Newsletter February 2011

1. The Quintessential Voice - Obituary to Bhimsen Joshi
- by Vibhaker Baxi, Chairman of the Record Label Navrass -

Today the quintessential voice of Hindustani, nay, Indian, Classical Music has been lost to this world. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi-ji passed away this morning at Pune in India at the age of 88. To define Bhimsenji in terms of his Kirana Gharana would be a futile attempt at marking the man and his magic. His art transcended the fineries of Gharana definitions - his became a style of his own. To a majority of lovers of Khyal music his voice, his singing style became the benchmark by which they informed their musical sensibilities.

My own awakening to classical music came through his singing. I remember from a very early age being struck by his song "Ketaki Ghulab Juhiâ" performed with Manna Dey in the film Basant Bahar. My re-introduction to the UK classical music scene on my return there in 1985 was through a series of his concerts in London, which led to my long association with Jay Visva Deva of Sama Arts Network which in turn led to the eventual creation of the Navras Records label in 1992. My own late father's utter devotion to Ustad Abdul Karim Khan Saheb's music (Bhimsenji's Guru's Guruji) also must have had some subconscious influences on me. Whichever way I look at it, my absorption in Hindustani music had the aura of Bhimsen Joshi bestowing its magic on my sensibilities.

So today I deeply mourn the loss of this legendary maestro, a lion among vocalists, and yet a rare Maestro who had no ego, no tantrums, just a lot of quiet dignity, a man of simple needs and no demands! He was at peace with his achievements and his craft in that he did not seek any approvals, any awards. Even during his performances, at the end of each item, he would not wait for the applause to die down before he would move on into the start of his next rendering - so un-preoccupied he was with his own ego. Once when barely 100 people turned up at a busy week day concert of his in London, responding to an apologetic promoter he simply said it did not matter to him if there were 10, 100 or a 1,000 people in his audience. He would be still giving them his utmost! He would not be affected or offended by the size of his audience.

I had the privilege of attending the Sawai Gandharva Festival at Pune some years back when he just resumed performing there after a break of a year or two due to his brain tumour and subsequent surgery. He was rather shaky in his performance - his voice was weak and trembling a bit - but the audience was just happy to see him sing and with tears in their eyes and as if saying to him, "don't worry Panditji - we know what you are trying to sing and that's all we are hearing the way it always was.." When I went to bid him farewell at the end of the festival he just said to me "Baxi Saheb, maine theek to gaya na?" - (Baxi Saheb, was my singing okay?) - a legend asking a simple listener like me and that was the measure of this hugely modest man! And from that state of his health he recovered his usual gusto and virtuosity with some more gems of performances, including the "Tapasya" concert (October 2001 at Mumbai's Shanmukhananda Hall) released by Navras on CD and DVD.

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was born in Gadag (now in the state of Karnataka) on 4th February 1922, well away from the main centres of activity of Hindustani music, and with no family tradition of professional music-making to build on. Legend tells of how, determining on a musical quest, he left home in his teens and travelled over much of the subcontinent, learning his art from several masters in musical centres such as Gwalior, Lucknow and Rampur. Best known as a disciple of the renowned singer Sawai Gandharva Rambhau Kundgolkar, Bhimsen Joshi has been consequently regarded as a representative of the Kirana gharana made famous by Sawai Gandharva's guru, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan.

Bhimsen Joshi has been performing in public since the age of 19, both in India and abroad, till around 2007. It is a measure of his stature in the Indian music world that he has received such high national honours as the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, the Padma Shree and Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna (The Gem of India). This last and the rarest of honours ever given by the Indian Government was bestowed upon him so late in his life as to almost make it a travesty. I hope the powers that be will remember this and do not make such omissions in the future to such deserving individuals.

He has earned the respect of all for his musicianship, and for the immense power and majesty of his performances. For many he epitomised this aspect of musical expression, the grandeur of the serious Hindustani ragas, although he is also appreciated as a singer of the devotional bhajans and other light classical genres such as the Thumri. His voice, style and sheer presence are instantly recognisable, his performances amongst the essential experiences of Indian music. The Navras Catalogue contains 13 CD titles (20 discs) and one DVD title of Panditji, including some rather rarely performed ragas from his repertoire. We have been greatly privileged to have been blessed with his presence on our Catalogue and in our musical lives. No doubt a very major presence in the annals of Indian Classical Music, his music and presence will remain forever in the minds and hearts of all music lovers.

* CDs of Bhimsen Joshi can be found on our Media-Page


2. Premium Bansuris Available Again
- Company Info -

Bansuris in premium quality are now back in stock with us in all popular tunings. The instruments were personally selected by our manager Norbert Klippstein and brought directly to Berlin from our flute maker in Mumbai. The range of available tonics in the Indian sense (three lower holes open = Sa) extends up to the high e. The unique bass flute called shankh bansuri in low A for friends of extra deep flute sounds is now available again, too. The shankh bansuri was developed by our flute maker Anand Dhotre and is used on stage by flute master Ronu Mazumdar, amongst others. More about Anand Dhotre in German

Our premium bansuris are carefully selected concert instruments for demanding musicians. They are made from precious himalaya bamboo, which gives them a unique combination of warmth, softness and clarity. They are tuned to a = 440 Hertz and have exact intonation in all octaves. More information on our premium bansuris


3. Music Therapy with Ragas (1) - Bhoopali
- by Thomas Meisenheimer -

For over 20 years I have been exploring the phenomenon of Indian ragas. Again and again I have bothered Pandits and Ustads with my questions: Do the ragas have a specific effect and can they be used as a therapeutic agent for healing with sound? The answers were so different that I was forced to do my own research and listen deeply into the core of the ragas. I found in them the moods of different times of the day, the cycle of seasons, but also strong human emotions and a longing for an experience of unity. It became clear that a certain raga always has a similar effect on me, but that the perception of this effect depends a lot upon the individual. Therefore I can not give any general prescriptions for the therapeutic use of ragas. The series "Music Therapy with Ragas" is rather a sharing of my personal experiences in order to stimulate your own explorations. The first part deals with raga Bhoopali.

The word Bhoopali can be translated as "Mother Earth". Raga Bhoopali uses a pentatonic scale with tonic (Sa), major second (shuddha Re), major third (shuddha Ga), fifth (Pa) and major sixth (shuddha Dha). In the South Indian Carnatic music the raga with this scale is called Mohanam. It is a very old scale that is used in various cultures around the world.

For me personally, this pentatonic mode and the absence of the fourth (Ma) and seventh (Ni) create a sense of stability, order and ease. The major third as the main note (Ga-vadi) is at the focus and strengthens my self-confidence. The psychological ripening is stimulated, as well as a reconciliation with the inner child. Bhoopali helps me with depression and to find a new positive perspective on life. The raga gives me comfort and has a soothing effect. The sound structure of the raga seems playful and happy to me. It has something naive, elated and innocent. After playing or listening to Bhoopali I often feel light and carefree. It is like a kind father talking to his child. Raga Bhoopali always gives me a feeling of protection and loving authority - I am filled with courage and strength and it helps me to stand on my own feet.

Based on my interpretation of raga Bhoopali I would like to encourage you to make your own listening experiences. I recommend the following links:

Sayeduddin Dagar, dhrupad singing
Arvind Parikh, sitar
Hariprasad Chaurasia, bansuri flute
Gangubai Hanga, khyal singing

Detailed info and more clips about raga Bhoopali

4. Intensive Workshop Sitar
- Master Class with Partha Chatterjee -

An intensive workshop sitar with Partha Chatterjee will take place In Bad Homburg (near Frankfurt) from 4.5. - 8.5.. The workshop is designed for experienced sitarists who already either teach or perform or who work seriously towards that level. Participants must have a good mastery of the instrument and a thorough understanding of performance practice in the North Indian raga and tala system.

The work is done individually and will be adapted to needs, knowledge and skills of the participants. At a more elementary level, the repertoire of compositions and fixed models for improvisation is extended. A more advanced level will deepen the understanding of and the practical ability of improvising in appropriate style within the framework of raga and tala. All lessons will be accompanied by a live tabla player.

Partha Chatterjee is one of the very few close personal students of legendary sitar master Nikhil Banerjee. After Nikhil Banerjee's death in 1986. Partha Chatterjee continued his studies with Ali Akbar Khan. He has performed and taught worldwide since the 1980s. Connoisseurs appreciate him as a profound raga artist in the tradition of the Maihar-Gharana in the spirit of Nikhil Banerjee. 2011 he was appointed as a guru of the Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta, perhaps the world's most prestigious training ground for professional Indian musicians. His son Purbayan Chatterjee, trained by him from childhood, is one of the most dazzling stars in the younger generation of Indian classical musicians. In the 1990s, Partha Chatterjee has taught regularly in Germany. The workshop will revive and continue this traditionon - regular continuation is intended.

The fee for the full five days is 250, - ¤. The registration deadline is 31.3. More detailed information in German is available on our website Workshopseite or by email to Yogendra Jens Eckert at For more information on Partha Chatterjee


5. Crystal Award for A. R. Rahman
- Scene Info -

Together with opera singer José Carreras and actor Robert De Niro, Indian composer and singer A. R. Rahman received the Crystal Award of the World Economic Forum in Davos on 27 January. In front of over 2500 top executives from politics and economy, the three artists were honoured for "their creative answers to the challenges of the world". The Crystal Award is given to outstanding artists who are involved in charitable work also. The award for A. R. Rahman shows that stars of Indian music do find worldwide recognition nowadays.

A. R. Rahman, an absolute superstar in India, is known in the West primarily for his music for the musical "Bombay Dreams", which was a great success in London's West End and on Broadway, and for his film score for "Slumdog Millionaire". For the music for this Oscar-winning film Rahman received the 2009 Golden Globe Award, the British BAFTA Award and two Grammys as well as two Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song.

Rahman is an ambassador for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to substantially reduce hunger and disease in the developing world by 2015. The award in Davos was given especially for his commitment to helping underprivileged children with his A. R. Rahman Foundation.

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