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TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 01, 2004 05:24 a.m.

I am curious to hear people's thoughts and understanding on some of the more traditional ways of learning sitar from a guru, where it is done without pay, and how that tends to work now days, eventhough it is rare.
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 03, 2004 07:44 a.m.

rgrs (May 01, 2004 05:24 a.m.):
I am curious to hear people's thoughts and understanding on some of the more traditional ways of learning sitar from a guru, where it is done without pay, and how that tends to work now days, eventhough it is rare.

I think it was something like indentured servitude, or a form of slavery which is REALLY rare now days.



Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 08, 2004 08:12 a.m.

Nothing in life is free !! Living in India has driven that point home harder than anything in my life. The Guru-Shishya relationship is life in a dysfunctional family. If you do get in, you do become a slave. You will always be looked at as a "ferengi" (foreigner) and at best will be thrown a few bones of knowledge on occasion when it suits the "Guru" or high ranking family members. You will have to steal info any way you can and file it away. Introductions will be an embarrasment. Your ranking will be right along with the servants. If you do make a favorable impression, you get promoted - a little, but always look out for the others within the fold. You will be set up to get booted back down into your place. Best bet - established schools like UCSD, UCLA, Cal Arts-Valencia where it is a cash for lessons arraingement. It's business and now you get what you pay for. Take advantage of this. The teachers are excellent and if you have the chops and gusto to really advance in your playing, you will get your expected returns. Forget going to India and getting rectalated by the "Guru" fantasy. That's a family thing and any "gauri, ferengi, gringo sahib" that dares to intrude is going to get burned to a cinder! I speak from past experience. Cheers! Tony Karasek
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 20, 2004 05:31 a.m.

Hi sitarfixer,

What is your experience with studying sitar in India then? I am curious because I also am thinking of going to study sitar for 3 to 6 months in India some day. If you have of teacher in your own country who can recommend someone in India there should be no problems I guess? It seems you have a bad experience in this. Please let me know.

Keshav Das
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 20, 2004 09:01 a.m.

"Forget going to India and getting rectalated by the "Guru" fantasy."
My experience exactly. . . no matter how long you know folks in India - there is always a gap that can't be really entirely bridged. I suspect that we (Angezes) are 50% responsible for that because of cultural biases of our own - no matter how much we like to tell ourselves that we don't have 'em. BTW - just out of curiousity, I can infer by reason, but please tell me what precisely does "rectalated" mean? It sounds like a crude form of colon therapy.
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 20, 2004 11:31 a.m.

I know a very good tabla/pankawaj player that goes to India to study for a few weeks every 4-5 months. He has had nothing but good experiences. I don't know if he deals in the classic guru/shishya or simply pays for his lessons.

One question: aap hindi mai bol sactha hain?

Speaking the language may help close the gap....but then again maybe not. I know that Amos(tabla player) speaks it fluently.


Keshav Das
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 21, 2004 08:26 a.m.

Speaking the language helps, but even so . . . it's not enough. I don't think anyone here is trying to say that you can't enjoy a satisfying learning experience in India - but the truth is that no matter how well you speak Hindi and even compose poetry in Urdu - you will always be an outsider. I have friends who have married into Indian families and after 20 years - are never entirely accepted.
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 21, 2004 10:03 a.m.

I am actually married into an Indian family and unless her whole family fooling my wife and I, they have been really accepting. But then again, none of them are ICM gurus

I think you are right, in that, there will always be a protective ring around the music and culture that a 'ferengi' will never fully break through

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 21, 2004 01:07 p.m.

I have friends who have family and grew up in Kolkata, moved away, and ten years later tell me they feel like foreigners now whenever they go back to visit.


Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 21, 2004 05:37 p.m.

What all these guys say is 100% truth.......if you don't have the bucks to pony up, welp buddy, yer just shit outta luck...........!

Now I've been lucky to have several friends scattered all about this planet who have helped me immensely with various things, I was going thru hell getting my sitar tuned and just having a nightmare with breaking taribs when I got brave enough to actually start picking it up and making an attempt to play it (you should see all the cut loops hanging off the end of my instrument, good thing I had plenty of spares), until a very good and kind soul from the UK I'd met stepped in and spent time showing me EXACTLY why this was happening and giving me a good solid set of instructions for tuning, that made ALL the difference in the world.......!
(God bless that man! Good people, is he! Altho he really does have what would be considered a true Guru-Shishya relationship based in Banares, but then he lived there for well over 20 years and loved it with all his heart........but he started with that several decades ago, as well.........not quite like nowadays)

Most of the people I've met have been just average joe's with not much money to their credit either, but they have been incredibly kind, supportive, and helpful...........but I think no matter what (unless you were lucky enough to be born into an enviorment where this music/instruments were a part of your life), you will eventually have to find a "real" teacher......
And that's gonna cost a few shekels..........
How much? I couldn't even begin to tell you, have NO idea........probably varies?

Uncle Ken, knowing that I am on a VERY limited income has suggested checking to see if there are any Hindu temples in my area, I may well be able to find someone to help me learn that I can afford (even one lesson a month would be better than none, I think that's likely all I could afford, and I have a pretty bad situation with my back too, which has recently worsened creating more problems for me..........but once a month would work I think and most certainly be better than NOTHING........!)

Anyways, it seems a reasonable place to at least find if there's anyone who would be willing to teach me and find out just what it could cost (and I'm pretty sure that may vary a great deal, as well.........but I honestly don't really know)

One way or another, it's gonna cost get that straight right from the start, just a fact of life.........

But also be willing to reach out to the many sitarists scattered about this planet and give a listen to what they can share with read read and read some more, listen to EVERYTHING you can, especially the "greats", watch video if you have any opportunity, bounce ideas about things off your friends/compatriots and don't give up.........if you love this music and unique sound, eventually you will find someone to help you.............and hopefully not just to supplement their income...........!

Save the Guru-Shishya stuff for Hollywood ; )
That's a joke

Good luck in your endeavors!

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 22, 2004 03:21 a.m.

Hi sitar friends,

Sitarfixer said:

The Guru-Shishya relationship is life in a dysfunctional family. If you do get in, you do become a slave. You will always be looked at as a "ferengi" (foreigner) and at best will be thrown a few bones of knowledge on occasion when it suits the "Guru" or high ranking family members. You will have to steal info any way you can and file it away. Introductions will be an embarrasment. Your ranking will be right along with the servants. If you do make a favorable impression, you get promoted - a little, but always look out for the others within the fold. You will be set up to get booted back down into your place.

I went to India in a Guru-disciple relationship. In general, 'Guru' means "teacher", the second definition. But the first one, which is more rare nowadays, 'Guru' is the name of the state of a self-realized person who lives in the 'ukar gat', the inner sound 'U', the sound of the beginning and before. This state is the full bliss, peace and no desire, the highest state a human can reach while keeping his/her own body. Beyond that, it is the Samadi which becomes permanent when the Guru leaves his/her body.

The Guru-Shishya relationship described here is way different than the self-realized Guru-disciple relationship. The self-realized Guru, who can stay in a permanent Samadi anytime, leaves the Samadi state to come down to the Guru state just for those who want guidance to get there too. Having no wordily desire, not even having us as disciples, the self-realized Guru accept our devotion just because it lift up our vibrations, our state, while making our ego powerless. That is way different than slavery, cause no one is obligated to do any devotional services.

But all of you are right concerning the attitude of the Indians towards "Ferengies". No need to go that far to ascertain what is going on in our own neighborhood, work, school, etc. We all are human beings more or less in a state which make us dislike "Ferengies".

When I was in India at a self-realized Guru's Ashram (monastery), we, the westerners, made sure to established an equal-equal human relationship with the Indians servants (who were paid) and with whoever came to visit the Ashram and that nobody were slaves over there. Some locals tried to gossip that we were invading their sanctuary and steeling their Guru. But in no time, they and us understood that we were only plain ordinary disciples, 'Gurubais' brother & sisters.

BTW Tony Karasek, did you get my email: "Wonder if you received my letter" ? Maybe I don't have the right email address. Would you please send me a line at . Thanks.

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 23, 2004 06:08 a.m.

Hi again sitar friends,

There is some hope for those like barend who wants to study sitar for 3 to 6 months in India some day. I don't think the greatest ambassador of sitar and ICM would tolerate any slavery and "Ferengi" attitude. Quote from

The Ravi Shankar Foundation hopes to create an atmosphere where very few extremely talented and hardworking students will be introduced to the age old traditions of the Gurukul System of learning, along with modern facilities, where they will live, practice and breathe in the aura of music under the guidance of the Guru.

An educational arm of the center will include a scholarship program and an outreach program to encourage students to explore world music and performing arts. Cultural leaders, scholars, scientists and creative artists in the field of music, dance, drama, art and literature will be invited to participate in the exchange of ideas and collaborative effort to expand the movement towards multicultural art.

Contact The Ravi Shankar Foundation at:
132 El Camino Real, Suite 316
Encinitas, CA 92024

That will probably set the standard of the Gurukul System of learning in this modern and multicultural century.

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 23, 2004 03:04 p.m.

The guru shishya parampara is very much alive here in india
and there are still great teachers... provided your a a worthy enough student (this is the most imp aspect)
the guru shishya parampara...some one said here its like slavery.....thats just bullshit
this term is associated with love and respect..and worshipping of music.....
some of the people here think music can be bought ......thats a real shame really...
there is a great term and a thing called "SANSAKAR"
read about this term and then you might understand what a teacher will give oyu other than music
your riyaz are the best fees to pay a teacher .......
but the most imp thing is are you worthy enough for such love and music....
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 24, 2004 12:48 a.m.

"Worthy" or not you still have to pay something. I'm not aware of any current teachers or gurus of note who will take students or disciples for free or for "riyaaz". Which is ok as long as the terms in money or otherwise is mutually agreed upon in advance.


Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 24, 2004 02:23 a.m.

Hi all,
I have been reading all the posts on this specific topic.
I am in india and have had the pleasure of learning Tabla under some great teachers. Some paid and one last under the Guru Shishya Parampara.
What my experience says is that my Guru now is a much better person and a more open Tabla teacher than the ones i used to learn from. He does not think that i am a slave and to be very honest, at this time of more open and advanced world, i would'nt be it either. Though i respect him and he respects me.
The unfortunate part in India is that if your teacher is a well-to-do financially person, he would not mind teaching you even for free, but if he is someone working for All India Radio and getting a salary of $100 a month, then perhaps you can expect him to be slightly greedy and looking for something from you always, be it cash or otherwise. I remember a few years back when i was very interested in learning Sarod from the Best Sarod Player in India. (Name not disclosed-though not difficult to guess) Luckily, i had links that could take me to him, but a student who had already learnt from him told me that he does not charge any fee, however i would need to be a sort of supplier of his kitchen items regularly. And even after this, you will not get what you expect him to give you because this thing is a family tradition and is not allowed to go out of it in a whole.
My current Tabla teacher has two daughters right now, so he is very open to all the questions i have about my lessons or tabla syllables.
Most of the Western Musicians who are on top in their respective fields, did not go through this Guru-Shishya tradition, even then they are one of the best, and there are people in India who have learnt all their lives from their Gurus under this tradition are nowhere near the status they should have been. You can easily take the examples as:
Shiv Kumar Sharma - Son - Rahul Sharma ( No other well known Student)
Ravi Shankar - Daughter - Anushka Shankar (No other well known Student)
Alla Rakha -Son- Zakir Hussein (No other well known student of that level)
Amjad Ali Khan - Sons-Amaan & Ayaan (No other well known student)

There are many more examples
So my personal experience only sum it upto that this tradition is more a waste of time then really something one should persue to become a good artist.

Now i expect some bashing for myself soon here.... hehehe..


Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 24, 2004 06:13 p.m.

dear student
you seem to be under the impression that the teachers teach their sons and family members only.......
students of ravi shankar
1) ronu muzumdar (flute)
2) vishwa mohan bhat (guitar)(grammy to his name too)
3) partha saraty( sarode)
4)subendra rao( sitar)
5)gaurav majumdar (sitar)

students of shivji
1)satish vyas (santoor) recently awarded padamashree
2) dhananjay dhaithankar( santoor) very well reputed santoor player
3)abhijeet pohankar(key boards) a good player
4)adnam sami(everything,,,,haha)

students of jasraj
1)kala ramnath( violin)
2) sonu nigam (vocal film music)
3)sanjeev abhayankar(vocal)
4)kavita krishna murti(vocal film music)
5)sadhana sargam(vocal)
how do you think sanjeev was taught?....i hope you have some insight into sanjeevs traning under panditji
..dear student
your learning tabla...
what do you think of suresh talvalkar?..look at the contributaion he is giving and for free..really..
we have good players like ramdas palsule and vijay ghate given by him...and huge i mean huge number of great tabla players yet to come from him....
talking of allah rakha
whos student do you think YOGESH SAMSI is?
itsent he good enough?
what about young guys zakirji is traning ?
what about aditya? he is a good player

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 25, 2004 02:29 a.m.

Hi Kedar,
I knew something was coming.
you can name hundreds of students or shishyas of the famous maestros you have refered here. But can you name an artist of the same calibre of their guru. all the students you have mentioned here are well known to the community, but is anyone out of these as good as their teacher.

Satish vyas is a very good santoor player, but is he as good as Rahul Sharma.
Alla Rakhas shishya you named may be very very gud, but is he close to Zakir.
No because partiallity is family tradition still stands. And forget about an 'Angrez' learning in India as an Indian student would.
A senior violin player in India i know was learning from his guru a long time back. (about 30years ago) In the beginning everything was ok. But one day the student was playng the violin with his guru in the music room. The gurus wife came in and was shocked to see that the student was playing the violin same as her guru. She complimented: You play exactly like your guru now... you are becoming very good at it... that was the last day that guru taught the shishya... this is no story... i still know that man who later started playing western violin and now lives abroad playing western style violin and teaching in a big institution.

You may have had good experiences with your guru's if you are a musician, however not everyone has had this.

I totally agree to Tony about his remarks, being an indian myself, i have been frustrated with many teachers here. Let me tell you another incident... i will name the teacher as well here.. his name is Allaudin Khan. He plays Israj in All India Radio.
About 9 years ago i had met him in a studio in delhi. I used to play a little dilruba then. I requested him to teach me. The answer came: This is not a kids play, you have to born with the talent. (For your information, i had never learnt the dilruba, but i used to play in may big gatherings. Now if this is not born talent. I dont know what is.) And finally he refused. A few years later, he met me in another studio introducing me to his son and telling me that he was a born artist. Very Talented. Just because that idiot was his son..

You can give me a book of list of the students of various artists, but this is what you see from outside. A student only can achieve what he wants by stealing from his guru. I dont think a traditional musician would give anything out of his family.

Please note to all: these are my personal views and experiences and i am not criticising the Guru-Shishya parampara. If someone is happy with this, it is well & good. Best of luck to all...

Still only an Amateur Student.

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 25, 2004 10:27 a.m.

it sounds like there is a tremendous degree of protectionism, ego and pride that gets in the way. That is too bad. The greatest players are not always the greatest teachers...

I think Tony K. is right that the best path to study is at music schools like AACM in Cali. or a teacher OUTSIDE of India.

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 25, 2004 04:32 p.m.

hi student
i am not saying all the teachers in india are great ..
but there are some people i know who pour thier hearts in teaching their students and ask for nothing in return
apart from shaidji i also have the blessings and love from
V.G> Karnad (student of pannalal gosh of mahir gharana)
his view.. is panna babu taught him for free and expected the three D's (dedication devotion and dicipline )
and he is now doing the same to me and few others
there are many examples i can give you
for instance sayeuddin dagar here in pune has opened his heart and music for people and askes nothing in return ...(be it a indain or a foreigner)apart from the three D's ofcourse
Uday bhavalkar(dhrupad) is teaching a few blind kids and they i am sure will be really good singers in the future
i also feel that to indain classical comes from its culture and to spend time in india is mandatory if you really want to get to the root of music
ali akbar college is a good place to learn there is no doubt about that but its not the only place
Pandit Bhimsen joshi has opened a institue here in pune and some big IT companies have given scolarships to young kids and they will be trained in this institute......
i far as i know there are no tution fees in this institue
now saying a foreigner cannout learn and become as good as a indian is also highly debatable
Ken Zuckerman is a very good sarode player to come from ali akbar khan college......
Allen myers is also good
Talking of Bhimsen joshi......
bhimsenjis son shriniwas joshi is nowhere near
why is that?......
After listeing to rahul sharma at this years swai
satish vyas is way better player than rahul
how come uday bhavalkar is better than many of the new generation dagars?
why is sujaad not as good as vilayat khan?
i think after a certain point it comes down to the person himself and the family background dosent really matter

Warmest of reguards
yours kedar
Ps: which part of india are you from student?
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 28, 2004 03:38 p.m.

Interesting discussion... kedar has a good point, just because one's father is great has no bearing whatsoever on their own talent. Especially in the case where they without fail mention that "I am different from my father" as an excuse to take his name and use his legacy to further their own career. I don't want to mention names but he teaches at a huge public institution and openly shunned students who were quite dedicated but not up to his lofty expectations, and also dismissed those whom he thought were too serious to put up with his bad jokes and flirting with female students. It's quite sad actually, the music is of no importance to some of these so-called teachers anymore. Be very picky about finding a good relationship with your teacher, they must truly be concerned for your progress otherwise you might as well learn from a video or a book.

As far as my experience goes a truly great teacher will see the potential and dedication in any student, regardless of ethnicity/origin or financial status. For those of us who cannot practically dedicate our daily lives to the music, we have to settle with paying for lessons... I have no plans to become a performer though I still study seriously and I am happy to support my teacher. just my dos centavos.


Keshav Das
Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 28, 2004 09:43 p.m.

"I think you are right, in that, there will always be a protective ring around the music and culture that a 'ferengi' will never fully break through"

Hi Jay,
I understand where you're coming from. I have an "Indian Family" in Agra and I know fer sure they love me to pieces. I almost married one of the daughters. But - when it comes to the arts end of things - Indians are really (for lack of a more accurate word) possessive of the culture and there always seems to be at least one degee of seperation in these circumstances. There are some rare exceptions like Bansuri-wallah Steve Gorn - but that exception is based at least 50% on the fact that Steve is truly an exceptional human being.

Re:TRADITIONAL LEARNING May 29, 2004 01:22 a.m.

Well shucks.......this has been a very interesting topic/exchange.........when getting into the subject of human beings and their various cultures, attitudes, and beliefs, they are as varied as the number of stars in the sky.......

There will always be self serving negative egotisical butthead takers just as much as there will be loving devoted positive sincere and giving beings......and quite a few variations in between.........
Thinking about various spiritual/religious leaders (politicians, too) brings this point home to me quite clearly........... never know if yer gonna get lucky or nut, ie, be the windshield or the bug........
All one can do is hang on to one's hope's and dreams and keep trying one's best to pursue those things that one loves.......or marvels over.....or is enraptured with.........or all of the above (speaking of ICM here)

It's a crazy damn world, that's for sure, it's not an existance, it's an adventure......sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse......

But irregardless, keep the Stones said, "you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you'll get what ya need"

Fascinating topic though!
See ya round like a rupee!
(are they round? heheh)
AJ : )

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