"Red Flower" - A Tribute to Tagore by Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao de Haas Presented by Rotary Club of Calcutta Inner City

Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao de HaasCalcutta, India, Nov 28, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) A cascade of melody was set flowing at the G.D Birla Sabhaghar, Kolkata on November 28, 2011. Organized by the Rotary Club of Calcutta Inner City, “Antwardhani - the Inner Voice” was a tribute to the genius of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore that had called for a stellar performance by the husband-wife duo of Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao de Haas. A protégé of the famous sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shubhendra is an acclaimed sitarist who is also known as a “thinking musician” constantly making path-breaking efforts to stretch the limits. It is perhaps this experimental spirit that led him into a successful collaboration with this long-term companion and wife, Saskia de Haas, master cellist and the pioneer of the Indian Cello. Having performed at Kolkata’s famous Dover Lane Music Conference, the duo were not new to the city but it was the first time they had performed on Tagore’s compositions.

Shubhendra Rao and Saskia Rao de Haas

It was an event with a cause. The fund raised though this event would go into developing infrastructure and education in villages in districts like South 24 Parganas and Hooghly, said the organizers. Present at the event were Rotary Club President Mr. Kallol Basu, Secretary Mr. Ashok Dutta and many eminent Rotarians. The Guests of Honor for the evening were Mr. Uttam Ganguly, the District Governor Elect (DGE) and Mr. Rajani Mukherjee, the District Governor Nominee (DGN).

The first evening of the three day event had its focal point as the “Red flower”, a musical dialogue themed upon the conversation that took place between Tagore and Einstein regarding the perception of music by different individuals. It was through a fine weave of two seemingly different paradigms of culture and music that the duo chose to present this innovative concept. Reinterpreting Tagore’s songs, the artistes infused Mozart and Celtic music to impart a different flavor to much-known songs of Tagore like “shokoli phuralo” and “phule phule dhole dhole” from the dance drama, “Kalmrigaya” and the lively and inspirational, “ekla cholo re”, which also happens to be the favorite of both Shubhendra and Saskia among all the compositions of Tagore.

In a short conversation with the duo, they spoke about their creative stimulation, their striking compatibility and their interpretation of the Tagore’s music. Exploring and reinventing the works of Tagore had been a one-of-its-kind experience for the artist duo, however, Shubhendra modestly conceded, “It is only the surface that we have scratched”. Talking of inspiration, Shubhendra and Saskia shared the same view, “everything around us is inspiring…even a child singing is inspirational”, in Saskia’s words. When asked about the future of the Indian Cello and whether this innovation is catching up with the youngsters, Saskia sounded confident about its success as an instrument that would appeal to the next-gen, which she says has matured over the years and has the ears for both, contemporary and traditional, “the young generation has come of age”, beamed a very positive Saskia. Agreeing upon the universality of music, the couple also added that it was this monolingualism of music that has made such a unique synchronization as theirs possible.

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