March 2014 saw Varanasi turn into a political hotbed with Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and AAP leader, Arvind Kejriwal choosing it as their arena for the final political bout. But despite all the political heat, in one quiet part of Varanasi, in a small Yoga Ashram on Assi Ghat, divine sounds were being created. Naad Yatra was having the first of its kind musical retreat from 24th to 28th March, 2014.
The brainchild of Sanjeev Jha & Sangeeta chopra, students of Padmashri Gundecha brothers, Naad Yatra has been setup to provide interested listeners of Indian classical music with an opportunity to take a musical break. A person simply needs to enjoy Indian classical music to be a participant of Naad Yatra. It is aimed to improve understanding of Indian music and the experience of listening to Indian music.
Varanasi was chosen as the first destination given its rich heritage of music, culture, vibrancy and for its interest to Indians and foreigners alike. This retreat had seven participants from different parts of India – Chennai, New Delhi, Raipur, Kolkata. All strangers at first but close friends by the end of the five days, the group had a blast exploring Naad (sound).
The day revolved around sound & music. Starting with a ‘Naad Dhyan’ session at 5.30am, the participants started their day by meditating on sound for about an hour till sunrise. In the next session, the participants explored other swaras in the octave and tuned their ears to hear and recreate the sounds. The interest and dedication of the participants was amazing even though none of them were currently pursuing music. The session after Lunch introduced the participants to the application of the swaras in a composition. Finally, every evening ended with a live concert setup especially for these ‘Naad Yatris’ that included local artists from the Banaras Gharana.
We were blessed to have our Gurus, the Gundecha Brothers, partner with us to conduct the inaugural workshops and perform the first concert! Gurujis never fail to enthrall their audience and students, needless to say, their time at Naad Yatra was enriching and enlightening. It was a bonus for the participants to spend informal time with reputed artists like them. The learning went far beyond just music.
The participants had very positive things to say about their experience as Naad Yatris…they loved the format of the programme, the simplicity of the approach to understanding music, the one-on-one attention given to each person, they found the integration of music with life lessons interesting, the fact that ‘anybody can sing’ was a revelation & reassuring for many, the cordial, comfortable environment of being one big family added to the fun & joy!
Pondicherry, Chennai, Kolkata, Gwalior….we are preparing for our next Naad Yatra!
Sanjeev Jha & Sangeeta Chopra