This week we took a moment to ask a few questions to our 1000 Like Giveaway winner, Mr. Aakash Saha
Mr. Saha is a classical guitarist based in Calcutta, India.
He is the Artistic Director at the Calcutta International Guitar Festival, and the founder of the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society! He had some incredibly insightful comments and resources, and we hope you enjoy the interview!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your passion for guitar?
I am 25 years old and I was born and brought up in the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in the Eastern part of India. At age of 12 I developed an interest in guitar and I started learning it locally with whatever resources that were available here. After I graduated from high school I decided that I wanted to pursue classical guitar as a career and my family supported my decision.
I auditioned, got admitted with scholarship and started studying at the studio of Denis Azabagic at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University. I completed my Bachelor of music in 2015 and return to India to start my career in classical guitar performing and teaching. Since then, it has been a journey of discovery and further learning of the instrument that I consider my greatest passion.
You run a guitar society- in Kolkata! Can you tell us more about that?
In 2009, along with a team of dedicated classical guitarists, I helped establish the Calcutta Classical Guitar Society. The society was formed to develop and promote the instrument in the city. Classical Guitar is not a very well known instrument here in India. And getting access to high-quality concerts and teachers was very rare, almost impossible.
The first thing we did was to host a guitar festival the following December based on the format of any international festival of this nature.
The Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival & Competition 2010 had over 20 performing artsites and attracted guitarists from over 50 countries to our city.
The students here received exposure to the highest form of the art, masterclasses from the very best pedagogues for classical guitar, and understanding of what it takes to be a professional musician.
We will now be in our 8th edition for this festival and over the years we have had maestroes such as David Russell, Roland Dyens, Nikita Koshkin, Pavel Steidl, Denis Azabagic, Marcin Dylla, Gabriel Bianco, Johannes Moller, Jose Antonio Escobar, Javier Contreras, Judicael Perroy, Jeremy Jouve to name a few.
While the festival is the highlight of our year, we also promote the guitar and work with an active classical guitar community during the other months too. We invite musicians down for workshops with the students here.
In 2015, we thought of enabling guitarists in other part of the country to form such societies, and we were instrumental in creating the Indian Guitar Federation. This is a network of such societies that connects classical guitarists across the country.
We now have guitarists all over India – from Nagaland, Shillong, Manipur to Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Goa, Darjeeling and of course Kolkata -connected with the common goal of developing and promoting classical guitar.
You are amongst a few lucky students of Maestro Denis Azabagic! How do you think the internet could enable greater access to artists such as Maestro Azabagic?
I remember my first few years of learning classical guitar before 2010; in those days online instructions/masterclasses was not available and best one could do was to emulate YouTube videos. From my personal experience I can vouch that something like tonebase is a boon for classical guitar students who live in countries where classical guitar teaching and instruction at international standards are not available.
There are tonnes of online instructional video websites for electric guitar and steel string acoustic guitars but this is a first for classical guitar and we are all very excited that its finally here
How did you hear about tonebase, and what has been your favorite part about it? What would you most like to see on our site?
tonebase came up on my Facebook wall when Denis shared a video of himself talking about tonebase. I became intrigued and immediately visited the website. One of the best parts about tonebase is that the instructions are very intimate; it doesn’t feel like a studio set up. It has a very personal touch to it like the artists conducting the classes in their own living room.
This immediately reduces the distance between student and teacher. It makes you feel that you’ve already met the maestro and know him well.
When I first met Denis, I was in awe of him and it took a little while before I got used to having him as a teacher and not a star on stage.
Because of the nature of the videos on tonebase, it’s much less intimidating for the students and very easy for them to get right down to learning.
Are there any other resources for aspiring guitarists that you know of, or enjoy using?
Before our first festival in India, we reached out to the international community for advice, guidance, sheet music and other resources through forums like Delcamp.
After 2010, the students in India met several great musicians and many of them accepted requests for friendship on Facebook. Because of this, it’s now possible for many of us here to approach the guitarists we admire and ask for help or guidance. And often they do reply!
Of course, this is not at all the same as a structured course, but for smaller issues or technical questions or even access to sheet music, this is a great way of getting a little help.