American Jazz saxophonist George Brooks and his wife Emily Klion were thrilled with their recent visit to Meghalaya, where they explored the unique traditional music of the hills.
Brooks is well known for combining jazz and Indian classical music.
"India has given me so much as far as my career and friendship with great musicians. My assignment in Meghalaya was a great opportunity to give back something of my culture (western music) to India", said Brooks.
"I have been visiting India for the past 30 years. Learned 'Hindustani' vocal from Pandit Pran Nath in 1980 and I had my association with Zakir Hussain and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, among many others from whom I have drawn my inspiration in Indian music", Brooks said.
He informed that he was introduced to the northeast by well-known Assamese singer Joy Baruah.
Brooks and his wife arrived here on Monday. They loved the drive through the hills and the countryside, where they got a peep into the lifestyle of the people.
"It is a three week exploratory trip and we believe that the partnership with Meghalaya would be fruitful. I have been meeting musicians from Tura (Garo Hills) and would be doing the same in Shillong to understand the unique music of the state. I have a great interest in local music", Brooks said.
"People of Meghalaya are more in sync with western music but as musicians we should also work to conserve our rich musical heritage", Brooks and his wife Emily said.
Emily is an art educator in music and theatre in the US.
Brooks and Emily are teaching a group of young enthusiasts on theory of western music, traditions of vocal music and the repertoire of western music at the Centre for Excellence in Indian and Western Music at Tura, a state government initiative to groom music talent.
"If children are given the rudimentary skills and tools like note reading, beat and phrases and introduced to terminology and vocabulary, they will be able to create music of their own. This will unlock many doors", said Emily.
She also stated that music education trains a child's brain in many different ways.
"It helps a child to look at patterns, understand relations and gives confidence. Above all it is fun and it is beautiful thing to learn music", she added.
When asked how the children in Tura were responding to the classes Emily said, "Children are the same all over the world. However, they are more polite in India. It is pleasurable to teach them. If we can give more tools they will have better understanding".
The Centre of Excellence in Indian and Western Music is an initiative of the state government. It has commenced learning sessions for the youth in Shillong and Tura.
George Brooks is an award winning music producer and composer and the Executive Director of the San Francisco Youth Theatre. He would also be conducting lecture demonstrations in Jazz Music.
"The auditions for selection to the various programmes of the Centre of Excellence were conducted in the first week of November," said Shubho Shekar Bhattacharjee, chief creative mentor with the Centre for Excellence.
Over 550 candidates appeared for the state-wide auditions, of which 101 students were enrolled into the courses in Indian and Western music in Shillong and Tura.
The course commenced in the first week of December.
"It is most unlikely that students in such large numbers would have ever enrolled into the rigorous tradition anywhere else in the country in a single batch, that too in a region where the common perception is that most youth are inclined towards Western Music", said Shubho.
Since the first week of December 2016, more than 8 musicians have come to Shillong and Tura for mentoring the students.
In the next few months, legends like Pandit Mani Prasad, doyen of Kirana Gharana; Pandit Ronu Majumdar, world renowned flautist; Chandas Dass, renowned Ghazal singer; Clive Hughes, legendary drummer and vocalist of some of the earliest Western bands in Kolkata would be visiting Shillong & Tura for sessions at the Centre of Excellence.
"The line-up of musicians all through the year is going to be very impressive", Shubho added.
He also told that the Centre of Excellence in Indian & Western Music would also collaborate with musicians of the region and work towards integrating the local folk and traditional expressions into the popular forms.
Shubho was the founder CEO and Creative Head of one the finest boutique production studios of Mumbai. He has creatively produced discerning films like Do Dooni Chaar, The Last Lear, Mithya, Dosar, Faltu, Saanjhbatir Roopkathara and many others.
Three of his films have won the National Award for Best Film other than many other awards including Filmfare, Stardust, Zee Cine, BFJA and many other international awards.
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