Tell us more about The Indian Guitar Federation and its activities.
The Indian Guitar Federation (IGF) was started with the purpose of developing and promoting guitar music in India. We’re about a year old now and exist as a network or federation of local and regional classical guitar societies. It’s through these local bodies that we enable different activities.
Our first project for 2015 was a teacher-training programme for classical guitar teachers conducted by Dr. Paul Cesarczyk. The International Classical Guitar Festivals & Competitions 2015, from December 13-17 in Delhi, Bangalore and Calcutta were our biggest productions for the year.
Please share your background with us.
My own background is varied. I started playing the guitar when I was 11, heard someone play the classical guitar a few years later, was immediately hooked and began to take lessons for this instrument in earnest, but never really considered classical guitar as career option. I worked as a journalist for a few years and then head of branding and marketing for an e-commerce start up. I’ve also done work as a graphic artist designing book covers and portraits on commission.
In 2010, I went to the first Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival as a participant, and this changed my perspective for guitar playing. We were exposed to the highest standard of guitar playing, teaching and competition that exists in the world today. There have been the leading composers for classical guitar, the very best guitarists alive in the world today including Grammy winners attending the festival in Calcutta. And until last year (2014), I’ve been a regular participant, signing up for lessons and masterclasses from these superstars.
Why did you decide to start such a federation in India?
The idea was Avik Saha’s. He’s the founder and patron of the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society. And he wanted to create opportunities for guitarists across the country (not just Calcutta) to get access to an International level of guitar playing. We chose to go about it in the most democratic way possible – as a federation of local bodies. This way each city or region can have their own society that looks after immediate needs, but also use our resources to host or conduct events that would help them grow as guitarists, musicians and music lovers.
How was your International Festival and Competitions? What were the results?
The festivals were 5 days of non-stop guitar music! We had private masterclasses that started from 10am onwards, public workshops and competitions in Delhi, Bangalore and Calcutta from December 13-17 2015. It was incredible.
Delhi International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition 2015
1st Prize: Ungrumso Raman
2nd Prize: Atso Chasie
Komrisk most promising guitarist under 18: (no 1st prize)
2nd Prize: Eshita Sud and Jonty Kapoor
Bangalore International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition 2015
1st Prize: Kabir Dabholkar
2nd Prize: Nandini Sudhir
Komrisk most promising guitarist under 18: Chanakya Saikya
Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition 2015
1st Prize: Rupkatha Das
2nd Prize: Ajoy Thatal
Komrisk most promising guitarist under 18: Anubhav Dasgupta
CCGS Under 12 prize: Yash Vachhani
Interestingly, all the winners of the Bangalore competition were 18 years old or younger! This tells you something about the future of classical guitar in our country.
Please share your thoughts on classical music. What advice do you have for young guitarists in India?
We’re at a very exciting time for classical music in India. The number of performance spaces and platforms to access or showcase this form of art is increasing.
In the past, classical music may have been considered a niche form of art, mostly because it had limited access due to social or financial barriers. However, for us here in India, this is changing. First, because of the democratising nature of the Internet (and YouTube!), but also because of a movement to provide access to high-quality music free to the public. The Poona Music Society does that in Pune. In Calcutta, the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society doesn’t just host classical guitar concerts, they also have a series called ‘Live In’ that provides concerts in public spaces open to anyone who is around and wants to take the time to listen. In Delhi and Bangalore, all our festival concerts were free and open to the public. There is a genuine growing interest across the country – people come to listen to the music, give concerts full attention and they’re willing to pay to listen!
For young guitarists, my biggest advice is to make the most of whatever opportunities they have access to. Most of us can only aspire to be as good as what we’re exposed to. And there’s been a lot of exposure to an International standard of performance mostly through the Internet, but also through the musicians who visit and perform India.
My own attitude to guitar playing changed when I attended the first classical guitar festival. This was because I had never seen classical music on the guitar being performed to that standard of excellence. I had never quite understood what it took to be a professional musician until International students from conservatories across the world came to Calcutta to compete. These people, who I’d consider professional, were now our peers!
Of course, it is important to practise and develop a strong foundation in terms of your own technique and repertoire, but these are things most young guitarists would have already heard before. My advice would be to attend as many concerts as you can, to sign up for all the workshops you can, and in that way get insight into you own potential as musicians.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Many, many things. This year was the start of enormous growth. The experiment of hosting simultaneous festivals in different cities was a great success. Avik Saha has already announced festivals in Nagaland, Goa, Pune and Hyderabad for the next year. We’re looking at collaborations with different instruments including Indian traditional instruments. And we’ll be inviting submissions of transcriptions, arrangements or original compositions from Indian composers featuring the classical guitar. The future is exciting!