This is an important manual on the under-standing, learning and teaching of Indian classical music in general and of the playing of the sitar in particular. The sitar, thanks to the genius of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan and Nikhil Banerjee, is now known and appreciated all over the world. Hence the crucial importance of this book.
Thus far no guru or ustad has committed to print a methodology of learning to play the sitar. Moreover, over the generations, the teaching, propagation and performing of Indian music has been wedded to oral or vocal practices. Little has ever been set down on paper.
This work, by an acknowledged sitarist (born in Scotland and trained by a leading teacher of Bengal) lays down, perhaps for the very first time, a step by step route for those who are keen to gain proficiency in this instrument. The would be sitarist will, of course, have to possess an ear for music and the will and time to work hard.
Clem Alford readily acknowledges that a willing and helpful teacher is essential if one wishes to learn the sitar or, for that matter, any other Indian instrument. But in today's world it is not possible to actually live with one's teacher as Ravi Shankar did with Ustad Allauddin Khan many years ago in the last century.
Based on the ten thaat categories identified and codified by Bhatkhande (1860 - 1936) this manual is a must for all sitar students. The author and critic Reginald Massey whose standard book The Music of India, written with his wife Jamila Massey, is also published by Abhinav states: 'I recommend it as an important aid to all sitar students. It is a well laid out handbook for all those who wish to play the sitar for pleasure to themselves and, perhaps more importantly, for pleasure to others'.
Born on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday (October 2) in 1945 in Glasgow, Scotland, Clem Alford began his sitar studies in London with Manesh Chandra Kansara for a year. He was accepted as a student of the late Pandit Sachindra Nath Saha at the Midanapore Music College, West Bengal, in 1968. He was made a Junior Sangeet Ratnakar (one of the examiners being Mohammad Dabir Khan, descendant of the great Tansen, founder of the Senia Gharana) and later attained the degree of Sangeet Sudhakar from Calcutta. He was awarded the title of Sur Mani after a recital at Bombay's Kal Ke Kalakar Sammelan. He continued his studies with his Guru until the latter's death. He also took lessons from his Guru's daughter Smt. Jayasri Banerjee.
Clem Alford has performed not only in India but also in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Far East and the USA. In 1975 in London's Royal Albert Hall he was presented with the renowned Indian vocalist Lakshmi Shankar. He has been associated with John Williams (classical guitar), John Mayer (composer/Indo Jazz Fusions), Maurice Jarre (film scores) John Dankworth (jazz maestro), and Hemant Kumar (Indian film vocalist). He has recorded for EM!
In 1970 he formed a group named Sargam with Jim Moyes (guitar) and Keshav Sathe (tabla). A year later Alisha Sufit joined the trio and the Magic Carpet band was formed. He has composed music for many films.
In 1974 he recorded the extraordinary Mirror Image with Alan Branscombe, Amancio D'Silva Toni Campo, Harold Fisher and Keshav Sathe. His sitar CD Sangeet Sagar has been highly acclaimed.
Alford continues with his musical experi- mentations while teaching at the Birmingham Conservatoire. He lives in London.
Indian music and dance is based on the guru-sishya- parampara principle, the sacred relationship between master and pupil by which gyan, knowledge, is transmitted to the next generation. The pupil becomes, in effect, the son or daughter of the Hindu guru or the Muslim ustad. There was never any distinction in matters artistic: Muslim pupils went to Hindu teachers and Hindu pupils went to Muslim masters. The celebrated Pandit Ravi Shankar, now in his tenth decade and still musically active, learnt from Baba Ustad Allauddin Khan Sahib. In fact, he married his master's daughter Annapurna.
In north India, Pakistan and Bangladesh there is a ceremony of initiation when a teacher formally accepts a pupil. It is called ganda-bandhi. The teacher ties a symbolic thread on the wrist of his pupil which makes the pupil the teacher's 'son' or 'daughter' for life. Thenceforth the teaching is direct and orally based on what the teacher leant from his teacher. Hence the various gharanas, schools or families of musicians and dancers, each with its own distinctive styles and conventions...
Clem Alford, born in 1945 on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday in the Scottish city of Glasgow, is a pupil of the late Pandit Sachindra Nath Saha of Midnapore in Bengal. While retaining his master's technique and style he has, over the years, expanded his repertoire and musical con- sciousness. He is today a leading sitar player recognized not only in Britain but also in India.
He readily acknowledges that a willing and helpful teacher is essential if one wishes to learn the sitar or, for that matter, any other Indian instrument. However, having read his instruction manual which is based on the ten thaat categories identified and codified by Bhatkhande (1860-1936) I recommend it as an important aid to all sitar students. He has clarified, simplified and demystified many fundamental concepts and techniques. It is a well laid out handbook for all those who wish to play the sitar for pleasure to themselves and, perhaps more importantly, for pleasure to others.
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