'Training process in classical piano never ends'

While many bring the curtain down on the survival of piano in India, classical pianist Sahil Vasudeva is hopeful that by adding local flavours and connecting with the audience can change the writing on the wall.

“At one point, the piano was the highest form of performance. Then it moved to a corner of hotel lobby. Then, it became background music. Till people hear the sound of the piano, how are you going to generate interest? That is why I am trying to experiment and break the myth so that it resonates with Indians,” says Vasudeva.

Vasudeva feels the need of the hour is to make piano relevant to the local audience. “Many people don’t understand classical piano as an art form. We usually look at it as something which is composed in the 18th century... is European in its culture, tonality, sound and visual imagery. I need to make piano more relevant and accessible for Indian audience and remove the tag of exclusivity attached to it,” he adds.

He has made a collaborative piece with photographer Sohrab Hura whose photographic series of Varanasi’s boatmen titled River of Lost Time has been rendered to one of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1875 short piano pieces, Barcarolle.

Though, it’s a challenge to “perform live to each photograph”, Vasudeva’s mission is to “break down classical music” and put in Indian textures and local hues. “The attempt is to collaborate with visual stimulus and make it more local,” he says.

A traditional boat song, Barcarolle is about the end of a day’s work when boatmen sing melancholic songs. They didn’t tamper with the narrative nor did they change the performance. “The little change is that it happens to take place in the waters of Varanasi instead of Venice,” explains Vasudeva on the sidelines of his performance at New Year’s Dream Concert 2016, organised by the Korean Cultural Centre and Delhi School of Music.

 Playing the piano at a very young age, Vasudeva didn’t think of it as a professional career until three years back. “I played piano as a child. I grew up taking lessons but never thought of taking it up professionally. It was only after I quit my corporate job that I started training regularly,” says the 29-year-old who is a certified pianist from the Trinity
College of London Board.

Taking inspiration from Western classicalists like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, he has his eyes set on reviving the art of solo piano performances in India. “I think I am currently one of the musicians in India performing solo Western classical piano. You have a lot of people doing jazz, but my whole mission is to revive solo piano music,” he tells Metrolife.
Vasudeva feels India needs an institution, a conservatory, where musicians get state-of-the-art teaching. “We also need experienced teachers,” he says.

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