Newsletter January 2011

1. India Instruments - Review 2010
- Company News -

After the dramatic decline in the world economy in 2008 / 2009, many countries have seen a cautious recovery in 2010. Nevertheless, the economic climate remained tense and the difficulties of the Euro created great uncertainty. Luckily India Instruments has hardly been touched by all this. The only critical point has been the unprecedented surge in inflation in India, which resulted in sharply rising buying prices and forced us to raise our prices accordingly in October. Sales and profits, however, have developed well, so that 2010 has turned out to be the second best year in our 16-year history. A big thank you to all our customers and friends who have bought from us or supported our work with recommendations, feedback, information and volunteer help!

A special highlight for India Instruments was the completion of our new German website. In October it finally went online after more than two years of preparation - in a completely renewed design, with improved user guidance and with many additional features that make surfing more enjoyable, we hope. We are really proud and happy that we have successfully completed this big project largely with our own ressources! Updating the English site to that same standard is now one of our major projects for 2011 - again a huge amount of additional work ... In spite of all our efforts to offer an attractive online presentation, we have remained true to our basic concept: We do not run an anonymous online shop with standardized mass products. Instead we seek personal contact with our customers and sell custom-made unique items with qualified and complete service - even after the purchase.

The turn of of the year has brought along a change in our team. Our employee Annette Doerner has left us after three years. The future prospects did not fit together properly any more. Annette's reliability and good spirit behind the scenes has helped us a lot to master the transition when Norbert Klippstein took over the sole management from 2008 onwards. She has contributed extensively to our new German website, too. Thank you for all this, Annette! In 2011 we will have to rely increasingly upon project-based support from freelancers. Speculative applications are welcome! In addition to that Yogendra is also planning to get more involved with India Instruments' daily activities again in the new year.

We hope that you will continue supporting us and we wish you joy, health and happiness all through 2011!


2. Reduced Service from 22.1. to 13.2.
- Company Info -

Our managing director Norbert Klippstein is going to visit our suppliers in Mumbai and Calcutta again. The direct personal contacts and detailed knowledge of on-site local working conditions are essential in order to permanently keep up our unique high quality standards.

Therefore India Instruments can only offer reduced service in the period from 22.1. to 13.2. - sorry! The email traffic will not be affected, however - we will answer all inquiries and take orders and reservations as quickly as usual. We will also try to process and ship orders to the best of our capacities - just allow an extra one to two weeks for delivery. Especially small items can probably be delivered with only a very small delay. The dispatch of large instruments, however, might have to be postponed until after 13.2. in some cases. Urgent and time-restricted orders can not be handled from 22.1. to 13.2., unfortunately. Visits to our Berlin store are restricted to special appointment within that period. We apologize for the inconvenience!


3. New Bonus Programmes
- Company Info -

On January 1st, India Instruments has introduced three attractive bonus programmes for international customers. They are named after Indian gods and goddesses and are called RAMA, LAKSHMI and SARASWATI bonus.

The RAMA bonus gives you a discount of 10%, if you order at least three pieces of the same item. It rewards catalogue aggregators who get together with friends, acquaintances, colleagues or students. It aims to promote exchanges and cooperations. In Hindu mythology Rama is a god of selfless virtue.

When you have bought goods from India Instruments with a value of at least 1,000.- Euros, the LAKSHMI bonus gives you a discount of 5% on all further purchases. It rewards major customers, who buy expensive items or who keep on buying from us substantially several times. The value of all purchases of a single person can be added up over any period of time, and the LAKSHMI bonus can be activated as soon as the limit of 1,000.- Euros is crossed. In Hindu mythology Lakshmi is the goddess of splendour.

The SARASWATI bonus it meant for all those who make small but frequent purchases from India Instruments. Every purchase with a value of at least 30.- Euros gives you one swara. Swaras are the seven notes in Indian music: Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni. With the seventh purchase, you have completed the whole scale and you can choose a free CD from our assortment. And then it starts all over again with the next octave. In Hindu mythology Saraswati is the goddess of music.

Perhaps you could qualify for one or more of these programs? Check out the full details at Bonus Programs.


4. Raga-Spirit in the Digital Age
- Essay by Yogendra -

2010 was a very quiet year for the scene of Indian classical music in Central Europe. There were neither great highlights to celebrate nor special setbacks or losses to mourn. The scene seemed to be in a sort of slumber - not completely dead, but not really alive either. The sale of Indian musical instruments on the other hand has developed quite stable - no sign of stagnation or even a break-in. How can this seeming contradiction be explained?

The majority of the instruments sold by India Instruments are not the hard-to-play solo instruments of the raga tradition like sitar or sarod. Mastering these technically demanding instruments is a long, arduous process that requires many years of learning and practicing. Not only progress and success is bound to be on that way, but also disappointment and frustration. Getting through those phases and coping with them contributes significantly to personal and musical maturing of the student. Today very few people seem to be interested in such a challenging, long-term and generally open-ended musical learning process. Attractive and salable in larger numbers are easy-to-play instruments like harmonium, tanpura and shrutibox. They are used as accompanying instruments for singing, relaxation and meditation and provide immediately appealing sound experiences without technical skills or prior musical knowledge. People are not so much interested in music as a complex art form, but in means of enhancing their current well-being. What are the reasons for this trend?

The past decade has seen a tremendous congestion, commercialization, acceleration and virtualization of daily life in developed countries on many levels. In the short run this global development produces more and more material wealth, but it also leads to increasing pressure, stress, over stimulation and loss of freedom and meaning for the individual. In return a need for deceleration and sensualisation at all levels has grown in broad circles. Wellness trend and body cult, mysticism and yoga boom reflect this need. I see the search for harmonious, pleasant sound experiences for the relief of suffering from the economic, cultural and social mainstream of our time in this larger context. However, these positive experiences but must be available instantly and effortlessly - after all, everybody already has more than enough permanent stress. Nobody wants even more challenges.

For the performers, students and friends of the raga music an interesting perspective might be taken from this diagnosis. Maybe we do not have to remain sitting in the corner with frustration, complaining about the bad times. Perhaps we can instead reflect more on the core of the raga tradition: Raga is what colours the mind. It's not about the fastest Tana, the purest Shruti or the most complicated Tihai, but about a subtle, basically very simple mental process between music and listener, which can transform the sensual musical experience directly into a deep inner bliss - and that is exactly what so many people are looking for! Of course, a certain sensitivity and openness is required - even ragas can not produce instant happiness at the push of a button. But maybe we should emphasize less how difficult, strange and complicated this music can be, but rather focus on its lightness and beauty. Maybe we should make it more clear how much joy a raga can generate so simply and directly. Instead of lecturing, ignoring or even dispising our audiences, we could open doors for them and try to convey the sheer joy of the raga-spirit! If we succeed in that, the colouring of the mind definetely still has its place in the digital age.

(More about the colouring of the mind in German is available on our network pages at


5. 25 Years of Ali Akbar College of Music Switzerland
- Tribute by Yogendra -

"Spread this music as far as the sun and moon are shining!" - a long time ago the deceased sarod master Ali Akbar Khan received this mission from his father and guru, the legendary Allauddin Khan, teacher of Ravi Shankar and many other great Indian musicians. Ali Akbar Khan internalized this mission so much that he spent most of his life teaching classical Indian raga music to thousands of students all over the world. In 1956 he founded the first Ali Akbar College of Music (AACM) in Calcutta and in 1967 the second in the vicinity of San Francisco, where he led classes continuously for the next 42 years until his death in 2009. A third school, the Ali Akbar College of Music Switzerland, was founded by one of Ali Akbar Khan's master students, Ken Zuckerman, in 1985 in Basel. Last November, the AACM Switzerland celebrated its 25th anniversary - time for a tribute!

From the beginning, Ken Zuckerman had Ali Akbar Khan's full support. From 1985 until the turn of the millennium, the doyen made it a point to spend a week or two every year in the fall to teach personally at the AACM Switzerland. From the outset, tabla virtuoso Swapan Chaudhuri, Ali Akbar Khan's regular accompanist for many years, was part of that arrangement, too. The charisma, the openness and the commitment of these two artists drew students from all over Europe to the annual seminars - each time crowned with a joint concert by Ali Akbar Khan and Swapan Chaudhuri. Basel thus became one of the most important European centers for Indian music. For health reasons, Ali Akbar Khan had to stop his regular visits in recent years, but even without him, Ken Zuckerman's tireless efforts ensured that the tradition of the fall seminars continued year after year with an excellent team of teachers at a high musical level.

While the seminars are the highlights of the AACM's work, it is also organising ongoing classes, individual lessons, workshops with invited guest artists and concerts with classical Indian music all year round. Over the years, more than 1,500 students were taught and more than 180 concerts were arranged by the AACM Switzerland. Guest lecturers included Lakshmi Shankar, Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Sultan Khan, Pandit Jasraj, George Ruckert and the Gundecha brothers. Concerts were given, amongst others, by Ravi Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi, Nikhil Banerjee, Mohiuddin Dagar, V.G. Jog, Alla Rakha, Kishori Amonkar, Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ram Narayan, Sultan Khan, Zakir Hussain, Anindo Chatterjee, Ajoy Chakraborty, Buddhaditya Mukherjee, Parween Sultana, Ronu Mazumdar, Ken Zuckerman and the Gundecha Brothers - and, of course by Ali Akbar Khan and Swapan Chaudhuri.

Important for the success of the AACM was the generous support of the Music Academy in Basel. Ken Zuckerman had been a teacher of improvisation in medieval music at the renowned Schola Cantorum Bsiliensis, the medieval music center of the Music Academy, since 1980. Thanks to his good reputation and contacts, the Music Academy provided the facilities for the seminars on its campus right from the start. Later on, Indian music became part of the Music Academy's regular curriculum as part of the Studio for Music of the Cultures.

I personally pilgrimaged consistently every autumn to the seminar with Ali Akbar Khan in Basel from 1987 to 2000. Not only did I find ever new musical treasures there, I also got an invitation for further studies at the AACM in California, and I had many personal encounters of lasting impact. I could tell many anecdotes from those years: How I was playing sitar in place of Ravi Shankar at the soundcheck for his concert. How I sat on stage with Ali Akbar Khan as a tanpura accompanist. How I was shaken by coughing in one of his concerts but simply couldn't leave the hall, because I was not willing to miss a single moment of his performance. How several student were competing on who could touch the other's feet in a more humble gesture, which resulted in us crawling on the floor of the seminar room. But this probably belongs somewhere else.

What definetely belongs here, though, is a praise and thank you to Ken Zuckerman. Without his seemingly tireless energy, the AACM Switzerland would have been a short-lived phenomenon. When Ali Akbar Khan is the AACM's his spiritual father, then Ken Zuckerman is something of its spiritual mother: Always nurturing, encouraging, striving to ensure the physical basics, concerned about the welfare of pupils and teachers alike, always approachable, always supportive and always an inspiration to others with his exemplary open and sensitive humaneness and great musicality. Ken, the Indian music in Europe owes you a lot - and me personally, too! I congratulate you to 25 years of AACM Switzerland and wish the AACM at least another 25 more successful years to come!

(For more information see and


6. Global Indian Music Awards
- Music News -

India is not only catching up fast with the industrialized western countries economically - Indian music is now challenging the global domination of western music as well. In December, the Global Indian Music Awards, short GIMA, were bestowed for the first time in Mumbai - obviously inspired by the Grammys of the U.S. music industry. The GIMA are an initiative of the Indian music industry and allocate a total of 27 awards, divided into four major categories: film music (11 awards), non-film music (10 awards), pop music (3 awards) and special (3 awards). The classical raga music is represented in the non-film category with four awards for best album in Hindustani Classical Vocal, Hindustani Classical Instrumental, Carnatic Classical Vocal and Carnatic Classical Instrumental.

Although the GIMA are dominated by the overwhelmingly powerful Indian film music industry, they have announced some very praiseworthy intentions in their basic proclamations. The GIMA should explicitly promote genres such as Classical, Semi-Classical, Devotional Music, Fusion, and Popular Music, support upcoming musicians and encourage media to spread Indian music around world. This general mission becomes tangible in the 10 awards for non-film music and the special award for "outstanding contribution of an Indian on a global stage." However, the worldwide availability of any music in the digital age, with all its opportunities and risks, is already an everyday reality in today's India, too - clearly demonstrated by the special award for "Best Anti-Piracy Initiative of the Year".

The glamorous award show seemed to make it secondary, who got which award exactly. It was probably more important that the GIMA got launched at all, that the award show presented a lot of stars and starlets, and that the Indian media covered the show extensively and favourably. The music world beyond the Indian borders may not yet have been conquered, but the Indian music industry has flexed its muscles and filed its claims.

Let's conclude by mentioning that violin maestro L. Subramaniam won the award for best album Carnatic Classical Instrumental with a recording called "Violin Virtuoso", published by the London-based label Navras - and that "Violin Virtuoso" is available from India Instruments at 15.- Euros (plus shipping, order number NRCD0213). Check details at our website.

(More about the GIMA at

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