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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Namaste and Wai

Kind of a cool photo of Carenza and me after our set at the Burlesque Benefit show (Punk Rock Night, the Melody Inn, 10-14-2006).  She is doing, what some belly dancers have adopted from India, the Namaste gesture. And though what I’m doing looks similar, I’m Thai, and in Thailand we do a similar greeting called Wai.

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Carenza bint Asia and Jon Silpayamanant giving each other "high wai's"

the rest of the photos from our set begins on this page (photo 597):

Of course, this came at the end of a set that consisted of one Bulgarian dance (Graovsko horo), one Albanian folk song that I sang (Ani Mori Nuse), two of our (il Troubadore) original pieces that we play for belly dancers: Sands – which is an Arabic/Indian fusion piece; and Sensitive which is an Egyptian styled ballad, one Bhangra Techno tune that we sing in Punjabi (Daler Menhdi’s Tunak Tunak), and on Columbian pop song that we sing in Spanish and Arabic (Shakira’s Ojos Asi). We like to cram in as many cultures into a set as possible, eh? :P