It rarely happens that a western classical guitar festival gets sold out a week in advance, but in Kolkata in mid December, one festival is the exception to this rule. Chances are that during this festival, you will be able to witness the rare Theorbo and Baroque guitar being played in one concert. About 100 young aspiring classical guitarists from across the country are heading to Kolkata, for three days— from the 15 to 17 December—to get free lessons from internationally renowned maestros. The Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival (CICGF) is one=of-its-kind because it offers musicians, luthiers, composers and music aficionados an opportunity to interact with Grammy award-winning artistes and legendary composers in an informal setting, as well as the chance to attend some unusual concerts at Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Kolkata.
Since 2010, this niche music festival which is away from media glare, has been going strong on the strength of the exposure and opportunities it creates for the dedicated musicians, who throng the city from obscure places like Rewadi in Haryana, Banglore, Darjeeling, Nagaland, Assam and Delhi to name a few.
The music of a region is associated with cultural identity and memory, and as an instrument, the guitar appeared rather late on Indian landscape. Associated neither with folk or classical music, in our memory its has lived as an instrument played in and for Bollywood films, especially in songs in the 60s which were filmed on nightclub dancers. If the modern guitar came to be linked to colonial influences and the Church, which explains its greater popularity with and visibility in the north east and Goa, till 1970s, the classical guitar was spoken of as a mysterious entity in India, even by jazz musicians. To acquire a luthier-built instrument was almost an impossibility, nylon strings had to be imported and sheet music could be acquired only if you knew someone who could copy the scores by hand. Photocopiers were not even part of the imagination.
Even though western classical music was taught in schools run by Christian missionaries, inspired by the Trinity College London examination system, the focus remained on instruments like the piano and the violin. Of the many important by-products of the liberalisation of economy in the 90s, an important one has been availability of recorded music and musical instruments which opened the gates for the growth of the classical guitar in India. It was only the Internet that made it easier for music lovers to access written music and aspire to play this instrument, many years later. Until then, guitar competitions, festivals, workshops and the Indian Guitar Federation, which has been a major influence, were the only avenues where artists could explore it.
Western classical music played on a traditional Spanish (nylon-string) guitar has a dedicated following among some, but its not popular when it comes to the mainstream music scene. Students who wish to pursue careers in this instrument have very little exposure to live concerts and international-standard education. The CICGF was started to fill this gap. As an result of the unbroken chain of annual festivals focused on concerts and education, guitarists in different parts of the country have organised themselves and formed similar societies with informal guitar associations in Chennai, Bangalore, Pune, Goa, Nagaland, Darjeeling, Delhi and Shillong. After the conclusion of CICGF, the Guwahati International Classical Guitar Festival and the Shillong International Classical Guitar Festival will follow, increasing the popularity of the genre. While the CICGF left a permanent mark on people within the community of classical guitarists, it has also become an eagerly-awaited event for concert-goers in Kolkata and the rest of country.
In its eighth edition, the CICGF will feature concerts by Pavel Steidl (Czech Republic), Marcin Dylla (Poland), Johannes Moller (Sweden), Miguel Trapaga (Spain), Paco Renteria (Mexico), Le Maestrio (France) and a closing performance jazz guitarist Amyt Datta, who will play with Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and Pt Subhen Chatterjee's Karma.
The visiting maestros don't just perform; they also teach during the day. Classical guitarists from all over India can get access to all nine concerts spread across three days, get two free lessons from the maestro of their choice and avail of lodging and boarding facilities too. Students who previously learnt at the festival volunteer as organisers and help facilitate the young students' learning.
The Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival includes a national-level classical competition presented by the Instituto Cervantes New Delhi and Embassy of Spain in India. This year, it will be held on 14 December. Prizes include a trip to Spain and the chance to participate in the Cordoba Guitar Festival; a formal recital at the Instituto Cervantes; a prize guitar by Manuel Rodriguez; and strings and guitar accessories by Savarez. Last year's winner Dipankar Singh thoroughly improved his right-hand technique after receiving tutorials in Spain, and this year's competition too will open up new possibilities for classical guitar lovers in India, who often feel frustrated due to the lack of international exposure.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Dec 14, 2017 17:31:06 IST