by Shireen Isal
Joy, awe and tears: a range of emotions experienced over forty years of artists’ management through Association Sargam! Intense feelings in unequal measure, for the joy and awe have vastly outweighed any angst or tears. For this, I owe immense thanks to the fifty Indian musicians and dancers, and their accompanists, who I was privileged to invite to tour Europe over four decades (1978 – 2018). “Joy, Awe and Tears” is that story, of my love affair with the performing arts of India, a discovery that infused me with a passion to reveal its timeless beauty on the shores of that continent – Europe – where destiny brought me: in France, the UK and innumerable European countries.
The vision started with a seed, planted, in the early seventies in Mumbai, through a simple encounter with an Indian dance recital and its protagonists: the iconic Jhaveri Sisters (Manipuri dance) and that awesome connoisseur of Indian dance, Shri Sunil Kothari. And, from that moment, there was no turning back. Revealing the magic of India’s classical heritage to a western audience became akin to a personal calling, which consumed my professional life for forty years. All was not smooth sailing. I have encountered generosity and gratitude but experienced extreme personal hurt and disappointments too; eccentricities and clashes of egos amidst humility and kind understanding. Some of those negative experiences did take their toll but the overwhelming feeling that remains with me today is one of pure magic!
“Joy, Awe and Tears” relates my professional relationships with Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and so many others, giants of Indian music and younger artists too. How did audiences in France – and Europe – experience the classical Indian arts? And what, in turn, did Indian artists feel, performing before an audience which may not have understood the intricacies of classical music and dance but listened and watched with awe and, above all, their hearts! The book relates all this, as it happened. It is also a catalogue of Sargam’s achievements over four decades and grateful recognition of those – artists, organisers, audiences and family – who made it all possible.
Shireen Isal was born in Mumbai before leaving to settle in Paris, France, where, in 1983, she set up ‘Association Sargam’, an artists’ management organisation which invited classical Indian musicians and dancers to tour Europe. From her base in Paris, and subsequently London, and over Sargam’s forty year existence, she was privileged to present almost fifty artists and their accompanists and negotiated around six hundred events in sixteen European countries, motivated by a passion to propagate a rich and divine art and by the enthusiasm expressed by Europe-based audiences and organisers alike.
The book is available:
In the UK, at Amazon.co.uk. (link: https://amzn.to/3gDNeF0). Or directly from the author. Price: £7.85 + postage.
In France and continental Europe, at amazon.fr. (link: https://amzn.to/3LF8Xuw ). Price: 9.45 Euros + postage
In India, at www.parsiana.com (link: JOY, AWE AND TEARS – My Association with Sargam (parsiana.com). And, in person, in the Parsiana bookshop (K. K. (Navsari) Chambers, Ground Floor, Opp. Cathedral School side entrance, 39B, Amrit Keshav Nayak Road, Fort, Mumbai 400001. Tel: +91-22-22074347, +91-22-22074335). Price: Rs.599 + postage.