It was a chance encounter that led to a long association that, in turn, led to Delhi’s most-loved series of free-to-view, open-air concerts, Music in the Park. At a concert in 1999, Rashmi Malik happened to sit next to “a gentleman who seemed to know a lot about the artistes”. The person was Kiran Seth, professor of operations research at IIT Delhi and founder of the Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture amongst Youth (Spic-Macay).
“He first invited me to a meeting... Then he gave me a small task, then another, and another...,” says Malik. Today, as director of Spic-Macay, Malik is the principal coordinator of the Music in the Park series, which started in Delhi in 2004 and in Jaipur in 2006. The job of putting together eight concerts a season requires quite a bit of doing. “It takes 3-4 months and about 50 proposals to get a sponsor,” says Malik.
And that’s just the beginning. This year, the series has already witnessed six events. At today’s concert, the 49th since 2004, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar will perform for the second time in the series. But his association with Spic-Macay goes back more than a decade.
“Seth is doing a service because classical music cannot survive tomorrow if younger audiences do not come to concerts today,” says Kashalkar, one of the 10 gurus in residence at Kolkata’s Sangeet Research Academy.
It’s indeed a ‘service’. Apart from concerts such as these, Spic-Macay organises lecture-demonstrations and ‘intensive’ sessions with artistes of classical music, dance and folk art. Its 300-plus chapters around the country put together more than 2,000 events in 2009.
“I’ve requested Seth to give a stage to younger performers too,” says Kashalkar. But Malik informs that the selection has been made more stringent in recent years — a Sangeet Natak Academy award is a minimum.
None will need to check that rule tonight. Apart from the 1955-born Kashalkar who trained under the Jaipur, Gwalior and Agra gharanas, performing there will be Ustad Shahid Parvez, sitarist from the Etawah gharana born the same year. The pedigrees are impeccable — now for the performances.