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A Musical Night with Sangeetha Shankar in Nagpur


Famous Hindustani classical violinist Sangeetha Shankar happened to be in town. She was accompanied by her younger daughter Nandini Shankar on the violin and Pandita Anuradha Pal on the Tabla.

It was a delight seeing three women musicians together on stage. It was also a rare sight. I, for one, have never seen a classical stage performance where every artist was a woman .The programme which was conducted in Suresh Bhatt Auditorium, Mahal, Nagpur was organised by Kalidas Samaroh and the theme of the programme was Naree Shakthi.

I was not able to figure out the first raga which she played. Nevertheless it was beautiful. I slowly closed my eyes and within some time was transported to some other serene place. She followed this with a Dadra in Khamaj and then a Natiya.

A Classic Case Study of Outliers

Ms. Sankar’s family tree is a good case study of what Malcolm Gladwell calls outliers. Her daughters Ragini and Nandini are renowned violinists while Ms. Shankar herself is the daughter of legendary violinist N. Rajam. N Rajam’s brother T.N Krishnan is another violinist who is well revered in the classical music circles. If you keep digging, this family has seemed to have music in their genes. Or do they?

As Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Outliers, all of these “prodigies” have had the right exposure and right environment to have absorbed music into themselves. Most of them seems to have been initiated into music around the age of three and to have given their first solo performance around the age of 13-15. This seems to strengthen the 10000 hour rule popularised by Gladwell, given that 10 years is around the time where most people seem to hit the 10000 hour mark. Given that they already are experts by 13, by the time they reach their youth, they are maestros.

Deliberate Practice

It is not just the 10000 rule that these artists seem to get correct. They seem to be doing deliberate practice where the sessions spent on music are intense and self aware. This is also very essential to make sure that you improve in a particular activity.

Remembering Balabahaskar

While listening to Ms. Shankar, I kept remembering the violinist from Kerala who recently passed away in a car accident, Mr. Balabhaskar. Not only was he a gifted vioinist, but also a family friend.

Overall, kudos to Kalidas Samaroh for putting up such an excellent musical night in Nagpur. These kind of experiences make me love the place more. I will be in Nagpur for just 4 more months. Till now, nothing much has come by to make me fall in love with the place. I sure hope that the coming four months will be different.

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An Indian Revenue Service Officer of the 71st Batch, I write about my travels, the books I read and people I meet.

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