When East marries West.

" The day is going to remain with us for a long time to come. One of those days when you go through a roller coaster ride of events that leave you breathless and anxious while on the ride, but then, at the end, give you this sense of fulfillment and joy and achievement. That was our day on Sunday, November 9, 2008.

May be the right way to start writing about this day would be from 7 pm. That’s when the East Marries West recital began. We had the Royal Anthem followed by the lighting of the lamp by M.L. Poomchai Chumbala, a prominent member of Thai society and one of the most well known of the landscape artists and architects in Thailand.

The program began with a solo recital on the cello by Saskia Rao-de-Haas. It is difficult to put in words the ambiance that she creates through her music and her presence on stage. In her hands, the cello becomes this soulful medium that adds a different dimension to Indian ragas. Many of us have heard ragas on the violin, but the sound produced by the cello has an added quality that is almost spiritual. Saskia’s emotional connection with Indian music and her mastery and knowledge of technique kept the audience spellbound. Saskia is also an artist who, by her charismatic and dignified aura, has the audience immersed in the music.

Pandit Shubhendra is not new to the Bangkok music scene. He was here in November 2007 and did a spectacular performance. It was an equally riveting one this time. A student of Pandit Ravishankar, Shubendra’s performance is so spontaneous and natural, that it is almost a meditative experience and one gets absorbed into the easy nuances and melody.

Durjay Bhaumik’s complimented the sitar to perfection and it was a pleasure to see and listen to a perfectly tuned performance. At every instant, the tabla was in league with the sitar, a true accompaniment. One young member of the audience was convinced that it was the powder that Durjay was using every now and then that gave his fingers the speed! He got up on stage after the performance to check out for himself what this magic powder was!

And the performance took place at the NIST auditorium, the most energizing and emotive music ever. It speaks volumes about the dedication, passion and professionalism of al the artists, Saskia in particular, that they could go beyond the stress and tension of such a situation before the concert, and give the audience an evening of sheer delight.

Shubhendra said that music teaches one to be humble, to focus on this God-given talent and find means to share the joy that music offers. And that is exactly what the three of them achieved on Sunday, November 9, 2008.

The drama before the concert: Scroll back to 11am when the roller coaster ride began. Phones ringing, calls going back and forth, a state of panic. Saskia’s cello was damaged on the way from Delhi to Bangkok. Saskia’s instrument is specially made for her by Dutch violin builder Eduard van Tongeren, based on her comparative study of Indian string instruments and European Baroque instruments. This instrument is smaller in size than its western counterpart, which enables her to sit on the floor like other Indian musicians. It is the only instrument of its type in the world!

The first reaction was of despondence and desolation. How does one tell people that the duet was off and only Shubendra would play. There seemed to be no alternative to this disappointing situation. Fortunately, when Saskia, who was visibly very upset said that she could try and do a solo recital (that would allow the audience to get a taste of her unique skills), then began the whole process of trying to locate a cello that would meet her needs, to some extent at least. And I think that is when we realized what Darwin meant by survival of the fittest! Because it needed the optimum skills of each and every person – language skills, motor skills (literally, since people had to be driven all around the place!), maintaining-a-great-database-on-the-cell phone skills – you name it, we had it!

So it was a happy ending when Saskia was able to zero in on one cello at the Peterson’s School of Music – and we are all truly appreciative of the cooperation and assistance we received from the people at this school.

The professionalism and the commitment: Now going forward to 5 pm. Viji and I were at the NIST auditorium with Shubhendra and Durjay who were going through the sound check and such. It is quite the experience to see such professionals going through the motions of microphones and fine adjustments. Their dedication to their art comes through in their attention to every detail and tone and their determination to ensure that their art form is not shortchanged by the idiosyncrasies of technology. If ever there is a strong supporting argument FOR technology, it is how the right and appropriate technology can so enhance the audiovisual experiences of music. Saskia arrived with Tara at 6.15 pm and went through the strenuous routine of sound testing with the cello. It was about 6.35 when the artists retreated backstage to allow the audience to take their seats. The audience was treated to a PowerPoint presentation on the artists and their instruments, and was appreciative of the fact that they had a chance to understand a little more of what was to come.". .....Gayathri Rao.

The Artists with M.L Poomchai and Mr. Abid Pittalwala
( M.L Poomchai: A person of great knowledge, amazing talent, and immense humor and modesty, M.L.Poomchai is recognized for his work on Royal Projects and his efforts at preserving the Thai architecture and heritage. His home is a true reflection of his efforts at maintaining the essence of Thai materials of construction and design. Years of collecting antique building materials from all over the country came to fruition with the building of his home that is an absolutely gorgeous fusion of wood, water, air, flora and color. M.L. Poomchai is also the owner and brains behind one of Bangkok’s most visited teashop called Akaliko. It serves the best teas and pastries and is set in a portion of his garden area. When asked how he would like to be introduced at this event, his response was “Tell them I am a friend of India and a gardener as well”. )

The Trio with the Chief Guest and their admirers.

Thanks to Gayathri for the blog write up and Khalid for the pictures and also
Thanks to Aditi Rao for the Poster Design .

Thanks also to the very knowledgeable audience for their 'Understanding'. Tara was so keen to present a Duet performance of Saskia and Shubendra instead of two Divine solo performances that I asked Shubendra if there was a video clip we could add to the blog. Here is a link to a clip which will give those interested an idea of what they missed! (I have heard them perform beautifully in a concert in Vancouver!).... Nidhi

Link to the Video Clip.


Aditi said…
Thanks for the credit there Uncle--and such a prominent one in red that too!! :) Sounds like it all went off great even with all the glitches!! Looking forward to seeing you all soon!
Gayathri said…
I remembered one more significant comment from a member of the audience - "Indian music is the most significant and life-altering export over the years, not computer technology!!"
Jayshree said…
I read the blog about the cello recital, a good description of the event.

Rama Gopinath said…
Hi Nidhi,

Enjoyed the video part of the blog. They are amazing. Do you have any of their CDs?

Ram Prasad said…
Superbly written as always and congratulations to all of you
for the success of this fine concert in BKK.
Chaya said…
Thank you for sharing this with me. i loved the video clipping and the whole thing put so creatively.You guys are awesome!
Gowa Women
durjay bhaumik said…
Dear Taraji,

It was great to have invited and play for you and the most interesting part is to be a guest of yours. The way you manage everything is a matter of great appreciation. In fact I simply loved playing that day.
My namaskar to Mr Srinidhi and you .

I am forwarding the photographs to you .

Thanks once again for being a wonderful host. By the way, I had a talk with Guruji, he was very happy .

(Dear Durjay: That is very sweet of you. We also enjoyed your stay with us. Tara and Nidhi)
Patricia Rosetti said…
Hello Viji,
My husband and I thouroughly enjoyed Sunday evening :-))
Kind regards,
Patricia Rosetti
John Wood said…
Thanks Tara,

Yes, I loved the music…must talk more about it when I see you. I have some questions!


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