Making waves with piano notes
Mahjabeen (right) and Tabassum do a duet at the cafe.
Going to Café Veranda of Alliance Francaise one is often greeted with gentle tinkling notes of the piano. These are the piano classes of Mahjabeen and Tabassum. They are usually here at the weekends and are sometimes found even practising by themselves. Their students range between eight to eighteen years of age. The year round they practise for the Fete de la Musique that is held in mid June.
“When we began teaching and learning music ten years back, piano had a mysterious beauty that everyone could reach,” says Mahjabeen Rahman, leader of the piano classes. Today more people in Dhaka are aware of it and there are more teachers to help with the understanding of the piano. Ecole de Musique has made a great impact, with the help of media coverage. Today a lot of people know about the piano courses and the teaching.
Mahjabeen always wanted to learn the piano, having heard the notes from her father's long playing records, and programmes on the TV such as World Music which was broadcast after the 10 o'clock news, and played memorable music such “The Blue Danube”. This was 25 years back and she knew of no one then who taught piano music. Teachers then taught keyboard not piano. Mahjabeen came to know of the Dhaka International Music School about 15 years back.
Talking about her students who have studied with her for years and have now gone their separate ways, Mahjabeen she speaks of Ehtasham Shifque who is now studying at the University of Chicago. He had participated in at least six concerts. Mahseema Afreen Kamal who is studying Economics at BRAC, studied piano here. Another ex-student, Aditto Noman Khan is an instructor at the music school. Marilyn Shirley Louis, currently living in Canada, is still pursuing her interest in music. Tabassum who also studied here, has been taking lot of lessons lately as a senior instructor.
“When I began the Ecole de Musique I wanted to create at least five instructors who would be able to teach up till basic levels, i.e. light sonatas. Over ten years I've managed it. Now I want to practice for myself and I'm into composing too. When I was young I liked Mozart a lot. Now I feel I care for Rachmaninoff with the same intensity. I like Baroque music as well. Pachebel, Bach's teacher also moves me greatly. Of course I like the joy and liveliness of Mozart. Listening to Mozart makes one come alive. My favourite pianist remains Glen Gould. Apart from these I also like Satie. At the same time the whole Strauss family remains very special. Their music is not heavy and yet they have a lot of meaning into it,” says Mahjabeen. Apart from the piano she likes the cello and the flute.
Lately Mahjabeen is helping a band named Dillumination. In this connection, she recorded her first voice choir named Genesis. Though it starts with C it ends in A minor. It will be added in one of their songs named “Srohtha”. It is arranged for both male and female choir. Apart from that she is also composing a piano piece based on an Indian raga called “raag malesri” and it has a five-note scale. The music of flute will be used with piano.
“From composition I got into teaching and playing,” says Mahjabeen. Although she enjoys and values her teaching, she wants to be remembered for her playing. Playing stimulates her mind like nothing else.
Mahjabeen is also an English teacher at the Stamford Universtiy.
Tabassum, who has helped Mahjabeen for fairly a long time, says that she learnt from Youtube and other live performances. She studied at the Korean school, putting in more and more hours of practice as she grew up. She practises almost about four hours every week. She says that since she joined as an instructor in the Ecole de Musique her understanding of music has improved a lot. Her teaching career itself spans for more than three years. Tabassum a student of MBA in North South University, finds the time before the concerts exciting as the students work very hard and give their best.
“Mahjabeen and I share the work. She deals with the adults and the very young ones,” says Tabussum. Tabussum takes classes on Fridays and Saturdays while Mahjabeen works on Sundays. For the concerts Mahjabeen assigns the pieces and she helps the students perfect themselves. Aditto Noman Khan also helps specially with the theory part of the piano.
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