By Taylor Roberts
What started as a casual meeting in 1994 later turned into marriage and a musical partnership unlike any the world has experienced before. East Marries West represents not only the name of this powerful duet but also the relationship and music created by sitar master Shubhendra Rao and cellist Saskia Rao-de Haas. The duo is now bringing their unique pairing to the University Center for the Arts on September 22 with the first show in the Classical Convergence series.
“It was the love of music that brought us together,” says Shubhendra. “A casual meeting in Delhi when Saskia came to India for the first time in 1994 led to a good friendship with a mutual respect for each other’s passion for music. This eventually led to love and a life together, both on as well as off stage.”
“We travel the world to perform our music and show people that music has no boundaries,” says Saskia. “We have come together through our music and now we want to bring more people in to enjoy the richness of Indian music.”
As a prodigious sitar player, Shubhendra’s performances have enthralled audiences at major concert venues around the world including Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, Salzburg International Music Festival and Beijing Performing Arts Centre.
Saskia Rao-de Haas, a classically trained cello virtuoso from the Netherlands, is a pioneer in the introduction of the Indian cello to classical Indian music. Creating a cello with one extra string plus ten resonation strings, her unique instrument better suits the demands of playing classical Indian music. In addition, she designed the cello to be played on the floor in order to join her fellow Indian musicians.
“The Indian cello came into being through my own growth within Indian music,” says Saskia. “As I sit cross-legged on the floor with the cello, I wanted a slightly smaller instrument without sacrificing any of the sound quality.”
The inspiration for their music comes from each other and maintaining their commitment to their respective art forms explains Shubhendra. Many of their pieces are based on improvisations and “being in the zone.”
“There is more to music than being a great musician: it is about connecting with people through music,” added Saskia. “This connection is divine and the greatest inspiration for our music.”
The audience has a lot to look forward to when East Marries West takes the stage says the duo.
“We will be joined on stage by an amazing Indian percussionist, the dynamic tabla player Aditya Kalyanpur who is phenomenal,” says Shubhendra. “We have been told that the combination of sitar & Saskia’s Indian cello is almost like a full orchestra. We’re looking forward to sharing our music to the audience in Fort Collins for the first time.”
“The entire show is pure joy to us,” says Saskia. “We create music to touch people and transport them to a different world. With our unique backgrounds as artists, it will be a new experience for the audience that will stay with them.”
In addition to creating a new genre of music, East Marries West is also dedicated to empowering children through music and creating a meaningful connection with people around the globe.
“Apart from performing all over the world, we run a music education foundation in India where we have empowered more than 20,000 children through music,” says Saskia. “Music has the power to connect people and break down boundaries. This is a message we believe in and feel is very important in today’s world.”
Don’t miss your chance to experience this East-West musical collaboration described as “a new musical language that is both avant-garde and traditional.” Seats from $22 at LCtix.com.