George Ruckert and Swapan Chaudhuri
I had the pleasure of attending a sarod concert with MIT Professor George Ruckert on sarod, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri on tabla, and Gretchen Hayden on tanpura. Ruckert is a performer, composer, author, and teacher with an extensive background in Western and Indian classical music. As a senior lecturer at MIT, he teaches Indian, Western, and World music and performs on the sarod. His Music of India class affectionately refers to him as “Georgeji” (Indians use the suffix “ji” while addressing elders).
Georgeji began the concert with Raga Madhuvanti (“raga” is derived from the Sanskrit “raga” which means “color or passion”). Georgeji, who received his training from the legendary sarod master Ali Akbar Khan, emphatically performed the raga on his sarod, a beautiful twenty-five stringed Indian instrument.
His rendition of Raga Madhuvanti consisted of various musical forms -- alaap, jor, and gats. At the onset of a gat, Swapanji gracefully introduced the 16-beat teental. Georgeji ended with a colorful composition in Raga Maaj Khamaj. His rendition featured an impressive tabla solo by Swapanji, one of the world’s greatest tabla players.
Georgeji and Swapan Chaudhuri’s concert reminded me of a quote from American composer Michael Robinson: “The raga form has the same potential to become a universal musical form. That is why it is possible for a non-Indian to find a new path within this resplendent musical form, with the only limitation being one’s self.”
MITHAS (MIT Heritage for the Arts of South Asia) and Sangam co-sponsored the concert. MITHAS, which functions as a part of the MIT Section of Music and Theatre Arts, is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing performing artists of quality and depth to MIT and the surrounding community.
Prior to the performance, Sangam announced its “Sangam Arts Initiative” for promoting the visual and performing arts at MIT and in the greater Boston area.