By Sarah Yee
Northwest Asian Weekly
In 1200 AD, Indian classical music started to formalize into a school of culture. In the 21st century, Sharad Gadre has been taking it one step ahead: into the cyber world.
Now 70 years old, Gadre has countless musical experiences to share. He exchanges them with students during private lessons and with the rest of the world on a self-developed software program called RagaParichaya.
RagaParichaya introduces 70 ragas, or scales, in Indian music. It is a product of Gadre’s combined expertise in computer technology and Indian classical music. With a dotorate in structural engineering from England’s Imperial College and working as a computer scientist at Boeing for 25 years, Gadre has plenty of technical knowledge and experience under his belt.
He started his vocal classical music education in Pune, India, with two teachers — Pt. Yashewant Sadashiv Mirashibuwa and Pt. Nagesh Khalika. This formal training lasted for six years and embedded a strong background of the Gwalior tradition into his music.
When Gadre began this journey at the age of 11, he did not foresee that Indian classical music would become his lifetime passion and career.
“When I teach, it’s all built from my memory,” said the music veteran.
Currently, Gadre teaches vocal lessons to both Americans and Indians. Most of his students are adults, but some are as young as 7 years old.
“The most rewarding thing about teaching is to impart to [my students] how it should be sung,” Gadre said. “It takes a long time to develop the style of singing.”
“They have to do what you tell them to do. That’s the most important thing,” he added.
From India to England, Gadre has traveled to different corners of the world to pursue proper education. After completing his doctorate in England, Gadre finally settled in Seattle in 1969. He has been a Seattleite for 50 years, changing the course of Indian classical music in this area.
In the early 1970s, Gadre organized concerts for visiting musicians from South Asia such as Prabha Atre and Jitendra Abhisheki.
Those efforts led to the formation of Ragamala, a nonprofit organization that strives to bring the best in South Asian performing arts to the Puget Sound region.
Today, Ragamala has a membership base of approximately 150 people. It continues to be the driving force behind many concerts and several musical festivals.
Gadre also taught himself to play the harmonium by ear and is an accompanist at many concerts.
Other instruments that are involved in Indian classical music performances include the tabla (a drum) and tanpura (a 4-stringed instrument). Gadre demonstrates electronic versions of these instruments in the program RagaParichaya.
The program is a great tool when he teaches vocal lessons and when he introduces traditional instruments to beginners of Indian music.
“The heart of Indian music is improvisation,” said Gadre. “It’s the way you emphasize [the notes]. It expresses certain emotions.”
Now retired, Gadre continues to spend a lot of time working with music and computers at the forefront of technology.
He is working on more developments for RagaParichaya, which has come out in three versions since 1998 and was last updated in 2003. “I still have a lot of improvements I haven’t shared yet,” he said.
This year, Gadre is being recognized for his pioneering efforts in music. In October, he will receive the Asian American Pioneers in Music award along with nine other musicians.
“Often times, the recipients are Chinese, Korean, or Japanese. Indians are not featured prominently,” Gadre said. “I feel very honored.” ♦
Meet Gadre at NWAWF’s Pioneer in Music Awards Gala and Banquet on Oct. 16. For more information, visit pioneers.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.
Sarah Yee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.