Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Anup Biswas, the Cello in India, and Bollywood

Anup Biswas (right cello) with Soumita Roy (dancer) and Dipak Sapui (left cello) at Garden Buffet Supper and Soirée Musicale 5 June, 2010 , at Poulton House in Gloucestershire During a fundraising tour of England and Scotland for the Mathieson Music Trust June/July 2010

This installment of the Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello will be a bit more personal than those in the past. I know I’ve been terrible the past couple of months about blogging, but [fortunately] I’ve just been far too busy performing and giving presentations to have spent much time writing here or elsewhere.

After having this wonderful dinner with some new Indian-Muslim friends at a Bollywood Party last night, though, I decided it was time to do another spotlight. The subject of this post is Anup Biswas, about whom I discovered after reading the Cambridge Companion to the Cello (which I still think should either be significantly amended or at least have the title reflect the actual subject matter: “The Cambridge Companion to the Western Cello”).

The reference to Biswas at the end of a chapter in the Cambridge Companion to the Cello.  Mainy in reference to the music school he started at an orphanage in Calcutta.  Found this wonderful photo (above) of a collaborative performance between Dipak Sapui, Soumita Roy – the Bharat Natyam Dancer in center, and Anup Biswas at the Poulton House in Gloucestershire (5 June, 2010).  It was part of a fundraising tour for the orphanage music school which teaches both Western and Indian classical music, and, apparently collaborative fusions between both art music traditions if this image is any indication.

The one video I’d been able to find of Anup Biswas playing Indian Music was from this recital, again to benefit the Mathieson Music Trust, at the Sacred Heart Church in Caterham, Surrey.  The tabla player is Chiranjit Mukharjee.

Two things struck me when I first came across the reference to Anup Biswas: 1) that the Cambridge Companion to the cello bothered to mention anyone connected to a non-Western Cello playing tradition at all, and 2) until learning about Biswas, I was unaware of cellists in India who were already incorporating the cello into Classical Indian Music, most of what I’d seen are Western cellists (e.g. Saskia Rao-de Haas, Nancy Kulkarni) who had gone to India to learn Indian music on the cello (though now some cellists in the states are now getting conservatory level training on Indian music–more about that on a future Sunday Spotlight).

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Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Saskia Rao-de Haas and the Indian Cello

Saskia Rao de Haas

Saskia Rao-de Haas

This week’s installment of the Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello is about Dutch cellist, Saskia Rao de Haas.  I first learned about her and her work playing Indian music on the cello some years ago.  I finally picked up a copy of the CD, Creating Waves (released on Rhyme Records), that she and her husband Shubhendra Rao (disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar)  for which I am very grateful as at the time only a few audio clips of Saskia’s work was available at her old website.

 

from her bio:

Saskia Rao-de Haas is a brilliant cellist and composer from the Netherlands. She is based in New Delhi, India where she is recognized as a well-known exponent of Indian Classical music. Saskia is hailed as a pioneer in the world of music for introducing her Indian Cello. Speaking about Saskia in an interview on National Television, her Guru Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia said,“Saskia has been taught by God and everyone should listen to her music”.


Here’s a video of Saskia in performance with Shubendhra:

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