Going strong on the sitar


Noted sitarist Alif Laila has been tirelessly working for years in promoting classical music, at home and abroad. Currently based in Washington DC, USA, the instrumentalist often travels to her home country to perform in soirees and concerts, as well as in other parts of the world. When she is not trekking the globe with her sitar, the artiste runs her own institution in Washington, called Sitar Niketan, teaching students across all ages how to play to perfection. In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, the artiste elaborates on her various ventures, and more.

“I return to Bangladesh once a year, and during my stay I often perform in a few shows. Recently I performed a raag abhogi at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy at a programme organised by Shattiya Sangeet Sammelan, a dance and music committee, and I truly enjoyed my time on stage that day. It is definitely more challenging to present a raag to the audience in a short time, because ragas have endless forms and can go on for hours.  I am truly grateful for the many initiatives taken here to encourage classical music among young students, and to educate the public.”

“I live in Maryland, Washington. I love painting, and my house is dedicated to music and art. My major performances are around Bangladesh, India, and during the summer I perform in Europe, a continent which I visit also for family. This spring I performed in the Women in Music Festival in London. But when I am not traveling, I focus all my energies on teaching music at Sitar Niketan.”

“The number of sitar players is very rare, and the number of women that play the instrument is even less. My students come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including non-Asians, and it gives me great pleasure and encouragement to take the instrument forward across all cultural backgrounds. Classical music practice is not about performing, it’s about being mindful of our inner selves and the rest of the world. Classical music is meditative, and requires devotion, both of which are lacking in the fast paced lives of today’s youth. At the end of the day, I am proud to be able to represent my country in different parts of the world.”

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