The Sound of Music
Amongst my recent European tours, my concert at Wigmore Hall in London in March 2008 was most memorable. In the past, the more known halls in UK where I have performed on numerous occasions are the Royal Albert Hall, South Bank Center (both Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elisabeth Hall) and Barbican Center, but Wigmore Hall was a pleasant surprise; a beautiful ambience and a perfect size for an Indian classical concert which was intimate.

Wigmore Hall being one of the most prestigious halls in London is historically about a hundred years old has always hosted European musicians. Although forty years back Pandit Ravi Shankar performed here and I became the second Indian to perform here after forty years! There is another history of Wigmore Hall that they never provided microphones to performing artists and always had an acoustic sound. Though I enjoyed playing for a sell out European audience and received a standing ovation, I missed my mikes! Sarod being a very sensitive and delicate Instrument needs amplification support very necessary. Since it also has sympathetic strings, each and every note resounds and hence a need for amplification is a must. However, it was a great experience. In our country microphones stared being used in the forties. Proper ambience, proper venues and the appreciative audience are the only combination for a great concert for any artist. My guru and father mentioned that at his time long before the forties, some connoisseurs use to hang earthen pots up side down for the sound to travel.

This Wigmore Hall concert brought back memories of my first concert on the inaugural year of the Tata Theater in Mumbai. Tata theatre was made as one of the finest acoustic halls and would initially refuse to give a PA system to any musician. I remember my first performance at Tata theatre, National Center of Performing Arts (NCPA) in 1980 which took place in the presence of its first director Dr. Narayan Menon who was a great musicologist and a fine veena player. I remember that when I began my announcement, people screamed because they could not hear me, and for that I said it is acoustically built. Dr. Menon really took the pain to create something unusual but after sometime they had to provide a PA system to every performer.

The plight of Concert halls in India really saddens me. All across India, including the metropolitan cities, we need a world class concert hall. I have quite recently seen rodents and cats in very well known venues where some of the biggest names in the business have performed. I hope that I will see a world class concert hall India very soon which hopefully should look like a monument preferably named after a great artist. Unfortunately, all the government owned auditoriums are not properly maintained. only few private concerts hall are in good shape. Like rest of the world, India should have a cultural complex in every capital town of all states. Like the present day multiplexes, which have pioneered the entertainment industry, the South bank Center in London or Carnegie Hall of New York. In every cultural complex there should be three auditoriums of different sizes.

I must mention here that last December (2007) the Honourable speaker of Lok Sabha Shri. Som Nath Chatterjee created a beautiful concert hall in Shantiniketan, as a tribute to great poet Rabindranath Tagore called ‘Geetanjali’. I had the honour to perform at the inaugural concert in the beautifully made concert hall.

I remember my first visit to Shantiniketan in 1966. the University created by the great poet and musician Rabindranath Tagore by the name of ‘Vishwa Bharti’. When I arrived on stage, there was no applause though the audience was huge. I thought may be there will be applause for my tabla player Pt. Kanai Dutt who was very well known at that time but yet again no one applauded on his arrival too. Finally when the Vice Chancellor of the University introduced me to the audience then there were loud shouts and screams of the Sanskrit word ‘Sadhu’. Later on I realized that Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had banned or prohibited applauding in the university. I could see the reason of banning or disapproving the applauds because in those days or historically there used to be ‘Mehfils’ or chamber music concerts in a big rooms or palaces, where in appreciation from the real connoisseurs use to be verbally shouted or said with words like ‘kya baat hai’, ‘wah-wah’, ‘bahut achche’,’subhan allah’,or ‘shabaash’. This was the system for the whole of India. Yes applauding initially was considered a western way of appreciating music or any art form. However, Now I am very happy that people in Shantiniketan have also become more expressive and one can hear applause too!