Virtual Concerts Slake Connoisseurs’ Thirst


The pandemic has changed lives in bewildering ways, says Nishant Parekh, board member of Raag-Mala Toronto.

 “Some changes may become the new normal in the future.”

Parekh, a managing director of a global consulting business, is also on the board of the Shirdi Sainath Mandir in Mississauga and is the father of two grade school kids. He is arguably well positioned to see the big picture as the world navigates through this pandemic.

“One bright light in all this,” he says philosophically, “is humans are quick to adapt and innovate in adverse situations.”

In his own life, for example, where previously he travelled to meet work teams across Canada, Parekh now works online for long hours from his home. 

With live arts events cancelled for 2020 and likely through most of 2021, organizers are looking for new ways to reach audiences. Says Parekh, “the world of Indian classical music is no exception – our musicians have been hurt, not just financially, but also emotionally as they need the love and affection of live audiences”. 

You will find ad-hoc shows on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channels, however, many organizers are offering virtual concerts with excellent technical standards. In the early days of the pandemic, most shows on social media were by younger artistes, but now the enhanced technical quality has drawn-in senior artistes.

Raag-Mala was thrilled recently to present programs by Padma Shri Pandit Venkatesh Kumar in August, and Pandit Jayateerth Mevundi in September in partnership with Shadaj, a Boston-based organization. These shows were held in real time with high definition audio and video streaming, topped with superb camera work and editing. On November 7, we will be partnering with Shadaj once again to present a live concert by Vidushi Kaushiki Chakraborty.

“Partnering with other organizations allows us to pool limited resources in order to present high quality programming,” says Parekh. “While we cannot interact live with the artistes, the virtual platforms allow limited means of interactions through comments and ‘like’ buttons. As well, digitalization of the raag sangeet experience will let it be enjoyed from the comfort of one’s home.”

Pandit Majumdar with Nishant Parekh and Nitin Vyas, a Raag-Mala team member.
Pandit Majumdar with Nishant Parekh and Nitin Vyas, a Raag-Mala team member.

In addition to the partnership with Shadaj, Raag-Mala Toronto is also the “powered by sponsor” of the Swara Samrat Festival 2020/21.

SSF was started by Pandit Tejendra Narayan Majumdar in honour of his guru, the legendary sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. In the eight years since its inception, the Festival has established itself among the top and most respected music and dance festivals in India. 

Without missing a beat in this year of the pandemic, Pt. Majumdar and his team have conceived and executed the biggest online festival, with artistes drawn from Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. SSF 2020/21 will have 18 Sunday morning concerts from November 1 to February 28, each concert with an up-and-coming artiste and a senior artiste.

Raag-Mala Toronto has reduced the dues for our Benefactors and Patrons by 50 per cent this year and next year. These members will receive complimentary access to all virtual concerts, including lifetime access to all SSF 2020/21 concerts. The ability to control access to the concerts ensures that artistes and technicians are fairly compensated.

In the near-term, live concerts may not be possible, but Parekh remains optimistic about live concerts in the future and sees a silver lining in the current environment. 

“The move to digital platforms is broadening our reach – in future organizers may be able to hold concerts and live stream at the same time, generating higher revenues for artistes and technicians.”

• Mohamed Khaki is the President of Raag-Mala Toronto.


November 7: Kaushiki Chakraborty. 

November 1 to February 28: SSF, various artistes.

All concerts online. Further information at