Smt Saskia Rao-de Haas (Indian cello)

Smt Saskia Rao-de Haas

‘On January 24, 2003, the Doverlane Music conference, one of the most prestigious annual festivals in North Indian Music, presented a female Western musician playing a western instrument for the first time in its 51-year old history….Saskia Rao-de Haas’ alap exposition was revelatory, with the faster tempo the icing on the cake.’  (Excerpt from the book, “The Dawn of Indian Music in the West” by Peter Lavezolli.)

Saskia Rao-de Haas is a brilliant cellist from the Netherlands. She is a pioneer in the world of music for introducing her Indian cello to North Indian classical music. Critics and audiences alike have praised her for her artistic depth and technical virtuosity. Speaking about Saskia, her Guru Flute maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia said in a TV interview: “She has been taught by God and everyone should listen to her music”.

Saskia started to learn the cello at the age of eight under late Hungarian cello virtuoso Tibor de Machula. She studied cello at the conservatory of Rotterdam specializing in Indian classical music under Koustav Ray and Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, while finishing her Master’s in Ethnomusicology from the University of Amsterdam. During her subsequent visits to India she also studied under eminent artistes such as Dr Sumati Mutatkar, Pt DK Datar, Pt Deepak Chowdhury and Pt Shubhendra Rao. With no precedent to follow, Saskia has worked with singular dedication to adapt the cello to Indian classical music.

Saskia’s instrument, the Indian Cello, is a unique custom-made instrument to suit the requirements of Indian music, based on her comparative study of Indian string instruments and western baroque instruments. The Indian cello is smaller in size than its western counterpart and has 1 additional playing string and 10 sympathetic strings to give the cello a new dimension. Saskia’s unique playing style enables her to bring out the subtleties and the embellishments characteristic of north Indian classical music. She has invented new techniques for the cello that allow her to nurture its inherent closeness to the human voice and explore unrestrained all its possibilities. At the Edinburgh festival, the press wrote that the Indian cello has a sound quality and expression that is ‘unmatched by any other string instrument’.

Saskia has performed in India at prestigious music festivals such as the Baba Harivallabh Sangeet Mahasabha in Jalandhar, Legends of India in New Delhi, Vasanta habbha in Bangalore, the Maihar festival, Haridas sangeet sammellan in Lucknow and others. She has toured extensively through North America, Europe and Asia and performed at leading theatres, concert halls and festivals such as John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC, Concertgebouw and Tropical institute in Amsterdam, the National Arts Festival of South Africa, New Directions cello festival in the US, Musee Guimet in Paris and Esplanade in Singapore. Her recent performance at the Edinburgh festival was described as a ‘work of outstanding originality’. Apart from Indian music, Saskia also performs Western classical, Avant Garde and folk music and is an accomplished composer.

Saskia has created music for various ensembles, dance, film and theatre. She is co founder of East Marries West and composes music for this ensemble that combine Indian Music with Western musical concepts. Her varied experiences include collaborations with South Indian musicians, Jazz musicians, Klezmer, Flamenco and other European folk musicians. Saskia has recorded with International record labels and her solo album, the Indian Cello was received with shining accolades.

Saskia has conducted workshops and lecture-demonstrations at universities, conservatories and festivals in Europe and North America. She is currently doing a PhD at the University of Leiden on ‘the Indian cello: Indian music as a global art form’ under the guidance of Prof. Joep Bor. She is also co-founder of the Shubhendra and Saskia Rao foundation that promote a ‘glocalized music education to empower youth.’

What the Press say…

…String magic puts audience in a trance…immersed in a musical journey too exquisite to put down in words…the intoxication of the music kept the audience riveted to their seats…
Times of India, Hyderabad

…Take Saskia Rao-de Haas who left the 30.000 strong crowd awe-struck while her magical fingers played on the cello….
Vijaya Times, Bangalore

Such was the stirring performance that many in the audience were moved to tears
Pioneer, New Delhi

Saskia’s control over the finger board and bow appeared to be total… her varying speeds in the Jhala were scintillating…
Indian Express, Hyderabad

With great virtuosity and artistic depth, Saskia Rao-de Haas introduces a new sound in the world of Indian classical music that is received worldwide with great enthusiasm by critics and audiences alike,
Documentary for Dutch Radio

Sitting on the floor like any other Indian musician, Saskia started the concert with the rag Bheempalas. The instrument tone was mellow and pleasant. She delineated the raga with due stress on the pivotal swaras. The phrases became vibrant, as the tabla joined and the sound polished and fluid…..
Deccan Herald, Bangalore

Music knows no boundaries. One such was the performance of Saskia de Haas who recently held the audience in Delhi spellbound with her rendition of Indian classical music….
The Week, New Delhi

The best of both worlds on cello….
The Hindu, New Delhi

…Saskia’s instrument is a one-of-a-kind creation specially made to express the sound world of Indian music… a breadth of expression and sound quality unmatched by any other string instrument…
Broadway Baby, Edinburgh

First heard this on radio in the night. Overwhelming. Beautiful!!
Tracked and bought it and still, after many times playing.
Mastery, classical, incredible recording. The cello has this sound bringing the movement of the air straight to the heart, the soul, the backbone.
Only one word can say it..Beautiful!!
Dutch painter Ad Arma on Saskia’s recording

What a treat to listen to Saskia Rao-de Haas play Bhoopali on Cello! Her rendering is so touching and masterful that it is hard to believe that it is a non-Indian person playing a non-Indian instrument.
Customer review of Creating Waves CD

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