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Joya Biswas

An appealing blend of raaga and rhythm — one may think that is the best way to describe Joya Biswas, the sitarist. But once you meet this dynamic artiste up close, she is much more than the image she portrays as India ‘s first woman sitarist. She is a woman with a number of missions, including popularising Rabindra Sangeet among non-Bengalis and bringing back the younger generation to the mainstream classical music.

“Rabindra Nath Tagore is one of the greatest classical musicians of the 20th century and his sangeet reflects a variety of raagas to light classical notes to folk. But he has always been brushed off as a modern day composer by various quarters of music lovers in India ,” says Joya. She is visiting the city as a resource person for a refresher course on performing and visual arts organised by Staff Academic College , Panjab University .

Acclaimed as the First Lady of Sitar, Joya Biswas is one of the outstanding woman musicians of India . Head of the Faculty of Indian music of Calcutta School of Music, she is too modest about her status. “I cannot exactly claim myself to be the first woman sitarist as there have been woman sitarists before me. None of them could make their presence felt in this male-dominated art,” says this woman from Kolkata.

A disciple of maestro Ravi Shankar, Joya is a much sought-after artiste by All-India Radio and Doordarshan. “Born in an aristrocratic family in Kolkata with no musical background, it took me a lot of hardship. I wanted to be a musician rather than a journalist,” says Joya.A graduate in history and economics and a postgraduate diploma holder in journalism, Joya left her academic career after being awarded a cultural scholarship by the government in the early 50s.

Family objections were not the only hurdles Joya had to cross to achieve her present status. “Women have always been accepted by society as either singers or dancers, but not as instrumentalists,” says Joya. “It was a time when even gurus did not take their women students seriously,” she adds.

“Time has not changed much,” says Joya. “Women artistes are still being exploited by men,” she says. One of Joya’s missions also includes to fight against the exploitation of women artistes and to provide them with a platform to pursue their career without sacrificing their dignity. As a step towards her goal, Joya has made an appeal to all the business houses to collect funds and promote budding artistes. (courtesy of The Tribune)