that soot, a lighter or stovetop will work just as well to heat the spoon.
Here’s what my set up looks like:
It usually takes anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds to get the spoon hot enough. You can be pretty relaxed about this part – you’ve gone too far if the metal starts to glow, but short of that, anything goes (go ahead, kiddies – giggle away about, ahem, lifestyles!).
Essentially, you’re now going to mould your curled/hooked nail to the desired shape (straight out from your fingertip), then apply a little heat via brief contact with the hot spoon. The heat will quickly soften the keratin that constitutes your nail. As it cools (also almost instantly), the nail that was under some tension from having been stressed by your pushing it away from its natural growth direction will ‘set’ in the new direction, albeit temporarily. All you need to do is apply more heat, and it’ll spring back to its original hooked shape. In other words, every time you take a hot shower you’ll have to repeat this process – but once you’re used to it, it only takes a few minutes, and is otherwise quite dependable in terms of results.
I use the ball end of a tuning fork to push my nails into the desired shape, starting at the left side of the nail (the side that the string first makes contact with), and working my way over across to the other side. Only touch your nail briefly with the hot spoon, as any prolonged contact risks burning the nail (just as you don’t linger over one bit of hair with a hair straightener, if you have ever used one, or seen one being used – ladies, looking at you here, mostly). Until you work out your ideal touch, you may need to go over a nail, or work on one part of it, more than once.
The approach: this is how I press down with my finger on the tuning fork, to push the nail up and into shape.
Here is a short video of me straightening my i and m nails. Note that I only touch the spoon to the nail briefly, and then too, to be safe I first touch the spoon to the tuning fork end, and then roll it on to my nail. You can also see that I go back to the middle of my m nail for a second pass, because I didn’t quite nail it the first time around (puns! Yes I know, terrible. 😉 )
Often, the spoon cools off too fast to get all your nails done in one go. I usually average two nails before I have to heat the spoon up for a second round.
Here are some before and after photos to show the effect of this morning’s straightening:
Before & after from the side:
That’s all, folks. If you have hooked nails and haven’t ever come across a solution, I hope this helps!
From 13-17 December, 2015 we're celebrating Asia. The IGF announces 4 different festivals in 4 different cities during those dates: