Winter Arts Intensive 2019 – A Report

The Winter Arts Intensive (WAI) at Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukula (CNBG) was an enriching and spiritual experience for the participants. CNBG provides a residential, Gurukula lifestyle rooted in India’s cultural and spiritual heritage. As one of the students said, ‘Once you enter the gates you seem to leave behind all negative thoughts and friendships formed are pure and deep-rooted.’

The WAI of 2019 brought together 35 students from varied backgrounds and skill levels, not only from India but also from Holland, Kenya and the USA.

The objective of this year’s Bansuri Intensive was to provide a blend of music, meditation, philosophy and music theory to those who are passionate about music. The intensive aimed at providing a systematic approach to learning Hindustani Classical Music across three levels of skill (beginners, intermediate and advanced) and to instil the discipline of practice and reverence towards the art form.

The curriculum for the intensive was designed by Shri Himanshu Nanda, a senior disciple of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Vision Director for Music at CNBG. The curriculum was delivered by Shri Himanshu Nanda, Shri Kshitij Saxena, who is a visiting faculty at CNBG and Shri Hariom Sharma, a senior student at CNBG.

The students were enriched with sessions by Dr. Ojesh Pratap Singh, (Professor of Music at Delhi University), Smt. Pramodini Rao (Academic and Campus Director at CNBG), Shri Vijay Shivane (former faculty for CSR at CNBG) and Dr. Margeret Lobo (Clinical Music Therapist from London). An entertaining magic show by one of the students from the intensive group, Divyansh Apurva, and a blues performance by Bart Landstra added charm to the intensive. (Read more)

The advanced classes were designed for students committed to Bansuri as a part of their life’s journey. Deeper aspects of raga music, the importance of sadhana, the art of improvisation and facets of concert presentation were discussed and practised. 

Sessions included:

  • Bansuri techniques (tonguing, murki, khatka, chain practice, gamak and meend)
  • Swara sadhana
  • Raga explorations
  • Systems of concert presentation
  • How to approach aalap, jod and jhala
  • Raga Maru Bihag – A detailed study
  • Raga Shivaranjani – A minor study
  • Curate your performance

The intermediate classes, led by Shri Kshitij Saxena, were designed to help students who are unable to see the path ahead by curating practice modules which they can use as reference material in their daily practice sessions.

Sessions Included:

  • Intense practice of paltas
  • Bansuri techniques
  • Raga Durga with composition, taans and tihayees
  • Creation of taans and tihayees

Led by Shri Hariom Sharma, the beginners’ classes focused on the fundamentals of playing the Bansuri, with emphasis on the correction of wrong postures and finger positions that develop through unguided practice.

  • Blowing and fingering techniques
  • Understanding breath
  • Swara sadhana
  • Sargam sadhana
  • Raga Bhoopali composition

The common sessions were on Music Meditation, Singing and Rhythm and How to Tune a Tanpura.

The day would begin with prayers and group practice which helped build dynamism in the group. The environment fostered collaboration, creativity, intimate dialogues and, the skill level notwithstanding, there was always someone around to help or practice with. An experiential early morning 6:45 am session with Shri Himanshu at Pranava Ganesh Mandir, starting with low notes and ending with a divine slow aalap of Raga Shuddha Bibhas, was an outstanding experience that moved the listeners to tears.

People often wonder how is it that maestros dedicate 12-15 hours to practice and that too on one swar or alankar. Some of the core objectives of the intensive provided a glimpse into this with –

  • The crossing of limitations: Faculty pushed students beyond their comfort zones where true growth lies.
  • Intense practice:

    • Long continuous practice: The group achieved 10 hours of practice during the Solar Eclipse
    • Early morning practice: On the last day there was a non-stop 4 am to 8 am group session that provided the students with an experience of practice during these divine hours where sincere effort is most fruitful.
  • Less writing more listening: Advanced students were encouraged to listen and practice as opposed to writing, to strengthen their listening muscles. 

The participants started out as strangers but after a week of intense spiritual experience, there was strong bonding. They had all experienced the intensity of early mornings, late-night practice sessions, body aches and blisters but as expressed by them during the valedictory function, they all came out stronger in their dedication, practice and passion for music. Every participant experienced inner transformation. As one of the students said, ‘The experience not only enhanced my knowledge of music but my entire attitude towards practising and learning has transformed. Most importantly, I have grown into a much better person now.’

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