Arranging with Hindustani Music – LA Summer Intensive 2016 – Desiree Robinson

This summer, Shastra hosted a workshop for young composers who wanted to learn to work with Hindustani musicians. Co-taught by Hindustani singer Saili Oak and Western composer Reena Esmail, Arranging with Hindustani Music (AWHM) gave students the opportunity to learn about Hindustani music, and understand how it interfaced with their knowledge of western composition. The workshop culminated in a reading of bhajan arrangements with string quartet and Hindustani vocals.

Desiree Robinson, a young composer and participant in AWHM came to Los Angeles from Lafayette, Louisiana to attend the workshop. Listen to her arrangement of the Hindustani bhajan Mhari Surata, and read about her experience at AWHM below:


Composer Desiree Robinson discusses her arrangement of Mhari Surata with Reena Esmail

“Over this summer I have had that absolute privilege to study, arrange, and write Hindustani music with Reena Esmail and Saili Oak. As a composer, I am always seeking new ways to use my skills and techniques. On Friday, April 29th, 2016 I was deeply contemplating about what I should do with my time over the summer. On that day, I just so happened to come across a post on Composers’ Site about a workshop targeted specifically for undergraduate Western composers to learn about and experiment with Hindustani music. It was a bit of a stretch because the deadline to apply was May 1st, but after hearing about it, looking more into Reena’s and Saili’s work, and discovering how unique this workshop was, I could not let an opportunity of this caliber pass me by without at least trying for it. Not to mention that it was far-fetched because it was taking place all the way on the West Coast and the furthest west I had been at the time was Texas.

“When I reflect on my experiences through the workshop, I could not possibly be happier with my decision to take a leap of faith and move to Los Angeles, California from Lafayette, LA considering all that I gained. The summer intensive kept me on my toes and helped me learn a lot about myself as well as Hindustani music. My goal was to soak up as much as I could. This workshop was eye-opening and fun for all seven of the musicians involved. Though just about everything about this program was tough and challenging, I’d do it again because it was well worth it! It was a bittersweet moment once it was finished, but we will definitely cross paths again now that we have all learned so much on the journey together.”

– Desiree Robinson, AWHM Participant

One thought on “Arranging with Hindustani Music – LA Summer Intensive 2016 – Desiree Robinson

  1. Robin Robinson,

    Girl…let’s go get this Grammy for composition/arranging for traditional music…then call Chris Ardoin to put some Zydeco flavor on it!


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