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Eastward ho!

india Updated: Mar 21, 2010 14:11 IST
Naomi Canton
Naomi Canton
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

A British examination board which assesses drama, western music and English language proficiency, is considering assessing Indian
classical music as well.

Trinity College London, an internationally accredited examination board operating in more than 60 countries, plans to conduct formal assessments of the sitar, tabla and other Indian musical instruments.These instruments have been traditionally taught by gurus and do not have the same structured teaching and exams, as western classical instruments like woodwind, brass and string instruments do.

“I don’t think they have grades for Indian instruments. It’s more of oral traditions that are handed down, so we are looking to see if there are any opportunities here,” Sarah Kemp, CEO of Trinity College London, who was in Mumbai last week, said. Although it has been in India since 1887, the exam board announced in December that it would form a company here with a head office in Mumbai. Vimmi Singh has been appointed as the managing director and Kemp was in town, looking for office space. “We selected Mumbai was because majority of our students have been from southern India and it’s a very vibrant city. Plus the Bollywood link is great,” she added.

Growing interest

She says, in recent years, there has been an upsurge of interest in their drama and speech exams in India. “Most people want to improve their presentation and communication skills at the work place,” she explained. Interest in western classical music is also seeing a rise, but she wants to increase that. “That is one of the reasons we are sponsoring the London Philharmonic Orchestra to come here. Lots of westerners are interested in Indian music as well, so we are looking at facilitating exchanges too,” she added.

Although Trinity only assesses students for its exams, she says they are interested in ensuring that there is adequate teaching on offer in India.
“We also want to increase the supply of teachers in India. Whether we look at music, dance, drama or the English language, there seems to be a shortage of good teachers, or at least, that is what the NCPA says. So we want to see how we can help in increasing the number of teachers,” she said. Thirty five to 40,000 Indians graduate from the Trinity Board exams every year. Most of them are under 25. Cambridge and Associated are among the other British exam boards that also have a presence in India.

AR Rahman passed out from Trinity College. He took their exams in western musical instruments when he was young. “At an early age, he took an interest and that’s the reason he can connect with the Indian and western audiences and he’s a fabulous communicator, who can transcend all boundaries,” Kemp said.
n In November, Pandit Ravi Shankar was given an honorary degree from Trinity Board, despite taking no exams, for his contribution to and promotion of Indian classical music across the world. “It was mark of our commitment to India. We have a strategy for India. It’s a key
development for us,” Kemp said.