A Bombay Symphony

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20140727

India is embarking on a love affair with Western classical music. In his home-city, Mumbai, Zareer Masani encounters enthusiastic audiences for the country's first national ensemble, the Symphony Orchestra of India. Furtado's, the city's oldest music shop, sells hundreds of pianos a year. Thousands of children learn a Western instrument. Yet, Zareer discovers, this is not the total success it seems.

It's called the Symphony Orchestra of India, but only a dozen of its members are Indian. Most come from Kazakhstan. The founder-director of the SOI is unapologetic. He wants an orchestra of international standard, regardless of where the musicians come from. Others, who for decades have been nurturing Bombay's domestic musical talent, are incensed: money is going to foreign players rather than to teaching Indians. It doesn't help that the state government heavily taxes western, but not Indian, music.

Many of the pianos Furtado's sell are status symbols, chosen by interior designers to fit the drawing-rooms of the super-rich down to the last centimetre. Many students are learning to play because their parents think this will help them get into foreign universities - where they will study medicine, not music.

But Zareer discovers there is real love for western music, not just among Mumbai's elite, but also at the other end of the social spectrum. He discovers a choir of the children of sex workers happily singing in the city's dangerous red light district.

Zareer Masani considers these rich contradictions, and the implications for India's own classical music, in 'A Bombay Symphony'. As well as the arguments it captures the sounds, the music of this remarkable city, in a programme that in its structure is itself a symphony.

Producer: Julian May.

20140727

20140727

India is embarking on a love affair with Western classical music. In his home-city, Mumbai, Zareer Masani encounters enthusiastic audiences for the country's first national ensemble, the Symphony Orchestra of India. Furtado's, the city's oldest music shop, sells hundreds of pianos a year. Thousands of children learn a Western instrument. Yet, Zareer discovers, this is not the total success it seems.

It's called the Symphony Orchestra of India, but only a dozen of its members are Indian. Most come from Kazakhstan. The founder-director of the SOI is unapologetic. He wants an orchestra of international standard, regardless of where the musicians come from. Others, who for decades have been nurturing Bombay's domestic musical talent, are incensed: money is going to foreign players rather than to teaching Indians. It doesn't help that the state government heavily taxes western, but not Indian, music.

Many of the pianos Furtado's sell are status symbols, chosen by interior designers to fit the drawing-rooms of the super-rich down to the last centimetre. Many students are learning to play because their parents think this will help them get into foreign universities - where they will study medicine, not music.

But Zareer discovers there is real love for western music, not just among Mumbai's elite, but also at the other end of the social spectrum. He discovers a choir of the children of sex workers happily singing in the city's dangerous red light district.

Zareer Masani considers these rich contradictions, and the implications for India's own classical music, in 'A Bombay Symphony'. As well as the arguments it captures the sounds, the music of this remarkable city, in a programme that in its structure is itself a symphony.

Producer: Julian May.

20140727