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Wasanti Paranjape

Wasanti Paranjape was born into a family of exceptional singers in 1927 in Maharashtra, India. She was one of nine children, and went on to study music in her Matriculation, where she received the “Visharad” from the Ganharva Maha-Vidyalva, a famed Institution for Music in India. Her Brahmin parents, Shridhar Anant and Kamala Sohoni, believed in professional education for both girls and boys, and also recognized the importance of music as religious expression and as a manifestation of Indian heritage at a time when the country was still under British rule. Wasanti completed her studies at the renowned Bhatkhande School of Music, and in 1954 entered into an arranged marriage with Balachandra (Bala) Paranjape, a young physicist, also from Maharashtra, who was living in England and studying for his doctorate. They immigrated to Canada and settled with their three children in Edmonton in 1961.

Over the next forty-five years, Wasanti made a significant contribution to the musical scene in Edmonton, sharing her knowledge of North Indian classical music through performance, private teaching, through instruction in Hindustani classical music at the University of Alberta, and, eventually, as the director of the Indian Music Ensemble there. She also performed bhajans regularly at traditional devotional functions. Western classical music is typically learned and performed from written notation while the Indian tradition is rooted in oral training, so Wasanti combined the traditional method of learning ragas through oral lessons with written notation in a basic textbook on Hindustani music (entitled Naad Tarang; Waves of Sound), which she wrote in 2004. The book contains two CDs demonstrating ten basic Indian classical ragas, many of which were adapted and translated from Bhatkhande's textbook series. In 2006 Mrs. Paranjape and her husband moved to Guelph, Ontario.

In the following interview, conducted by Rob Wallace (writer, musician, educator, holding a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Improvisation and the Making of American Literary Modernism), Wasanti Paranjape recounts her personal history and how she became involved in music, as well as discussing various topics including different musical cultures, the history of Indian music, and musical roles. The interview is concluded by a musical performance between Wallace and Paranjape, appropriate given Wallace’s proficiency as an active percussionist in a number of genres ranging from Hindustani classical music to free improvisation.

A full transcript of the interview is available here

If people talked the way they drummed in improvisation, then I think the world would be a lot nicer…

– Youth participant, ICASP improvisation workshop