Indian classical musicians, including ones from Kolkata, are travelling abroad more frequently than ever, but that does not mean classical music has spread much beyond the Indian diaspora, writes
Leaf through the passport of even a not-so-well-known classical musician, and chances are you will find it find it well-stamped. These trips keep their kitchen fires burning. Someone who would have earned Rs 5,000 per show in Kolkata easily gets up to $300 per concert abroad.
Going by the stamps, you will be tempted to conclude that the demand for Indian classical music abroad and the audience base have increased over the years. But veterans think otherwise; they insist that while the number of Indian classical musicians playing abroad has dramatically gone up, the expansion of the listener base beyond the Indian diaspora may not have happened at a desirable rate.
End of lengthy group tours
The first international tour that Pt Vijay Kichlu had organised was in 1981. Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pt V G Jog, Vidushi Girija Devi and Pt A T Kanan and Malabika Kanan had all gone to America then. “Zakir (Ustad Zakir Hussain) was living there then. From 1981 to 2005, I used to organise a tour every year. Each year, I’d take a group for a tour of 12/15 cities in America. As young scholars, I have also taken Ajay (Pt Ajoy Chakraborty) and Rashid (Ustad Rashid Khan) in his teens,” he recounts.
Today, those long tours have vanished. Those like Kichlu, who would sometimes even step back as performers to make way for youngsters, are also missing. “Earlier, I used to spend two months on tours abroad. Today, it’s gone down to five weeks. That’s because there are few quality
concerts that offer good money and great ambience,” says Pt Tejendra Narayan Majumdar.
So, where do these musicians perform?
Performing in exotic locations is not new for Pt Tanmoy Bose. With Pt Ravi Shankar, he has performed in the middle…