Presenting Indian Classical Arts to International Audiences : A Sambhashna

Most participants said that Indian classical music and dance were well received by the European acquaintances they know, while at the same time, the European audience expressed deep surprise in how similar musical instruments like violin or flute were used in a different harmony and melody by Indian Carnatic performers. The discussion then moved on to the well-contested topic of whether to change the Indian style or create fusion for presenting to international audience.

The discussion was rich in terms of specific classical components and methods used both in Hindustani and Carnatic classical forms, with the participants most of whom are also trained in classical forms taking references from Kathak, Maharashtrian and Carnatic music along with comparisons to European music, Chinese music and K-Pop. It was noted that European music is harmony and orchestra while Indian music is more about melodies. A participant added that Indian flutes have higher shruti than European flutes, and it is surprising for European audiences to see the jump in swaras in Indian flutes along with the idea of kalpanaswarams. It was also highlighted that often Indian mythological stories are beyond comprehension by European audience. For example, the love of Krishna and Radha is seen as a normal love story. To this the question was raised, how can we change the story? A participant highlighted the Natya Shashtra as a open treatise to think and innovate contemporary socially relevant topics in classical Indian forms.

This section also received a balanced take by the participants with some pointing out aptly that Indian forms should not change their authenticity because classical enthusiasts are anyways a select group of intellectually oriented audience. The counter argument was that some changes are already happening in how classical forms are presented and that is okay . In order to bridge the gap in communication of Indian classical music/dance themes to international audience, it was unanimously agreed that there was a need for more explanation of the context of a particular performance before the event.

Later, the discussion was on how to create a soft power out of Indian classical art forms , to which the participants discussed multiple ideas like creating exchange programs between arts students and performers of Europe and India, accessing the schools in Europe and creating grants for Indian performers to visit Europe. The overall discussion gave a lot of on-ground information as told by the participants of the meeting as well as some well articulated analysis of how we can make Indian classical art forms suitable for International audience. It also gave a variety of possible solutions, checks and balances which we might have to keep in order to make this endeavor possible. The meeting ended on a positive note that there is high scope of presenting Indian classical art forms to the International audience.

Dipon Bose
SPICMACAY volunteer
Politecnico di Milano, Italy


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