Shivanand Maharaj

MUSICAL MASTER: Lecturer in Indian classical music at the Department of Creative and Festival Arts of The University of the West Indies and director of The UWI Indian Classical Music ensemble, Shivanand Maharaj.

SHASTRIYA Sangeet, or Indian classical music, is one of the pillars of Indian culture and it will be on full display on Saturday evening at the NCIC Nagar in Chaguanas as the NCIC continues its month of festivities and events in the lead-up to Indian Arrival Day.

“An Evening of Shastriya Sangeet” will feature vocal renditions and instrumentals on flute, violin, sarod, sitar, tabal and the harmonium. There will be performances by the best of the best, including Shivanand Maharaj, who was also invited by the NCIC Heritage Centre to take on an advisory role—and for good reason. Maharaj lectures in Indian classical music in the Department of Creative and Festival Arts of The University of the West Indies and is the director of the UWI Indian Classical Music ensemble.

Over the course of several years, Maharaj has trained countless persons in the theoretical and practical aspects of the ancient art form known as Shastriya Sangeet.

The work that Maharaj and others have done is the reason why this country boasts of dynamic artistes in the realm of Indian classical music.

Maharaj grew up in South Trinidad and was inducted into Shastriya Sangeet at a young age.

“My parents told us there were music classes in the community, at the time we didn’t have an option, we had to go. But once we got involved, no one had to pressure us to go. In fact, we were the ones who encouraged our parents to take us to the classes,” Maharaj recalls.

Maharaj was introduced to a variety of instruments, and with his raw talent and musical ear, he caught on quickly.

“There was a lot of value in playing Shastriya Sangeet. I found a lot of happiness and contentment. Music also gave me balance—even though I was learning different subjects at school, it helped me remain in a relaxed state of mind. But it was also entertaining and helped me be more appreciative, tolerant and patient,”he says.

Not only did he learn the intricate workings of Indian classical music on various instruments, including the violin, tabla and harmonium, Maharaj also went on to pursue his Master’s in Indian classical vocals in Allahabad, India. “It was a great experience. I grew up listening to Indian classical music and had the opportunity to study in the country where it originated. I paid special attention to the way the classes were run and how best to adopt practices so that my classes back home could be just as good or even better. It was exciting to be where this genre of music is so prevalent,”he says.

Today, Maharaj’s classes are as authentic as those he experienced while studying in India. Some of his students have also expanded their musical repertoire and added Indian classical music to other genres, creating a sort of fusion music.

One of Maharaj’s main goals over the last 30 years has been to expose more people to Shastriya Sangeet. He is proud to say that the art form is on the rise. Maharaj, who has performed across T&T, says audiences continue to be fascinated by Indian classical music.

“There are more and more ­parents who want their children to get involved. Also, there are many opportunities and locations where children and people of any age can learn Indian Classical Music,”he says. “It makes me very happy to see so many of my students, both fulltime and part time, making the sacrifice to pursue their dreams and learn this genre of music.”

Shastriya Sangeet encompasses vocals, instrumentals and taan. However An Evening of Shastriya Sangeet will feature violin solos, sitar, flute and sarod solos accompanied by the tabla. ‘An evening of Local Classical Singing (Taan Singing)’ will be held at a later date.

Maharaj is inviting persons and families regardless of their background and musical preferences to come out for An Evening of Shastriya Sangeet on May 14.

“Audiences can expect music that you don’t hear everyday,”assures Maharaj. “The music will be very unique with rhythmic phrases, patterns and complexities—there will be something for everyone. It will be an evening of lovely, excellent and melodious music.”

Admission to An Evening of Shastriya Sangeet is free, parking will be available free of charge. The event will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.

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