Newsletter July / August 2018


1. Harmonium Purchase Guide (6/6) – Sources
2. Craft & Art in Bhakti Music (5) – Diligent Handling of Tradition
3. Movie – Mantra: Sounds into Silence
4. Brief News – G.S.Sachdev / Mick Taylor / Sangit Enounters / Darbar Festival
5. How to Make (Indian) Music? (14) – Rhythm is the Skeleton
6. Workshops – August until October
7. Concerts – August until October

1. Harmonium Purchase Guide (6/6) – Sources
- Background Info -

We offer a wide range of different harmonium models. But how can you find the right harmonium for your specific requirements? The Harmonium Purchase Guide gives you some orientation. It deals with six essential topics: mobility; sound & feel; context & flexibility; sustain, response & volume; tuning and sources.

When you know, which kind of harmonium model you want, the next big question is, where to get it. If you are lucky, there is an established retailer in your area, who imports directly from India  and who has your favourite amongst many different harmonium models. There you can compare various instruments, have everything checked thoroughly and take home your instrument of choice. Ideally, such a retailer has his / her own workshop for tuning harmoniums, fixing air leaks, making stuck parts move or repairs damaged wood parts. This way you can come back if something breaks or maintenance is due after long periods of use.

If there is no retailer available nearby, the next best possibility is to travel to one elsewhere. Maybe you can find a retailer you can reach to and get back from within a day, or in a city where you go regularly anyway. The additional effort in time and travelling costs is usually worth it. Harmoniums are just not uniform industrial mass products, but handcrafted individually in small series - ever slightly different from one another.

If you can not make it to a retailer, you can order via the internet. Even though the whole world is at your disposal here, the abundance of offers is hard to assess. For orientation it can be helpful to ask someone with more experience for an online shop recommendation, e.g. a harmonium teacher whom you had lessons or workshops with, or a friend who has already bought a harmonium online. When viewing an online shop, make sure that there is comprehensive info on  each harmonium model in description, technical details, pictures and sound samples. Check the  origin of the instruments (manufacturer? brand? No-name?), the rules for guarantee and cancellation, as well as to the credibility, experience and competence of the shop owner. A good retailer will shows his / her name, face, bio data and contact details, has been in the instrument business for many years and does repairs on his / her own.

If you compare online offers, you will find various retailers in Europe and North America, who have roughly the same price levels – and retailers who ship directly from India for half the price or even less. With some luck an online purchase in India can be a bargain. But you could as well get into lots of trouble and lose quite a bit of money. When you think about buying in India, you should therefore consider the following points:

  • It can easily come to misunderstandings with Indian online retailers because of language barriers and very different cultural conventions.
  • Shipping costs are often massive and are not always clearly indicated.
  • You normally have to pay value added tax when you import things from overseas into your country. VAT is added to the price of the harmonium and the shipping cost. VAT increases your total purchase cost considerably.
  • Indian online retailers mostly offer no-name instruments with unclear origin. A reliable level of quality is not secured like this.
  • Indian online retailers are not necessarily specialists for musical instruments. Some are pure export contractors who sell any kind of products and are neither capable of assessing the quality of the instruments themselves, nor of consulting on it.
  • European quality standards can not be enforced in Indian craftsmanship. You always have to be prepared for flaws like unbalanced tuning, jammed keys, buzzing reeds, missing register separation, air leaks, loose screws, scratches and dents. Keeping such flaws as they are can spoil all fun with the instrument – and getting them fixed outside India can cost a lot of time, money and nerves.
  • Major damages can always happen in transit due to insufficient packing or bad treatment of the packages. In such cases you completely depend on the good will of the sender. Once you have paid in advance, you can hardly enforce legitimate claims in case of conflict.
  • If the delivered instrument is different from how it was portrayed online or from your expectations, you also depend on the goodwill of the sender.
  • Your costs of money transfer, shipment, tolls and VAT are usually lost in case of any problems, even if you get  refund of the buying price.
  • Online security is rather neglected in India. We know of cases, in which hackers have rerouted money transfers meant for Indian online retailers to their own bank accounts, by manipulating emails. The money of the buyers was lost and the retailers rejected any responsibility.

Of course you can carry a harmonium from India yourself. But it is not that easy to find good quality, especially if your time is limited. And when you have found a beautiful instrument you have to get it home safely as well. If you already have hand baggage and a suitcase, you can not just add a harmonium to your luggage. For shipping you need secure packaging and have to handle several formalities. That, too, can take a surprising amount of time, money and nerves.
Buying a used harmonium from a private seller is always a gamble. Especially, if you buy online, without having checked and tested it thoroughly beforehand. It is rather common that several notes are out of tune. Of course, you can let those be tuned later, but that takes time and money. Serious problems arise when there are hidden damages in the structure. Air leaks caused by warped or cracked wooden panels can make it impossible to produce the required air pressure for proper sound production. This can make a harmonium completely unplayable. With a second hand harmonium you are only on the safe side, when you buy it with an encompassing guarantee from a specialist dealer.

We have now reached the end of our little harmonium purchase guide. We hope very much that it gives you a good orientation about all the important questions. Please contact us at if you are missing something or something is unclear or if you want to share your experiences with buying a harmonium!

Harmonium assortment of India Instruments.
Our 2nd hand harmoniums and other instruments.


2. Craft & Art in Bhakti Music (5) – Diligent Handling of Tradition
- Contribution by Sundaram -

Singing mantras together is a part of Bhakti yoga, the Indian path of devotion. Today, you can experience Bhakti music outside traditional temples in public concerts, at festivals, on the internet and on CDs. Some Bhakti musicians have become world-famous stars and many others follow in their footsteps. What musical skills are required of a Bhakti musician? Is Bhakti music a form of art? We have asked Bhakti musicians to address these issues. Sundaram has originally studied classical Western music. Today, he is a seminar guide for Mantra Yoga and one of the leading mantra singers in German-speaking countries.

Craftsmanship and art for me is not a question of the either-or, but an as-well-as. All great art is a work of craftsmanship, too, and every piece of craftsmanship can be great art. If we think dualistically, we play out things against each other. So, first passion and then technology or first technology and then passion. That´s nonsense.  It is, of course, easy for the mind to categorise it like that: 1. technology, 2. passion. In truth, both merges into one. It needs patience and diligence and, of course, room for mistakes.

I think it is important to distinguish between Mantra and Kirtan, in the music associated with Bhakti Yoga. Both has its place, its beauty and its function. In every case, the underlying intention plays as big a role, as the diligent handling of a tradition.

I think it is important to distinguish between Mantra and Kirtan, in the music associated with Bhakti Yoga. Both has its place, its beauty and its function. In every case, the underlying intention plays as big a role, as the diligent handling of a tradition.

A mantra is an appeal, but it is also a tool to free the mind. Or even better: a tool to free the soul from the clenching grip of the mind. The secret here is the repetition. With mantra recitation, a conscious musical reduction takes place. It is not a performance. It is recited essentially on one basic tone, now and then it climbs up, or falls down a tone. All the time it is important to attend to the correct pronunciation. In Sanskrit (as opposed to German, where the stress of a word is of enormous impact) the length of vowels plays a huge role, because it can create great differences in meaning. A very simple example: there is the word aananda (bliss) with a long a at the beginning.  And there is the word nanda, which means luck or happiness. If I now put a short a in the beginning, ananda, then it is, like in the latin - apolitical, amusical, a negation. But if this short a becomes a long aaaananda, it means more-than-great happiness, so bliss. Thus, there is a big difference between ananda and aananda. It holds the same way for e.g. nidhaana (treasure, vessel) and nidhana (end, death).

That which is often called mantra singing is actually Kirtana (literally praise), when examined closely. Often during Kirtana, names of gods are just stringed together (i.e. Krishna Govinda Govinda Gopala, Jay Sita Ram Jay Hanuman). Of course, we have artistic freedom here, but again the pronunciation rules are to be upheld, just as we would do with the stress of a German text.

You could also give a mantra (i.e. Om Namah Shivaya) a melody. In this, the music is servant to the mantra, not the other way around. This means, sometimes a mantra does not fit into a four bar form. But because we like it so much and it works out so nicely musically, we just jumble it together. The Gayatri Mantra is hard to press into a musical form, if one pays attention to the lengths (it is, for example, deeevasya, not devasyaaa). A respectful conduct could then be, to decide not to create a musical version of a mantra. For me, though, Kirtana is also a living tradition which constantly develops. To stay alive, it needs our ‘yes’ to variety, our passion and enthusiasm, our inspiration and creativity. And it needs our diligent attention.

Personally, I came in contact with yoga as a child – my mother was teaching yoga in the 80s in Bavaria, for 2 German mark per class. I started practicing yoga actively only in 1996, first in a yoga course at the music college and then in the only yoga center in Frankfurt at the time. During that time, I came in contact with the clarity and beauty of Indian Mantras, Kirtans and Bhajans. Since then I am repeatedly attempting to build bridges between vedic and occidental tradition, between Indian and European music. And this at concerts and seminars, as well as in my matter of heart, the year group. I believe we live in a time, in which these bridges are needed more than ever.

Sundaram's website.


3. Movie – Mantra: Sounds into Silence
- Review  by Yogendra -,h_227,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/868979_1ede142074fe4e3a940fd43e2c965380~mv2.jpg

The title of this movie is a bit misleading. Actually, it is just marginally about mantras in the sense of holy syllables, which are attributed to have magical-mystical-spiritual effects when correctly repeated. And it as not about a way from sound into silence, either. Rather, the movie is dedicated  to chanting – the collective, repeated singing of mantras and divine names from various Indian traditions. Chanting has become more and more popular in the last 20 years and plays a big role in today's vastly growing yoga scene. While many yoga practices train discipline and control, chanting is about Bhakti: passion and letting go – pure heart, in a sense.

This makes chanting a wonderful supplement for head-loaden yoga paths, as well as an opposite to the media-flodded digitalised modern life and working worlds. Chanting is therefore on the same wavelength as the meditative singing of the Christian ecumenical community of Taizé and the growing enthusiasm for singing in choirs. It is part of a bigger movement, which searches for a physical-sensual experience of emotional intensity and a feeling of community in a world governed by technology.

Mantra: Sounds into silence is a fervent declaration of the love of chanting, lovingly staged with atmospheric pictures and enchanting music. We hear testimonies of people who have just made their first experiences with chanting, of frequent practitioners and, of course, of the known pioneers of the chanting wave. They all describe how they found their very own way to healing and inner peace through chanting. Every word is a plea for the positive and transforming power of chanting. The heart of the movie, though, is not the talking, but scenes from chanting gatherings. They invite you to feel the very special atmosphere, to resonate and be touched. It is a chance to experience Deva Premal & Miten, Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, Jai Uttal, MC Yogi, Dave Stringer, Lama Gyurme & Jean-Philippe Rykiel, Vijya Krsna and many, many others.

When looking closely, though, the movie raises some questions, though probably unintended. In some statements, chanting seems like a wellness product that can be used to stroke the oh-so-tender soul of mostly white middle class people. Is this Bhakti? In one scene Snatam Kaur sings in immersion on a large stage – and stops in the very middle of things to make an adjustment with the audio technicians. The next camera move shows an empty hall: We are witnessing a tech-rehearsal. How real is the apparent ecstasy? Which role falls to musical and technological handiwork? Is a chanting-event with hundreds or thousands of participants just a normal concert,  with very pronounced elements of participation? Or a form of trans-confessional spiritual celebration? During an event with Deva Premal & Miten in Moscow in a concert hall with thousands of seats, we see countless smartphones in the audience, held up for filming with one hand while the other hand rests on the heart. What is the difference to pop or rock concerts in which the fans sing along with all the song texts, too? Some pop entertainers even ask for silence instead of applause after an emotional ballad nowadays, so that touching goosebump moments may arise. And has a mantra the same effect, no matter whether it is sung accompanied by a harmonium and a tabla, shouted over an electric guitar and drums, or rapped to digital beats?

Those are open and important questions for organisers and masters of ceremonies of chanting events. But in the end such questions are washed aside by the intensive emotional highlight of the movie: we  accompany Jai Uttal and some fellow musicians into an inhospitable building, where they have to pass through a security gate with their instruments, showing their IDs. They are entering San Quentin State Prison, which is known as one of the most brutal prisons in California. In a small and sparse hall a Kirtan is to take place, chanting in call and response form. A few dozen prisoners, mainly older men of dark skin have come and hang around, waiting, at first, on the inhospitable benches. During the course of the event, though, they start opening up, move with the rhythm, sing along, blossom, clap, stand up, throw their arms in the air and finally dance freely through the room, full of happiness and joy. And the inspiration, the lived freedom of the soul despite imprisonment, still shines in these people, when they are interviewed after the Kirtan. The direct and elementary power of chanting becomes clear in this scene more than anywhere else. Kirtan  does not impose any conditions and does not presuppose anything. One does not need any skills or knowledge to be there. Anybody can immediately and directly participate. One just has to open up and let go. Then wonders can happen.

Mantra: Sounds into Silence is running in cinemas in the USA, Germany and Austria, and is coming up in Australia and New Zealand from September on. Movie website with trailer and further information.

4. Brief News – G.S.Sachdev / Mick Taylor / Sangit Enounters / Darbar Festival 
- Scene Info -

An old master of North-Indian classical music, bansuri player G.S. Sachdev, has died in June, after a short illness at the age of over 80 years. With decades of concert tours and many recordings he has, like Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, brought Indian music to a broad Western audience. Music was his life. His playing was marked by a touching depth and encounter, an art of unmasked expression. In concert, this experience could deeply touch his listeners and bring them closer to their inner self, felt as a part of something bigger than the individual. As musician and human being, he has reached, inspired and bonded with many hearts with his authentic, upright and humorous way of being. His music speaks for itself, his love and inspiration will be with us eternally. – Joachim Hübner

G.S.Sachdev & Swapan Chaudhuri live.
Introdution to Bansuri von G.S.Sachdev.

When raga rock was in style in the late 60s and Ravi Shakar played for hundreds of thousands of people in Woodstock and taught the world renowned star George Harrison of the Beatles, the Englishman Mick Taylor was just one of many Westerners who were fascinated by Indian music and picked up a sitar. But Mick was one of the very few Western pioneers who stayed with Indian music for life. Learning from Imrat Khan, brother of the legendary Vilayat Khan, he mastered the raga tradition to a degree that brought him wide recognition in Europe and India, both as a performer and sitar teacher. Thus he became an inspiring role model for the next generations of Western raga adepts. In collaboration with his wife, kathak dancer Alpana Sengupta, he continuously worked as concert organiser and advocate for Indian classical music in England and thus contributed to its institutional recognition and public appreciation. On the 21st of June, Mick has now died, after long years of suffering from cancer, at the age of 69.

Mick Taylor with Raga Marwa live.
Short movie about Mick Taylor & Alpana Sengupta.

After long years of research, musicologist Eva-Maria van Straaten has published her dissertation about specific questions of classical North Indian music practice: Listening Out for Sangīt Encounters - Dynamics of Knowledge and Power in Hindustani Classical Instrumental Music. Behind the bulky title hides a highly reflective, meandering search for traces, which uncovers uncommon perspectives by means of analytic current culture studies. Van Straaten shows in detail how definitory power is negotiated and authority is affirmed in listening processes. It is stimulating reading for anybody who likes to look behind the scenes on an academic level and would like to understand North Indian music as dynamic cultural practice.

Website of dissertation with summary and links to complete text and audio samples.

Curious about the current stars of Indian classical music, but no chance to see them live in India? Attend the Darbar Festival in London this fall! The most important European festival for classical Indian music presents an enormous variety of North and South Indian traditions, instrumental, vocal and percussion, Dhrupad and Khyal, solo and duo. Main artists this time are Debashish Bhattacharya, Ashwine Bhide Deshpande, Purbayan Chatterjee, Shahid Parvez, Parveen Sultana, Rupak Kulkarni and Wasifuddin Dagar, amost others. And in November, there will be a follow up weekend with classical Indian dance.

Full info: Darbar Festival.


5. How to Make (Indian) Music? (14) – Rhythm is the Skeleton
- Quote by Ali Akbar Khan -

The series "How to Make (Indian) Music?" presents thought-provoking, inspiring or controversial quotes from artists and intellectuals.

Rhythm is like your skeleton, you see, and the notes are like your flesh. If your music is all rhythm and no notes, it will be too hard; and if it is just the notes, it will be too flabby. It is a matter of balance, and playing in rhythm is a matter of balance, too. When you go out of rhythm it is like you are drunk, reeling out of control. All the time you must concentrate on just one beat and keep that steady. Only then you can think of taal and mathematics and all these things. Akbar Khan (1922-2009) was one of the most important Indian musicians and music teachers of the second half of the 20th century. His way of playing the sarod has decidedly formed todays understanding of the sarod. Quoted from: The Classical Music of North India – The Music of the Baba Allauddin Gharana as taught by Ali Akbar Khan; Volume One: The First Year's Study; Notated with explanatory text by George Ruckert, p. 223

6. Workshops – August until October
- Scene Info -

Details of all workshops are available in our website's network section.

24.-26.08. OBERLAHR/WESTERWALD: Harmonium seminar with Marco Büscher
26.-31.08. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium & Kirtan in the classic Indian style with Ram Vakkalanka
10.-12.08. GERODE/HARZ: Nada Yoga – the healing power of sound with C.Mager, B.Irmer & F.Beese
23.08. CH - ZURICH: Naad Shakti, the power of Indian music and mantras with Manish Vyas
24.-26.08. OBERLAHR/WESTERWALD: Harmonium seminar with Marco Büscher
26.-31.08. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium & Kirtan in the classic Indian style with Ram Vakkalanka
09.09. CH - ST. GALLEN: Tabla Workshop with Manish Vyas
14.-16.09. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium beginner´s seminar with Devadas Mark Janku
05.-07.10. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium learning seminar with Devadas Mark Janku
07.-14.10. BAD MEINBERG: Nada Yoga basic education with Anne-Careen Engel
12.-14.10. OY-MITTELBERG/ALLGÄU: Harmonium learning seminar with Jürgen Wade
19.-21.10. OY-MITTELBERG/ALLGÄU: Harmonium beginner´s seminar with Jürgen Wade
19.-21.10. HEMMOOR/HAMBURG: Sitar – Step by step... with Yogendra
19.-21.10. CH - TICINO: Reconnect yourself with music and yoga with Manish Vyas
26.-28.10. HORUMERSIEL/NORTH SEA: Harmonium learning seminar with Devadas Mark Janku
09.-11.11. GERODE/HARZ: Nada Yoga continuing education: Mantra recitation with Indian instruments with C.Mager, B.Irmer & F.Beese
From 16.11. WEIMAR: 3-year old Naad-Yoga-teacher training with Gian Kaur & Prof. Surinder Singh

7. Concerts – June until August
- Scene Info -

For details, locations, times and further dates check our concert calendar.

23.08. I - PETTENASCO: Prem Joshua - World Music
24.08. BAD MEINBERG: Karnamrita & Vijay Krsna - Kirtan
24.08. CH - ZURICH: The Love Keys - Kirtan
24.08. GB - LONDON: Neeraj Arya's Kabir Café - Kabir Folk
24.08. CH - ASCONA: Prem Joshua - World Music
25.08. KLEINWELKA: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums
26.08. BAD MEINBERG: Vijay Krsna & Friends - Kirtan
26.08. BE - BEAURAING: Sitardust - IndoJazz
26.08. BAD MEINBERG: Vijay Krsna & Friends - Kirtan
28.08. GB - LONDON: S R Veeraraghavan - Carnatic Vocal
31.08. REINSBERG: The Love Keys - Kirtan
31.08. GB - LONDON: Debanjali Biswas - Manipuri Classical Dance
01.09. UBERLINGEN: Prem Joshua - World Music
03.09. CH -ZURICH: Manisch Vyas - Kirtan
04.09. BAD MEINBERG: The Love Keys - Kirtan
13.09. BE - BRUSSELS: Sitardust - IndoJazz
15.09. DREIEICH: The Love Keys - Kirtan
15.09. OBERLAHR: Prema Mayi - Kirtan
16.09. CH - KREUZLINGEN: The Love Keys - Kirtan
18.09. SE - STOCKHOLM: Prema Mayi - Kirtan
21.09. TUBINGEN: Indigo Masala - Acoustic Raga Chamber Jazz
21.09. ST. WENDEL: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums
22.09. RUDOLSTADT: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums
22.09. GB - LONDON: Debashish Bhattacharya - Slide Guitar / Praxen Sheolinkar - Violin
22.09. KONSTANZ: Indigo Masala - Acoustic Raga Chamber Jazz
23.09. GB - LONDON: Purbayan Chatterjee - Sitar / Ashwini Bhide Deshpande – Khyal
23.09. NL - AMSTERDAM: Zakir Hussain - Tabla
24.09. F - NICE: Zakir Hussain's Tala Vadya - Percussion Group
27.09. FRANKFURT/MAIN: Prema Mayi - Kirtan
27.09. GB - LONDON: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
28.09. MUNICH: Prema Mayi - Kirtan
28.09. GB - LONDON: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
29.09. WEIMAR: Nelly Gian Geier - Sarangi
29.09. COLOGNE: Manish Vyas - Kirtan
29.09. I - MILANO: Prema Mayi - Kirtan
30.09. PT - LISBON: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
02.10. F - PARIS: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
04.10. OFFENBACH: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
05.10. GB - SHEFFIELD: Arjun Baba - Kirtan
06.10. NL - AMSTERDAM: Rajan & Sajan Misra - Khyal Vocal
06.10. RU - MOSCOW: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
06.10. STUTTGART: Shakir Khan - Sitar
07.10. BAD MEINBERG: Sundaram - Kirtan
07.10. BERLIN: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums
08.10. HU - BUDAPEST: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
09.10. BAD MEINBERG: The Love Keys - Kirtan
12.10. ES - BARCELONA: Prema Mayi - Kirtan
12.10. MUNICH: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
13.10. MUNICH: Arjun Baba - Kirtan
13.10. CH - LICHTENSTEIG: Manish Vyas - Vocal, Tabla, Santur
14.10. CH - LAUSANNE: Manish Vyas - Kirtan
14.10. CZ - PRAGUE: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
14.10. OSTFILDERN/STUTTGART: Deepsankar Bhattacharjee - Sitar
16.10. CH - ZURICH: Manish Vyas - Kirtan
16.10. NL - ALMERE: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
17.10. NL - ALMERE: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
19.10. GOTHA: The Love Keys - Kirtan
19.10. BE - ANTWERP: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
20.10. SAALFELD: The Love Keys - Kirtan
21.10. F - GRASSE: Rajan & Sajan Misra - Khyal Vocal
21.10. LEIPZIG: The Love Keys - Kirtan
21.10. SE - STOCKHOLM: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
23.10. A - VIENNA: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
25.10. GB - LONDON: Rupak Kulkarni - Bansuri / Meeta Pandit - Khyal
25.10. CH - LAUSANNE: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
26.10. DK - COPENHAGEN: The Love Keys - Kirtan
26.10. GB - LONDON: Soumik Datta - Sarod / Malladi Brothers - Carnatic Vocal
26.10. GB - LONDON: Fanna Fi Allah - Sufi Qawwali
27.10. CH - ZURICH: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
27.10. GB - LONDON: Wasifuddin Dagar - Dhrupad Vocal
27.10. GB - LONDON: Sanju Sahai - Tabla Solo
27.10. GB - LONDON: L. Krishnan & L. Vijayalakshmi - Violin / Omkar Dadarkar - Khyal
28.10. ROSTOCK: The Love Keys - Kirtan
28.10. GB - LONDON: Shahid Parvez - Sitar / Parveen Sultana - Khyal Vocal
29.10. SIEGBURG: Deva Premal & Miten - Kirtan
30.10. POTSDAM: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums

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