February 2003



FEBRUARY 2003 Contents



 Jarawa of Andaman 



 Cello in Indian 
 Classical Music


 Suhasini Mulay

 In News

 South Asian voice at
 Davos - Jan. 2003


 Siblings - achievers
 not inheritors

 Real Issues

 Code of conduct for

 Incest & Child Abuse


 Serialisation of  'Knock at every alien 
 door' - Joseph Harris



 Int'l Sporting Events

 Cricket World Cup
 2003 Schedule

 Editor's Note

 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery


 Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in









   about us              back-issues           contact us         search             data bank


  craft shop

print gallery




Isidore Domnick Mendis


cello-1.jpg (41786 bytes)
Saskia: "I would like to be remembered as someone who created a place for the cello in the Indian classical music."

Saskia's musical journey began in Amsterdam under the guidance of the late cello virtuoso Tibor de Machula. Today she is the only artist in the world who has adapted this western instrument to Indian music and her performances usually end with standing ovations.

Cello, the bass member of the violin family and Indian classical music are as apart as Delhi and Amsterdam. But in Saskia's hands the two worlds come together in an undulating musical fusion.

Ever since she was a little kid living in Amsterdam Saskia grew up listening to the soft strains of the cello, which her grandfather played. By eight when most young girls play with dolls, Saskia began her own musical journey under the guidance of the late cello virtuoso Tibor de Machula.

While doing a course in ethnomusicology at the Amsterdam University she happened to attend a session of north Indian classical music. " It was like a powerful magnet and it pulled me towards it. I suddenly felt the urge to create Indian music on the cello," says the Dutch woman who was recently on one of her frequent visits to Delhi.

She enrolled as a student at the Conservatory of Rotterdam, which had two eminent Indians as visiting professors---Koustav Ray and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. During her subsequent visits to India she also studied under well-known gurus like Dr. Sumati Mutatkar, Pandit D.K. Datar and Deepak Chowdhury.

cello-2.jpg (46935 bytes)Saskia’s love for north Indian classical music was permanently cemented when she married Shubhendra Rao, a protégé of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar. " Things have been considerably simplified. I learn the finer intricacies of Indian music from my husband," says the musician who now goes by the name of Saskia Rao-de Haas. The two first met in 1994 in Delhi. Subsequently, when she started to come to India or when Shubendra was on a tour of Europe he would take a few days off and meet her in Amsterdam. " We were good friends for five years with mutual respect for each others passion for music," recollects Shubendra who has performed at some of the most prestigious venues of the world and has released a solo album Fulfilment. He has also done another album A Journey Together with noted sarod player Partho Sarathy.

Incidentally, cello is also one of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s most loved instruments. Says Shubendra, " When he came to know of our decision to marry, Pandit Ravi Shankar told me I was marrying someone who played his favourite musical instrument."

The first thing Saskia did after marriage was to adapt the cello to north Indian classical music. The new cello has five playing strings and ten resonant strings whereas a normal cello has four playing strings and no resonant strings. Secondly, the size is a bit smaller.

Musical Traditions

In addition to their solo careers, Saskia and Shubhendra do their own compositions based on different Indian and Western musical traditions when they perform together.

" Our music is different from pure Indian classical music. The cello and sitar have never combined like the way we are doing it. Secondly, our compositions are based on folk music of different regions of India and Europe. That's why our music appeals to all type of people," says Shubhendra whose famous sitarist father N. R. Rama Rao was also a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Recently the couple performed in Delhi and the response was overwhelming. Such was the stirring performance that many in the audience were moved to tears.

Saskia's schedule is chockfull with performances in India and in Europe. Her varied experiences also include collaborations with South Indian musicians as well as Klezmer, Flamenco and other European folk musicians. She has conducted workshops and lecture-demonstrations at universities and conservatories in Holland.

" Cello is one of the most important musical instruments in western classical music. In every jazz and symphony orchestra cello plays a very vital role. Violin, viola, cello and double bass make the complete family of violin," Says Saskia.

Like other Indian classical musicians, Saskia is keen to introduce cello to Indian films. But before any Bollywood producer responds, the two are going on a trans-Atlantic tour and are also releasing a joint album.

Saskia says she is not a fusion artist who is bringing Western and Indian classical music together. " I am simply playing Indian music with cello. I have tried to adapt a western classical instrument to Indian music. I would like to be remembered as someone who created a place for the cello in the Indian classical music."




Copyright © 2000 - 2003 []. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.