A quiet college hall full of youngsters surrounding a lady with a tanpura. Faces rapt in attention and responding to every nuance in her singing with a ‘kya baat hai!’ Not a very common sight, is it? Or so one would think.
Young students between the ages of 17 to 21 formed the majority of the audience when Ashwini Bhide Deshpande performed at a concert, Malhar Ke Prakaar, at St Xavier’s College last week. It only points to a larger trend — that of young people taking a keen interest in Indian classical music.
Much of this can be attributed to the efforts of student organisations such as the Indian Music Group (IMG) of the St Xaviers College, which has been organising classical music concerts for years now. Formed in 1971 by a group of enthusiastic students, IMG will celebrate its 40th anniversary this season.
On being asked what motivated them to join the organisation, most members of IMG’s executive committee said that it was because the IMG was a student-run organisation trying to promote a better understanding of classical music among the youth. Some, like Nidhi Harihar, see themselves as part of a tradition of
listening to classical music. (Harihar’s father used to attend Janfest, IMG’s flagship event, back in the day. Janfest receives the support of nearly 200 student volunteers and attracts a sizeable student audience as well.)
Besides the concerts hosted by IMG, Virasat, a cultural festival organised by the Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Among Youth (SPIC MACAY), too, attracts young crowds from all over too. Says Aditi Gupta, a regular at the festival, “Surprisingly, there are many young people coming.” Bhide Deshpande says, “With their access to technology, today’s generation has a lot of perspective when it comes to understanding classical music.”
Although the number of students turning up at such events might comprise a fraction of those who would excitedly throng to a rock concert, it is a heartening development. Kartikay Agarwal, member, IMG, says, “Indian classical music is not popular amongst young people on a mass level. Hence, it needs dedicated effort.”