World-renowned collaboration between two musical giants and creators of Sangeet4All, the first Indian Music Curriculum for young learners
Vidushi Saskia Rao-de Haas
disciple of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia
Pandit Shubhendra Rao
disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar
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‘East Marries West’ is a world-renowned collaboration between two musical giants accomplished in their own right.
Pandit Shubhendra Rao is “a musical bridge to many cultures.” A protégé of Pandit Ravi Shankar, his playing reminds us of the masters of yore re-incarnated into the modern era. Described as “a thinking musician, constantly searching to carry his instrument beyond conventional boundaries”, his music is “an experience for the audience that is not aimed at (simply) titillating the senses, but to seize the soul”.
Saskia de Haas is a pioneer in the world of music for introducing to it her instrument, the Indian Cello. Speaking about Saskia, her Guru, Flute Maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia, says Saskia is “someone who has been taught by God.” According to him, “everybody should listen to her music”. She is a recipient of the Pandit Jasraj-Rotary Club Award for Cross-Cultural Understanding.
Together, Shubhendra and Saskia carry Indian music towards new horizons with their strong belief in the unifying power of music. The couple’s music is hailed as a new musical language that is both avant-garde and traditional at once with an effect that conjures a symphony orchestra. On stage, their effortless musical communication and improvisation is a joyful experience. Listeners are spellbound by the virtuosity of the duo as well as the energy and freshness that they bring to their performance.
They are accompanied by Aditya Kalyenpur on Tabla.
Their program ‘East Marries West’ has been performed at prestigious concert halls, jazz festivals and open-air festivals overseas, including at The John F. Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts in Washington DC, Edinburgh Festivals in Scotland, The National Arts Festival in South Africa, and Musee Guimet in Paris; in India at the Doverlane Music Conference in Kolkata, Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Mahasabha in Jalandhar, Saptak Festival in Ahmedabad, and the Mysore Dusshera Festival; and in Australia, at the Sydney Opera House, as the headline act of the Desert Song Festival in Alice Springs, and for the Confluence Festival in 2016.
The New York Times has described their composition “Yathra” as “movingly meditative”, while The Edinburgh Press writes,
“Together, they form an intriguing duo. A work of outstanding originality… Being and becoming meet in sound and gesture”.
Shubhendra was born in Mysore, India, and Saskia in Abcoude, The Netherlands. They married in 2001. They now live in Delhi with Ishaan, their son.
EAST MARRIES WEST
In the 1960’s India’s legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar joined one of the
greatest violinists of the 20 century Yehudi Menuhin, to alter the realm of
music forever with their collaboration ‘East Meets West’.
Now, sitar master Shubhendra Rao, a protégé of Shankar, together with his wife, cellist Saskia Rao-de Haas are taking east-west musical collaboration to another level, exploring a new musical language that is both avant-garde and traditional.
Shubhendra, an unmatched master of his instrument, has been described by India’s Gateway Magazine as “a thinking musician, constantly searching to carry his instrument beyond conventional boundaries”, and his music “an experience for his audience that is not aimed at titillating the senses, but to seize the soul”.
As a prodigious sitar player, Shubhendra’s performances have enthralled audiences at major concert venues around the world including:
Carnegie Hall, New York, USA.
Sydney Opera House, Australia.
Salzburg International Music Festival, Austria.
Theatre de le Ville, Paris, France.
Des Moines Performing Arts Centre, Iowa, USA.
Beijing Performing Arts Centre, China.
Saskia de Haas, a classically trained cello virtuoso from the Netherlands, is a pioneer in the introduction of the Indian Cello to Classical Indian music. Her early attraction to Indian music led her to discover that sitting high on a chair while playing her western cello constrained her ability to play with Indian musicians, who generally performed sitting on the floor.
She resolved this and at the same time set about creating a special sound for the cello, adding one extra playing string plus ten resonating strings, suited to the demands of playing Classical Indian music, by designing an Indian Cello, which can be played on the floor.
When Saskia eventually married Shubhendra and made India her home, the two musicians were able to bring together the Indian Sitar and Indian cello to perform as an Indian Classical Music Duet. Sharing their enthusiasms for musical exploration, Shubhendra’s masterful sitar playing combined with Saskia’s mastery of the innovative Indian Cello led them also to the creation of new compositions – original, vibrant amalgams of Classical traditions from the East and West, drawing from an infinite world of folk traditions and rhythms.
Now, when they appear in concert halls and festivals around the world, with ‘East Marries West’ Shubhendra and Saskia perform both traditional North Indian Classical music on sitar and Indian cello with tabla accompaniment
and their original compositions that stretch the boundaries of the world’s musical vocabulary, building bridges across different cultures.
Together they have performed across the U.S.A, Canada, South Africa, U.K., Ireland, Turkey, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Singapore and India. Prestigious international concert halls, jazz festivals and open-air festivals, that have showcased their East Marries West program include:
Edinburgh Festivals, Scotland
The National Arts Festival, South Africa
The John F. Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts, Washington DC
Rietberg Museum in Zurich, Switzerland
Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, London
Musee Guimet, Paris
Clonmel Festival, Ireland
Western Front for New Music, Vancouver BC
Tropical Institute, Amsterdam
Fajr International Music Festival, Tehran
Desert Song Festival, Alice Springs, Australia
The duo regularly performs at prominent music festivals in India such as Legends of India, Doverlane Music Conference in Kolkata, Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Mahasabha in Jalandhar, Saptak Festival in Ahmedabad, Vasanta Habba in Bangalore and Mysore Dusshera Festival.
WORLD MEDIA RAVES
“Their composition Yathra is movingly meditative” – New York Times, USA
“An intriguing duo. A work of outstanding originality, conveying the fullness of an entire orchestra—a sound as evocative and rich as life’s journey” – The Edinburgh Press, Scotland
“Brilliant…the rendering is so touching and masterful…bringing forth a delightful medley of ragas…” – Amazon.com
“A spontaneous standing ovation, such was the stirring performance that many in the audience were moved to tears” – Times of India
“Pièce-de-resistance of the Mysore Festival, watched by an audience of over 10,000 people. The co-ordination between the two artistes was impeccable” –
Star of Mysore, India
“Magic…puts audience in a trance…a musical journey too exquisite to put down in words… the intoxication of the music kept the audience riveted to their seats” – Times of India, Hyderabad
“The duo makes music that has the audience wowing and the critics raving” – Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India
“Taking Indian Music into a brave new era” – Gateway Magazine, India
Music education is of great importance to Shubhendra and Saskia. They take pride in educating their audience and students about Indian culture and music. Giving lectures on Indian classical music at leading universities and music academies all over the world has earned them special recognition.
They have formulated special workshops on music for a wide range of students that include beginners, professional musicians, music teachers and music ensembles. These workshops show the participants the benefits they can receive from knowledge of Indian music and how this can be applied in their own musical context.
The Shubhendra and Saskia Rao Foundation
Pandit Shubhendra Rao, along with his Cellist wife Saskia Rao, started their foundation to realize their dream of making music every child’s birthright. They are running several projects to teach the foundation of Indian classical music to the under- privileged children. Over 15000 children have been greatly influenced by this unique education where children learn to take pride in their cultural heritage through their classical music tradition. The mission of this foundation is to empower and uplift people through music. Most children are unfortunately not exposed to their rich classical music heritage either at home or at school. The foundation is working tirelessly to revolutionize music education in schools by providing a curriculum-based teaching, new resources and books and a professional development program for the teachers. Children receive a solid foundation in universal music concepts but with an Indian outlook.
It has created a ‘glocalized’ music education to empower the youth in the Sangeet4all curriculum. The foundation also organizes ‘Music for the children, By the children’ concerts, seminars, workshops and other such events that will help people understand the power of music.
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