Dutch citizen and musician Saskia Raode Haas made a unique contribution to Indian classical music by designing the ‘Indian Cello’. It’s a Cello with five main strings and ten sympathetic strings, which add the needed flexibility to perform the traditional Indian classical music.
The musician was in Hyderabad on Friday to perform with her husband Shubhendra Rao and flautist Rupak Kulkarni in a musical trio of cello, sitar and flute at the MCRHRD Institute as a part of the Pandit Chaturlal Memorial Concert.
The evening began with Saskia, Shubhendra and Rupak rendering a composition in raga maru bihag. The trio was accompanied on the tabla by Pranshu Chatur Lal. The concert, which concluded with a folk music composition in raga desh, was filled with music connoisseurs and a huge contingent of school students who were seen clearly enjoying the musical renditions.
Finding the Indian in her
Saskia’s connect with India classical music began under flute maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia at the Rotterdam Conservatory in Netherlands. She then came to New Delhi to take advanced music lessons and stayed on in the city for five years. There, through common friends, she met Shubhendra Rao, a disciple of sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar. Saskia discovered that both she and Shubhendra shared a strong passion for music, and over many subsequent meetings with their friends, the duo bonded for life.
While Shubhendra believes music teaches patience and makes us sensitive to the world around us, Saskia found in it the grace that guided to making the Indian Cello. “I think music brings together humility and grace in life. When I was practicing music with my guru Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, I would sit on the chair with my big western Cello when my guru would be sitting on the floor. So, I began working towards creating a smaller version of the instrument and, thus, was born the ‘Indian Cello’,” explains Saskia.
Learning through music
Saskia, who’s travelled around the world, feels India needs more world class facilities. “Talk about her connection with Hyderabad and the musician-who’s been visiting Hyderabad for many years-says she’s always enjoyed performing for the audience in the city. “We never have to rush through a concert in this city. The audience enjoys every minute of the music at the pace with which we develop our music,” she adds. So how is it for the couple to share the stage, we wonder. “Saskia is an Indian at art and heart. And it’s always nice to share the stage with her. Then again, I also think that it is all about the wavelength of working with one another. And both Saskia and I staunchly believe that each musician should aim to uplift the other. It’s not about trying to show off individual skills,” chips in Shubhendra.