Can music be taught on the Net? Ask K N
Shashikiran and S Sowmya, well-known classical singers, and the
answer is a conditional yes.
One reason that prompted them to
start their Cyber Vidyalaya was the difficulty students face in
finding teachers. "We are not talking about an Internet guru, we are
talking about bringing great gurus to the Internet," says
Shashikiran, in his recorded introduction to the virtual
Cyber Vidyalaya is part of a larger portal,
Carnatica, that Shashikiran and Sowmya have been running
since late 1999. The site's focus is Karnatak music. It is
edited by Shashikiran's siter Kiranavali, who works from
Carnatic Archival Centre, another wing of Carnatica,
plans and organizes thematic presentations for the stage, which it
then archives. The Bangalore activities of Carnatica were
inaugurated with a two-day festival at Gayana Samaja on March 2 and
3. Sowmya sang a full concert of Haridasa compositions on the first
day, and experts like R K Srikantan and R Satyanarayana discussed
the history and contours of raga Sri on the second. Madurai
Seshagopalan wound up the festival with a two-hour essay of Sri,
first with a short composition and then in an elaborate
raga-tana-pallavi using two lines of the Thyagaraja kriti Endaro
"A retired man came up to me at a
concert and said he wanted to learn just one song, and would I be
able to help him," Shashikiran recalled, when The Music
Magazine asked him how it all came about. "And I knew he would
be heartbroken if I turned down his request."
For such an
enthusiast, going through the paces of basic lessons and then
graduating to the composition was out of the question. Shashikiran
called him over and taught him his favourite song.
Vidyalaya keeps in mind such needs. "We have a section called Learn
by Choice where you can ask for just one composition," says
Shashikiran. Such an entry point can hook a music lover into
exploring the art further.
For those already familiar with
Karnatak music, Cyber Vidyalaya offers the next higher level of
coaching. I went online and checked how it works. A teacher sings a
composition (the sample was a simple song called Gokula
bala in raga Mohana), line by line, which a group of students
repeat. Two versions -- audio and video -- are available. Cyber
Vidyalaya's method is encourage you to sing along with the students.
You then record on to a tape what you have learnt and send it across
to the school, which evaluates it and mails suggestions for
"The more advanced students can benefit by
asking for a particular style, or for suggestions from the masters,"
Shashikiran explained. Cyber Vidyalaya also puts musicians in touch
with doctors specializing in voice-related ailments who offer e-mail
advice, and if necessary, personal treatment.
Vidyalaya's annual fee is Rs 1,500, plus Rs 500 for
This school's efforts are the most
systematic and wideranging yet, but do virtual classes work?
Can they effectively replace face to face learning? "A student from
Japan has been in touch with us. He had no way of learning except
this," says Shashikiran. Modern lifestyles are such that keen
students might, if not for the Internet, never be able to learn even
a little of the music they are passionate about. For those who don't
have computers or the bandwidth to learn online, Cyber Vidyalaya
offers lessons on tapes and CDs, at a small additional fee that goes
towards the cost of the medium.
Cyber Vidyalaya's faculty includes senior names
like S R Janakiraman and Seetha Rajan.
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