When sitar player Shubhendra Rao and Dutch cellist Saskia Rao-de Haass mutual admiration for each others music led to marriage eight years ago,their wedding paved the way for another harmony of two musical instruments belonging to completely different genres. Since their marriage,Saskia has added 11 sympathetic strings to her cello and a whole world of Indian classical style in her repertoire. Coming up with something organic by way of music is the most innate expression of our marriage, says Saskia who learnt music from the Hungarian master Tibor de Machula and vocalist Kaustav Ray apart from a short training with Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia.
Performing on Friday at the Chinmaya Centre,the couple began with the evening raga,Puryadhanashree. As Saskia started the leisurely alaap on the cello,the first pluck of strings was exemplary of her sensitivity towards Indian classical music. Her beginning seemed to be welcomed by Raos sitar as he joined in to put the stamp of his Maihar Gharana,a jod and jhala in turn giving a full orchestra effect with the amalgamation of two acoustically different instruments. They were accompanied on the tabla by Biplab Bhattacharya. Rao is a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar,just like his father NR Rama Rao had been. These collaborations are more like confluence for me. I wont like to call them fusion, said Rao,adding that the duo plays classical,jazz and world music at festivals all over the world with different artistes.
Saskia has also modified her cello to suit the Indian classical needs. I use a specially designed smaller cello with added strings for the meend (vibration) effect, says Saskia who looked striking in a deep red sari. Saskia also seats her cello on the ground,not on the chair as is customary.