A stream come true

    A virtual school run by two young singers streams lessons in Karnatak music, and helps students interface with great gurus


    Can music be taught on the Net? Ask K N Shashikiran and S Sowmya, well-known classical singers, and the answer is a conditional yes.

    One reason that prompted them to start their Cyber Vidyalaya was the difficulty students face in finding teachers. “We are not talking about an Internet guru, we are talking about bringing great gurus to the Internet,” says Shashikiran, in his recorded introduction to the virtual school.

    Cyber Vidyalaya is part of a larger portal, Carnatica, that Shashikiran and Sowmya have been running since late 1999. The site’s focus is Karnatak music. It is edited by Shashikiran’s siter Kiranavali, who works from Mumbai.

    Carnatic Archival Centre, another wing of Carnatica, plans and organizes thematic presentations for the stage, which it then archives. The Bangalore activities of Carnatica were inaugurated with a two-day festival at Gayana Samaja on March 2 and 3. Sowmya sang a full concert of Haridasa compositions on the first day, and experts like R K Srikantan and R Satyanarayana discussed the history and contours of raga Sri on the second. Madurai Seshagopalan wound up the festival with a two-hour essay of Sri, first with a short composition and then in an elaborate raga-tana-pallavi using two lines of the Thyagaraja kriti Endaro mahanubhavulu.

    “A retired man came up to me at a concert and said he wanted to learn just one song, and would I be able to help him,” Shashikiran recalled, when The Music Magazine asked him how it all came about. “And I knew he would be heartbroken if I turned down his request.”

    For such an enthusiast, going through the paces of basic lessons and then graduating to the composition was out of the question. Shashikiran called him over and taught him his favourite song.

    Cyber Vidyalaya keeps in mind such needs. “We have a section called Learn by Choice where you can ask for just one composition,” says Shashikiran. Such an entry point can hook a music lover into exploring the art further.

    For those already familiar with Karnatak music, Cyber Vidyalaya offers the next higher level of coaching. I went online and checked how it works. A teacher sings a composition (the sample was a simple song called Gokula bala in raga Mohana), line by line, which a group of students repeat. Two versions — audio and video — are available. Cyber Vidyalaya’s method is encourage you to sing along with the students. You then record on to a tape what you have learnt and send it across to the school, which evaluates it and mails suggestions for improvement.

    “The more advanced students can benefit by asking for a particular style, or for suggestions from the masters,” Shashikiran explained. Cyber Vidyalaya also puts musicians in touch with doctors specializing in voice-related ailments who offer e-mail advice, and if necessary, personal treatment.

    Cyber Vidyalaya’s annual fee is Rs 1,500, plus Rs 500 for registration.

    This school’s efforts are the most systematic and wideranging yet, but do virtual classes work? Can they effectively replace face to face learning? “A student from Japan has been in touch with us. He had no way of learning except this,” says Shashikiran. Modern lifestyles are such that keen students might, if not for the Internet, never be able to learn even a little of the music they are passionate about. For those who don’t have computers or the bandwidth to learn online, Cyber Vidyalaya offers lessons on tapes and CDs, at a small additional fee that goes towards the cost of the medium.

    Cyber Vidyalaya’s faculty includes senior names like S R Janakiraman and Seetha Rajan.


    Reference Link : http://www.themusicmagazine.com/cybervidyalaya.html

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