ISM Column: Indian takeaway

Friday, May 1, 2020

Indian Takeaway: Rāg and Tāl Basics is an innovative new online resource from the ISM Trust and Indian classical music expert Yogesh Dattani. The ISM Trust tells us more.

 Indian Takeaway being launched at the 2020 London Music & Drama Education Expo
Indian Takeaway being launched at the 2020 London Music & Drama Education Expo

Yogesh Dattani, head of Ealing Music Service, has taught tablā as part of the government's flagship first access Key Stage 2 music programme. While teaching students, he noticed that his pupils were at a psychological disadvantage when he spoke the tablā bol (a verbal representation of the different tablā sounds). He observed: ‘They thought I was speaking Hindi or Sanskrit and were not able to engage with it.’

Dattani wanted to resolve this problem. When he attended the Royal Opera House's week-long Write an Opera course, he decided to compose word-rhythms using animal names to make the teaching and learning of complex tablā repertoire more easily accessible. His idea was to combine the best of current music pedagogy with a musical genre, so that Indian classical music could be embraced among British leaners just as they embrace Indian cuisine. Dattani realised that, with the correct resources, this could be achieved – and he could teach, or show others how to teach, one piece of Indian classical music.

Dattani approached the ISM Trust (The Incorporated Society of Musicians’ sister charity, which advances education and promotes the arts by creating pioneering resources) with his idea. Together, the resource Indian Takeaway: Rāg and Tāl Basics was created. Rāg and Tāl Basics explores the melodic (rāg) and rhythmic (tāl) structures of North Indian classical music: sargam. Within Dattani's lesson, you gradually learn to play (or teach) a short composition – ‘Sargam Gīt’.

The ISM Trust filmed Dattani delivering his lesson as a workshop to teachers of Ealing Music Service. The teachers were all professional musicians but did not have prior experience in Indian music. Dattani took the teachers from a place where they had little or no knowledge of Indian classical music to performing the composition together by the end of the lesson.

For you to repeat Yogesh's teachings, in Indian Takeaway: Rāg and Tāl Basics, the ISM Trust provides you with Dattani's lesson in full, broken down into 12 easy-to-follow lesson plans with video clips. Working with Dattani, the ISM Trust has created useful downloadable guidance, including compositions and scores (including a graphical score) to go with the lesson plans. You can follow Dattani's teaching yourself at; and you can track your progress online, repeat lessons as many times as you want and, on completion of the lesson, print out a certificate of completion.

With Indian Takeaway: Rāg and Tāl Basics, Dattani has created an accessible resource that can be enjoyed by all. Its uniqueness is that it is truly accessible, as the composition can be sung, clapped or played on any instrument. Dattani remarked when asked what he thinks you can gain from this resource: ‘I hope Indian Takeaway: Rāg and Tāl Basics is the first of several resources that helps make Indian music truly the nation's favourite.’

Rāg and Tāl Basics was launched at the 2020 London Music & Drama Education Expo to positive reviews. One user commented, ‘I wish this had been available when I was a student,’ while another said, ‘How easy it is to use.’ The resource is free and available to all.

If you would like Yogesh Dattani to present Rāg and Tāl Basics as a workshop to your students or teachers, contact ISM Trust at