The Song catchers


Amateurish notes of Raag Bhairav emerge from the Rajan and Sajan Mishra Institute for Performing Arts (RASIPA) and waft over the bustling neighbourhood in South Extension-Part 2. Inside the school, eight-year-old Ishita Anirudh is going through her riyaaz with her guru Ritesh Mishra, son of Rajan Mishra of the vocalist duo Rajan-Sajan Mishra . He runs the institute with his cousin Rajneesh. A similar scene is playing out at the Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan Centre for Culture (UMAK) — a music school in Jasola near Sarita Vihar, where sitar maestro Pandit Debu Chaudhury's fingers have taken on a particular shade of purple from playing the sitar with his numerous students. A few kilometers away, in Panchsheel, classical sufi singer Zila Khan is making her students perform a strict kharaj ka riyaaz (practising low notes) at Ustadgah—her gurukul that opened its doors in March.

The three institutes are the latest additions in the Hindustani classical music scene in Delhi . And contrary to popular perception that Indian classical music is a dying genre, all these schools are full despite strict admission criteria. Ustadgah, which started in March, has more than 50 students while the month-old UMAK has 40. Both are based on the age-old gurukul system, in which students live in the school and follow a time-table that intersperses household chores with riyaaz. A student can be a part of the school as long as his guru feels he hasn't mastered the art. RASIPA, which opened doors in October, has 10 students who come in for lessons twice a week. "UMAK is my effort to benefit to the future generation that seeks to play music with purity," says Chaudhury, who belongs to Tansen's Senia gharana.

UMAK selects students after a series of voice tests. "We will have visiting teachers like Pt Birju Maharaj and Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia. These guest lectures will enable students to learn from maestros," says Chaudhury. Apart from instrumental music, UMAK's syllabus includes vocal classical and Indian classical dance forms.

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