Love for Hindustani classical music brought them to India. But today they have not just mastered the subject but, in some cases, are also giving fierce competition to their Indian counterparts.
The excellent performance given by the overseas students, some 26 in number, at the annual competition at the Bhatkhande Music Institute University here some time back has made everyone sit up in awe. And they excelled not just in singing but also in instruments like violin, sarod, guitar, flute as well as dances like kathak and bharatnatyam.
This is in sharp contrast to the earlier days when it was near impossible for foreign students to even secure admission at the prestigious university.
“It is only due to their commitment that they have left Indian students behind this year. I can tell you some of them would do wonders in time to come,” says professor Sunil Paogi, guitar teacher at the institute.
So if it was Sri Lankan SH Velekhaletre walking away with top honours, standing second was Waheetullah Sarang from the war-torn Afghanistan. Sarang says that music has played a great role in rediscovering himself, in achieving peace and calm.
Yatiraj Adhikari from Nepal, who wants to take Indian music to his country, shone in violin with a second position. His compatriot Venkatesh Dhakal stood first in Tal Vadya.
A large number of the toppers belonged to Sri Lanka, including Kushan Ajana Senaratne (flute recital), TW Gulashekhara (sarod), Rakshita Sanjeevani Patirage (kathak) and Sanjaya Hemal Wahalatantri and Achinta Mihirani (vocal music). Bharatnatyam toppers also included a couple of Sri Lankans.
At present, the university also has students from the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as Japan, amply demonstrating that music happens to be an art form that transcends language.
Vice-chancellor of the university Shruti Shidolikar Katkar says, “The reason why Indian music draws foreign students is that it gives them an opportunity to discover themselves. I am happy these students would act as torch-bearers of Indian music in their countries.”
“To promote Bhatkhande abroad, we are going to upload performances of our best students, including foreign ones, on the internet,” she adds.