Hindustani vocal and flute workshop

December 8, 2011

As part of the annual repertoire of camps held by Chinmaya Naada Bindu (CNB) in its efforts to propagate classical Indian music, a workshop on Hindustani vocal and flute was held at the CNB campus in Vibhooti from November 19 to 25, 2011 attended by a total of 11 participants (6 vocal and 5 flute).

The workshop, which was predominantly conducted by Pramodini Rao (vocal) and Himanshu Nanda (flute), commenced at 4pm on Nov. 19, with a general introduction to Hindustani music and was followed by a session on alankars in Raga Bilawal Thaat for both vocal and flute participants.

A set routine was then established throughout the duration of the camp with days commencing at 7am with chanting classes conducted by Shobha Iyer for the first 3 days. The hymns covered were the Guru Paduka Stotram and the Totakashtakam. On day 4, 5 & 6, respectively, there was a meditation session with Himanshu Nanda, a talk by Swami Advaitananda on the importance of transcending the mind and a guided yogic breathing session with Pramodini Rao.

This was followed by breakfast and a short break before the next session at 9.30am that lasted until 12.30pm when everyone broke for lunch and a practice/siesta break before sessions recommenced at 4pm, post the tea break. Classes continued until 6.30pm and the group dispersed for evening prayers and dinner.

Within this set routine of two sessions, all Thaats were briefly introduced with a session on alankars across all ragas to allow a sense of familiarity to be embedded in all vocal participants. 4 ragas were however expounded in more detail, namely Yaman, Asavari, Kalavati and Bhairav, through individual compositions in each raga.
Sessions included how to compose aalaaps, taans and what was required to fully unfold a classical Hindustani composition/raga in all its glory through traditionally recognized concepts of expositions.

The practice sessions for the flute workshop participants ran parallel to that of the vocal sessions. Their morning sessions included practicing various alankaars and techniques of playing flute, like gamak, sapaat, meend, and sustaining long notes. Different ragas, taans and compositions were taught in the evening sessions, and post dinner sessions included practicing compositions taught during the evening sessions.

Apart from the strict discipline of these sessions, reprieves were seen on certain days through time allocated for Narayan Seva (clearing the lawn patch in front of CNB campus to prepare the soil for planting) and a visit to Pawna Dam with its breathtaking vista.

On the evening of the 24th, an informal performance was held where each participant did a short solo performance on compositions learnt during the camp. This was followed by a debrief by both instructors on the merits and areas of improvement for each participant. The following morning saw the conclusion of the workshop through a short session to recap what was learnt and a convocation ceremony with each participant sharing their experience over the period of the camp and receiving a certificate to confirm participation.

"The weeklong course gave us a taste of what can be achieved by being here at Naada Bindu. What an inspiration!" says Asha Sukumar. “Amazing lessons, beautiful campus, awesome morning chanting and yoga classes, delicious food, smart way of teaching and creatively carved course structure are some of the things I cherish,” says Kshitij Saxena. Overall, the camp was much appreciated by all participants, who expressed their eagerness to attend more such camps in the future.