with several institutions offering courses, especially the world music department of the Rotterdam Conservatory.
The Rotterdam Conservatory
Forty-four years after she settled in Holland, Darshan’s love for her music remains undiluted. “Indian classical music is deep rooted in Holland. It will always survive but it is difficult to say to what extent. We used to have many more sold-out concerts earlier. Besides us (Stichting NAAD or the NAAD Foundation established by her and tabla player Sandip Bhattacharya) many other teachers and organisations are also doing their best to promote Indian classical music.” NAAD has successfully organised many concerts in Holland, including an unforgettable performance by Zakir Hussain. More are in the offing by artists like Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Anoushka Shankar.
Amsterdam's Royal Tropical Institute is a centre for the study of foreign cultures IMAGE GerardM/Wikimedia Commons
Has she experimented with bringing together Dutch and Indian music? “I have played several times with Dutch musicians. We will choose an easy scale which will not have difficult rules. All will follow a fixed composition in this particular scale and have freedom to improvise. It has turned out to be a great success.” She believes Indian music has had an impact on her students’ creative sensibilities. “I could clearly hear the influence of Indian music in some of the new pieces composed by students who studied sitar under me. Several Dutch students are learning Indian music;
sometimes they even go to India to study further. That makes me very happy."
NOTES IN CONTRAST
How do the two musical forms compare? Paul de Swart, Darshan’s student and a choir singer of religious 16th century music, has found similarities in the old monastic compositions and Indian classical music. ”There are some very strict rules in both but Indian music is more individual. Somehow, Indian music evokes a kind of longing which I carry with me for a few days.” Monique Udo, experienced saxophone player, throws another perspective. ” I started learning sitar when I was stuck in Varanasi for a few weeks. The lessons were a perfect way to get more familiar with Indian music. For me the main difference between western and Indian classical music is that the latter lacks the feature of harmony. Western classical music, on the other hand, lacks allowance for improvisation. Indian classical music makes use of a limited pallet of colours (instruments) whereas western music uses many different instrumentations. Indian instruments, however, have a very rich pallet of tone colours compared to most western instruments.”
Paul de Swart is an accomplished western musician, and an aficionado of Indian music
Darshan Kumari does not only offer sitar playing and Hindi classes but also broadens the understanding of Indian classical music and culture. Though music is the main topic of discussion, conversations between Darshan and her students often wander into yoga, spirituality, Indian food, ayurveda, language, etc. Most of her students are Dutch with previous experience in European music.
So the stille kracht in Darshan is the power of Indian classical music. But she would probably argue and say that the power lies in the love of music. And that is precisely what I felt in that small apartment on the corner of the sixth floor. As Remco, one of her students says, “In the end everybody who makes music sincerely tries to explore themselves in a certain way. It does not matter where on Earth she or he comes from.”