music Sylvanès

Saskia Rao-de Haas/


Saskia Rao-de Haas is a world-renowned virtuoso cellist, composer, and educationalist from the Netherlands. She was trained as a Western cellist from a young age onwards but changed direction when she came in touch with Indian music in 1993. She is known as a master performer of Indian classical music and is hailed as the creator of a new instrument: the Indian cello. She co-founded the Shubhendra and Saskia Rao foundation to promote the joy and benefits that Indian classical music can bring to children. She created the first complete music curriculum for Indian music for young children based on 6 storybooks that she penned. Over 30,000 children and 100 music teachers have already benefitted from the ‘Sangeet4All’ music curriculum.

Saskia created the "Indian cello." ‘Indianising’ the cello was not easy. One of the biggest challenges of adapting the large cello was ensuring that it could be played sitting down. In Western music, cello is always played while sitting in a chair. The straight endpin is replaced by a T-shaped one for stability Along with this change came a change in posture. Changing to a seating position on the floor meant the cello was at a more horizontal position, which affected the fingering and bowing angles as well. Adjusting the notions of gamak and meend, distinctly Indian tools of transitioning between notes and microtones, can be challenging for Western musicians. There was also the need to incorporate chikari or resonance strings to instruments for enhanced effect. Adapting for these challenges, Rao now has a smaller cello which she uses for ease of travel and faster passages. In an interesting twist, she is now using the Indianised cello to interpret Western composers such as Mozart and the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.