Josh Feinberg will also perform in Pune, Goa, Gangtok and Dubai this month
Josh Feinberg will also perform in Pune, Goa, Gangtok and Dubai this month

Few royal residences in India could be imagined without the rich sound of ragas flowing through them. Connoisseurs of Indian Classical music, nobles and royals often hosted artistes in their homes, where intimate concerts formed an important cultural tradition. But as the era of royalty ended, and with the advent of theatres and proscenium stages, these baithaks as they were called, faded away.

A baithak session in progress
A baithak session in progress

As part of an initiative to revive this tradition, music lovers of Mumbai can attend one such baithak tonight, where acclaimed US-based sitarist Josh Feinberg will share his insight into the Maihar Gharana through an interactive performance. To be held at a private bungalow in Malabar Hill, the baithak will see Feinberg present a traditional Hindustani sitar recital with Ariff Khan on the tabla.

Feinberg, who started learning Western Classical music and Jazz when he was four, was introduced to the sitar as a 12-year-old. The music of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Nikhil Banerjee made a lasting impression on him. Feinberg became a student of Khan in 2004 and continued learning from him at his music school in California until the virtuoso passed away in 2009. “The sitar’s elegance and grace drew me to it. Hindustani Classical music is beautiful, deep, complex, and offers scope for improvisation. It is one of the great music traditions of the world,” shares the artiste, who tours the US, Canada, India and Europe.

“I grew without much exposure to Indian Classical music and got introduced to it only when I started learning Kathak from Pandit Chitresh Das. When I moved to India and began teaching the dance form here, I realised the students weren’t exposed to Classical music either. I wanted to change that,” says Seema Mehta, Kathak artiste and director of Chhandam Nritya Bharati, organisers of the baithak. The baithak series - with the aim to host one gathering every quarter - began in 2014, and was initially for the dance school’s students and their parents. It’s popularity grew as more music lovers heard of it.

Feinberg summarises the idea, “I like both situations. At a concert, the audience is far away that it allows the musician to get immersed in his music. In a baithak, there is a direct connection with the audience. The musician derives energy from the appreciation he receives.”