Art Guitar Fest, Calcutta

What’s all the hype about CGRFI? A look back at Art Guitar Fest Calcutta 2022

What does it take for a gifted student to make it to the international concert stage? Is their raw talent enough or must it be first recognised and nurtured? In the field of the classical guitar in India, there is certainly no shortage of such young talents. How then can these aspiring individuals fulfil their dreams of performing and sharing their art with audiences around the world? This is what the Classical Guitar Reach Foundation of India (CGRFI) hopes to facilitate. CGRFI is a non-profit organisation that provides classical guitar education to selected Indian musicians on a scholarship basis. The organisation was founded in 2021 by Srijit Mukherjee and Samrat Majumder; two classical guitarists who studied music in European schools. Having seen a number of classical guitar festivals outside of India, Srijit and Samrat both felt there was a considerable lack of Indian classical guitarists in the international scene. This led to the inception of CGRFI as a means of nurturing talent in India so that future generations of Indian musicians may make their mark on the classical guitar world.

“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere” – Peter O’Toole

CGRFI is interested in helping and promoting those future great artists wherever they may be in India.

Shristi Thapa, CGRFI mentee, in masterclass with Samrat Majumder

Scholarships are awarded based on merit and need, with the intention of providing mentees (students) with the education, the resources and the social visibility to forge a career in music. Following an online audition process, mentees are offered weekly one-to-one lessons, theory classes, performance opportunities and full cover to attend and participate in CGRFI events (masterclasses, festivals, concerts and lectures). Classes take place either online or live depending on the location of mentees and mentors. The CGRFI team include the co-founders and mentors, Srijit and Samrat, mentor Madhavan Somanathan; organising expert and techie, Veda Aggarwal; and music theory mentor, Santanu Datta. Currently the team are busy working with a group of exciting mentees coming from Kolkata, Darjeeling, Assam and Gujarat.

Bhavya Duarah, CGRFI mentee, in masterclass with Madhavan Somanathan

From 27-29 December of last year, CGRFI organised its first ever festival in association with the Calcutta School of Music (CSM): “Art Guitar Fest Calcutta”. This three-day event included a series of solo classical guitar concerts, lectures, masterclasses and culminated with the highly-anticipated student concert. The festival was open to guitar enthusiasts and students of all levels and the response for this inaugural event was incredibly positive with over 30 participants attending all the events. This festival was designed to be a unique experience centred around the participants and students. The high level of talent, intense enthusiasm and genuine love for the instrument from the participants was tangible throughout. Each day comprised of different lectures, investigating topics related to the classical guitar, as well as many public masterclasses given by the CGRFI team. Lunch was graciously organised by Mr. Shyamal De of CSM and included as part of the festival. The time in between lectures and masterclasses was also valuable for the participants as they got to know one another, share ideas and foster friendships and connections that have certainly extended beyond the festival itself. Finally, each day concluded with concerts held in the wonderful Sandre Hall at the CSM.

Artists and lecturers of “Art Guitar Fest Calcutta”. Clockwise from top-left: Santanu Datta, Samrat Majumder, Madhavan Somanathan and Srijit Mukherjee

The first two days of concerts were a series of solo performances given by some of the CGRFI Team – Santanu Datta, Samrat Majumder and Madhavan Somanathan (Madhavan’s concert also included a guest appearance by violinist Ganesh Dutta). For many, the highlight was the final student concert where participants were able to perform for their family, friends and fellow festival peers for the first time in three years – since the pandemic started in 2019. It was truly inspirational to see all the participants enthusiastically puting their names forward for the concert and commanding themselves on stage with composure, passion and joy, showing their incredible love for the instrument and their strong desire to perform. This event would not have been possible were it not for the incredibly generous donations made by a number individuals from around the world. Thanks to their financial support, this inaugural festival was able to succeed in the way it did. A full list of these donors can be found on the CGRFI website. Special mentions should be made to Srijit Mukherjee and Veda Aggarwal whose exceptional and tireless work in organising every single detail for the festival (both practical and technical) made each day smooth and enjoyable for all involved.

The Final Student Concert of Art Guitar Fest Calcutta. Clockwise from top-left: Anish Darnal, Himaghna Roy*, Siddhartha Dasgupta*, Dhaneshree Guhathakurta. (* – CGRFI mentees)

The future is incredibly bright for the classical guitar in India and it will be very exciting to witness the development of many Indian guitarist from students to world class professionals.

By festival participant, Pritam Maity, in discussion with Team CGRFI.