The rest of Chennai is in deep slumber but Carnatic vocalist Vasudha Keshav is readying to take a class. It’s around 1.30am, a weird time for a music lesson, but then her student has just finished her morning chores in California and is ready to brush up on the finer nuances of a kriti with her guru halfway round the world.
They both boot up their computers, log on to Skype, click on webcams and set up their digital tanpuras. And the lesson starts, streaming to and fro across continents and oceans. Keshav is getting her student pitch perfect with O rangasayee for a concert. The session goes on for an hour but the student has it all recorded so she can practise at leisure for the rest of the week.
A couple of hours closer to dawn, Bhavadhaarini Anantaraman is on Google Talk with seven-year-old Rithu Mukund who is just back home from her New Jersey school and ready for her music lesson. They have just started a new varnam in Pantuvarali. Mukund follows her teacher closely, parroting the musical phrases till they are flawless.
The guru shishya parampara moved out of the teacher’s home long ago. But now it has moved out of the music school too and into cyberspace. This is particularly true of Carnatic music, though tech-savvy Hindustani teachers like tabla wizard Aneesh Pradhan are also happy to log on for a lesson.
“Most times I am teaching as a disembodied voice but I still find it a perfect system. The classes are timed, and the students want the most out of you, so they are dedicated and disciplined. They are eager to learn new compositions so they are very driven about practising and perfecting themselves,” says Ajay Nambudiri, a Chennai-based student of maestro Neyveli Santhanagopalan and a teacher in his own right.
He says his student, nine-year-old Californian Varshini Ravi, put her online learning to use at a Ram Navami concert in the US and drew rave reviews. Two other students live in Thiruvanthapuram and learn from him over Skype. “Those two are willing to carry on for hours, unlike the 40-minute tight schedules NRIs seek,” he quips.
There is a large population of NRI music lovers and practitioners settled in the US, UK, Canada and even Japan, eager to continue their learning with their gurus in India. All they need is a good broadband arrangement, and some programs that allow audio interaction, like Skype, Google Talk or Netmeeting. It helps to also have a webcam so that your teacher can watch you keep the beat and put a face to the voice.
Some teachers, like Santhanagopalan, prefer a system of paid downloads with graded lessons (you get to move on only if you have mastered the past lessons). The pioneers in the field, vocalists S Sowmya and KN Shashikiran, who set up their Cyber Vidyalaya at carnatica.net, offer both online and offline lessons. Albany-based Vidya Subramanian supplements her online lessons with podcasts.
YouTube is another channel for teaching. Aneesh Pradhan – one of the few artistes from the Hindustani stream to go online with teaching — has been giving advanced tabla lessons to Australia-based Venkat Narayanan. He downloads files sent by Narayanan and emails his responses. He supplements this with online chats when they recite bols (drum notes) and exchange views.
“Shubha (Mudgal, his wife) and I have looked forward to teaching over the net, as it was becoming difficult to cope with situations where students had little scope for traveling to India for their lessons. The net provided a great opportunity to be in touch with students any time,” says Pradhan.
There are constraints, of course, in taking online the teaching of an art that for centuries has been taught face-to-face. Dropped calls and echoes are not rare. And teachers and students cannot sing or play simultaneously. Purists in fact believe any kind of remote teaching violates the very dharma of music scholarship. There is no knowing, they say, if the student has really understood the teaches. A sangathi (variation in a musical phrase) picked up wrongly could be hard to undo later.
Singer TM Krishna says he does not believe in online teaching, however handy it might be. At best it could be a supplementary tool. “There is a lot students learn through observation and unconscious absorption in a classroom. I also feel that if a student is really interested, she should make the effort to come to India and learn. If we can move to another city or country for a master’s in law or medicine, why not for music? Why are we always looking for shortcuts only in art?” he asks.
Reference Link : http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report-cybernatic-music-1247080