Carnatic music in the digital age: e-learning is hitting the right note

See the original article in The Hindu
Classical music has taken to technology effortlessly, with apps and web tutorials proving a hit, Sathya Devi (29), a researcher who settled down in the city five years ago, used to travel 10 km in peak traffic twice a week to learn the veena. Twenty-year-old M. Chidananda, a biotechnology engineering student who loves Indian classical music, used to miss out on his music classes owing to time constraints. But not anymore, for both have now switched to learning music online.
Indian classical music has taken to technology like a duck to water, with apps, web tutorials and online schools now popular. Most of them have lesson plans and detailed instructions, and some even use Skype and other video-chat services.
E-learning gives students the luxury of learning from the comfort of their homes at a time of their choosing. “The ingenuity of the teaching methods that websites and online schools use is simply mind-boggling,” says Pranesh Rao, who works with a courier company in Bengaluru. He uses a software product called ‘Guru Swara’ that provides vocal lessons for both beginners and advanced students. “With no access to a teacher at a suitable time, my friend in Hyderabad suggested that I buy Guru Swara, which has helped me learn 24 kritis in just one year. There are innovative ways of learning…one can analyse a single raga brought about in a geethe, varna, kriti or even a lighter piece such as a devaranama or tillana, for its structuring,” Mr. Rao says.
Changing view
According to this generation of music students, technology has intervened to replace the long-established gurukulavasa, which is known for ‘learning in entirety’. E-learning has its fair share of critics who feel that instruction in Indian classical music is best done in the traditional manner.
But working professionals, especially new learners, are finding the online route more compatible with their hectic schedules.
One of the foremost websites in this field is Acharyanet.com, launched in 2009. “Basic lessons and nearly 250 kritis available on the website can be streamed,” says city-based Sowmya Acharya, the founder of Acharyanet. With nearly a dozen established names in Carnatic music available as gurus, Acharyanet also offers content lessons, from basic to advanced levels.
Incidentally, Ms. Sowmya founded Acharyanet after learning music from her guru using Skype. While working in California, she took advanced Carnatic lessons from Chitraveena teacher Narasimhan. “In a few years, I started Acharyanet as a referral service for students to find the right gurus,” she says.
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