Harjit has been working alongside Catherine at Music Mark and others to create the Tabla section for A Common Approach. Here is what he said about the history and context of the teaching of Indian Classical Music in the UK:
“Indian classical music for me started back in the late 60’s, here in the UK, as Ravi Shankar bought a new sound to the Beatles and the UK, who embraced this tradition and artform. Gradually the communities here in the UK from India and Pakistan developed this type of music and Folk music as a form of keeping the heritage and culture alive in the UK. It was not an easy journey but, with time and engagement, the traditional and modern version of Indian Music was gradually accepted as an artform within a school setting.
I first started teaching Tabla and Harmonium at Wolverhampton Music Service in 1993 and this was my first teaching role. The generation then I was teaching were around 11 years old, and we had an ensemble which was the first Indian Classical Music ensemble at the service. The material used was classically based on Raags and Taals with classical music, and the music from my culture was very new to the ear of western culture, especially in schools.
My experience in some schools were “we will have some Indian music because it’s Diwali or Vaisakhi”, or a workshop to say ‘we have some multicultural music at our school’. Over those years the culture started to change as education embraced diversity and inclusion, which has helped better understanding. 30 years in teaching music in mainstream music education and the community has changed for the better, but there are still challenges. Where we are now in 2023, it is a dream come true for the journey of music from my culture, which is now on the same stage as all instruments. I am proud that the work that has happened over many years has given a platform for Indian classical and Folk music to become established within the UK.”
Earlier this year, A Common Approach was developed to include several new instrumental sections and will be continually updated to ensure its relevance to music educators today. Harjit told us why including Tabla in A Common Approach is significant:
“It is important to broaden the knowledge and experience of Tabla to all involved in music education, to make Tabla more accessible and learning more inclusive. We need different musical cultures and traditions which also reflect the changing nature of our society. A Common Approach brings authenticity to teaching and playing the Tabla within the music education system, keeping the rich language of the Tabla Bol/nation, whilst providing a hybrid way of learning via the traditional notation and the modern Western version alongside each other.”
The Tabla curriculum is a new addition for A Common Approach in 2023, providing objectives and activities across five programmes of study, to support the teaching of this traditional North Indian classical instrument in a progressive, inclusive manner.