Newsletter March / April 2012

1. Reduced Prices for Electronic Instruments
- Company Info -

In recent years it has become very easy to order electronic tabla-, tanpura- and lahara-machines directly in India thanks to the internet. Of course the prices are considerably lower there than at a European dealer like India Instruments. However, we believe that it may still be wise to order such gadgets from us. Therefore, we reduce our prices massively - with savings of up to 30% and up to 90.- Euros as of April 1st! See below why we do believe that we are so very competitive ...

Taalmala Digi electr.Tabla 60, so far 199.- Euros --- now only 189.- Euros
Taal Tarang electr.Tabla, so far 279.- Euros --- now only 199.- Euros

Raagini digital electr. Tanpura, so far 259.- Euros --- now only 189.- Euros
Saarang MagicPlus electr. Tanpura, so far 195.- Euros --- now only 169.- Euros
Saarang Maestro Dx electr. Tanpura, so far 215.- Euros --- now only 179.- Euros
Saarang Sparshini electr. Tanpura, so far 279.- Euros --- now only 229.- Euros
Swarangini digital electr. Tanpura, so far 289.- Euros --- now only 199.- Euros

Nagma electr. Lahara, so far 249.- Euros --- now only 179.- Euros
Sunadamala electr. Lahara, so far 199.- Euros --- now only 169.- Euros

Let's make a sample calculation for a direct order in India at a list price of 100.- Euros. Shipping costs are extra, e.g. 25.- Euros - adding to a purchase price of 125.- Euros. This purchase price will be taxed when imported into the EU at the national sales tax (VAT) rate (around 20% in most EU countries), which brings the cost up to 150.- Euros. In addition, many delivery services charge a fee for the import formalities - another 10.- Euros in the equation. And of course, the purchase must be paid in advance, resulting in bank charges for international money transfers outside the EU, likely around 10.- Euros, depending on the bank. With all these additional costs you easily end up paying around 170.- Euros...

True, you might save a little bit that way - but you are also taking a huge risk, even up to a total loss: Pratically, a sender in India can not provide any warranty, exchange or cancellation rights to a customer in Europe. If the gadget is lost during transit or arrives with damages - bad luck. If you don't like the sound or handling of the machine - your own fault. If the gadget breaks down after a while - bad karma.

In view of these facts we believe that it is still wise to buy electronic tabla-, tanpura- and lahara-machines from India Instruments. With us you don't take any risk, thanks to the full statutory warranty, exchange and withdrawal rights. And moreover you benefit from easier handling, faster delivery, expert advice, the opportunity to try out in person at our store and full service after the sale.

... and if you still consider our prices of these gadgets too high in spite of everything, we can offer you affordable alternatives, too, such as the tabla-, tanpura- and drone software RiyazStudio, our tanpura- and tabla-CDs or our 2nd choice tabla-machines - now reduced once more to only 60 Euros!


2. Increased Prices for Paloma Harmoniums
- Company Info -

Inflation in India remains high. Especially in booming cities like Mumbai, the costs keep on rising fast - and our supplier Paloma is based right there. Due to massive increases in our purchase cost, we have to increase the prices of all our Paloma harmoniums and Paloma shrutiboxes. Here are the new prices as of April 16th (including 19% German VAT - not payable by customers outside the European Union):

Paloma shrutibox small - 230.- Euros
Paloma harmonium standard - 450.- Euros
Paloma harmonium companion - 540.- Euros
Paloma harmonium compactina - 690.- Euros
Paloma harmonium premium - 690.- Euros
Paloma harmonium scale-changer - 1190.- Euros

We believe that the very high quality standard of Paloma justifies these higher prices and still recommend these instruments wholeheartedly. But for music lovers who simply can not afford these prices we are currently negotiating with several instrument manufacturers for the supply of alternative models at cheaper prices. However, we will not be able to offer them any earlier than this fall due to the long production and delivery times.

Those who have already been thinking about buying a Paloma harmonium or a Paloma shrutibox should now seize the opportunity and order it at the old price until April 15th - that way you could save up to 200.- Euros compared to the new prices!


3. Farewell to Two Sitar Virtuosos
- Obituaries -

Shamim Ahmed Khan, sitar virtuoso of the Maihar gharana, passed away in Mumbai on February 14th at the age of 73 after a heart attack. He came from a family of singers from Baroda in the tradition of the Agra gharana and received a musical education from an early age. As a teenager he followed his love of the sitar and became a student of Ravi Shankar in 1955. From 1960 onwards he taught at Ravi Shankar's Kinnar School of Music in Mumbai. In 1967 Shamim Ahmed Khan accompanied his teacher to the United States, where he performed, taught and recorded throughout the 1970s. Later he settled down again in Mumbai and lived there as a highly regardeded performer and teacher.
A CD by Shamim Ahmed Khan with the ragas Bhairav, Madhuvanti and Chandrakauns and a dhun (with Nayan Ghosh on the tabla) is available from India Instruments for 15, - Euros (NRCD 0093, plus shipping).

Just a day after Shamim Ahmed Khan and living only 2 km away from him in Mumbai, sitarist Jamaluddin Bhartiya passed away, too. He was 83 years old. He came from a traditional family of musicians and was a student of Ravi Shankar as well. But Jamaluddin Bhartiya had also learnt from Khyal singer Amir Khan and combined the Maihar style of Ravi Shankar with the vocal articulation of Vilayat Khan in his playing - so much so that he not only played sitar, but also sang in his concerts. He became known to audiences in Central Europe in the 1970s, when he temporarily settled in Amsterdam where he established a school for Indian music. Jamaluddin Bhartiya's student Darshan Kumari still continues teaching sitar in this tradition in Amsterdam to this day - and was the first teacher of India Instruments' founder Yogendra in the early 1980s.

A wide selection of CDs of various sitarist is available here

4. The Young Maestros (1/8) - New Generation
- Background Info -

In the first edition of the new Indian music, dance and theater magazine Avantika (published in January 2012), music journalist Arunabha Deb wrote about the new generation of great Hindustani classical musicians aged between 30 and 40. We present his article with an introduction and seven portraits of musicians as a series in eight parts.

The past was glorious, the present delightful, the future burning bright

The popular media got many an opportunity to kiss Hindustani music goodbye over the last decade. Since the death of Ustad Alla Rakha in 2000, many stalwarts have followed - Ustad Vilayat Khan in 2004; Pandit Kishan Maharaj in 2008; Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in 2009; and, most recently, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi in 2011. Of what could well be called a golden generation, only Pandit Ravi Shankar remains, evergreen (as he has always been) at 92. With each of these maestros passing away, the media has created murmurs of despair; with each personal epitaph, it has built the tombstone of Hindustani music at large. The lament? Young people are disinterested in either practicing or engaging in classical music; with the golden generation rested the hopes of our great music, and now, we are staring into (and therein comes that dirty word) a void.

The apprehension is misplaced, to say the very least. Even before one takes a look at the plethora of really young Hindustani musicians that are performing at large, it would be prudent to take a step back and look at the generation between the one that is gone and the one that is emerging. Who do we find? Amongst instrumentalists we have Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan; amongst vocalists, there are Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar, Kishori Amonkar und Ustad Rashid Khan.

So there was never any question of a void. What is heartening is that new faces are already knocking on the doors of these maestros. And that shouldn't really be a surprise. In a tradition that has always measured the value of a musician, among other things, by the quality of his / her disciples, it is only expected that each generation should work as hard as the one previous in ensuring that the legacy continues. Of course, the world changes a tiny bit every day. For under-40 musicians today, there are options that their gurus could not have imagined. That makes this generation more divers still: their choices define them more significantly than ever before: some have stuck to tradition, some have abandoned it altogether and most are in the process of figuring out a place somewhere in between. As the poster girl of the new generation Kaushiki Desikan so eloquently puts it, "Tradition is a fluid motion - we are trained in ti, but then we also contribute to it."


5. Concert Life in Calcutta (1/5) - Mehfil
- Travel Report -

In February 2012, Yogendra had the opportunity to experience classical concert life in the Bengali music metropolis Calcutta. He tells of the many facets of the current scene in a five-part series.

Mehfil - The House Concert

For centuries, classical raga music was played primarily at the Indian princely courts in an illustrious circle of invited guests. The subtle fascination of this music can perhaps best unfold in such intimate settings. Later on, wealthy bourgeois landowners, businessmen and academics took over as hosts for this kind of musical gathering in a private setting, known as mehfil. The magic of the mehfil has been captured beautifully by the great director Satyajit Ray in his classic film "The Music Room" (Jalsaghar), published in 1958. However, since Indian independence, the tradition of the mehfil has been displaced more and more by public concerts. But today it is still kept alive in a slightly altered form by a small number of enthusiasts.

Instead of a palace, or at least a mansion, the site of one of these modern mehfils was a simple three-room apartment near Tollygunge, a lively area in the southern part of Calcutta. Instead of a maharaja or zamindar, the dedicated organiser and host was dhrupad student and filmmaker Carsten Wicke (his wonderful documentary Music Masala is available from India Instruments). And instead of a bag of gold coins, the performers' was nothing but a hot meal. Music was obviously not used as a prestigious status symbol here. The idea was not to imitate the pomp of the old mehfil but to cultivate its spirit and to share the passion for a select, highly refined art form.

Those who found their way to the small apartment this evening knew what they were up to and had deliberately chosen the gathering over several other high profile concerts scheduled in Calcutta that night. The 30 or so guests were about one-third Indian music lovers, European and North American music students and performers who delivered not just their own contributions but also listened to each other. And around midnight the great tabla master Anindo Chatterjee showed up as a special guest of honour. He lives in the immediate neighborhood and had been the teacher of host Carsten Wicke at the beginning of his musical career, when he started with learning tabla. The aforementioned hot meal was one of the many rewards for all who had come and stayed at least until midnight .

Set on was an all-night programmme, beginning in the evening and lasting until the wee hours. In this format several artists perform the ragas appropriate for the specific hour one after the other, so that even seldom heard ragas for the end of the night or early morning can be enjoyed. As is customary on such occasions, the guests do not necessarily attend everything from the beginning to the end, but come and go as they please. This creates a relaxed form, which positively emphasizes the intimate nature of the event.

The programme featured young, largely unknown artists from Calcutta, Europe and the United States - it would go beyond the scope of this article to mention them all. Bids were male and female dhrupad singing, rudra veena, sitar, bansuri, sarod and kathak dance - a varied, ambitious and very unusual programme. The artistic level of the performances was also very mixed - it ranged from unpolished young talent to internationally seasoned master. Some local artists may have been involved in the hope of being able to make contacts for future paid performances, while the appeal for the western musicians probably consisted mainly in proving themselves to an Indian expert audience. But whatever the expectations - at the core of it all was definetely the enthusiasm for the music and the joy of sharing it with like-minded people.

And there was plenty of opportunity to do so for all artists noticeably gave their best and the physical proximity on the spread-out blankets and cushions on the floor of the music room transfered the concentration, dedication and enthusiasm of the performances directly to everybody present. Lively exchange and discussions with chai and snacks took place during the breaks in the kitchen or on the balcony - and went on until long after sunrise and the conclusion of the music. General consensus: A unique and precious experience that is far too rare in this form today.

6. Concert Calendar
- Scene Info -

April and May are peak season for Indian music in Central Europe - there are over 40 events in our concert calendar in those two months. The largest number of programmes takes place in and around Stuttgart this time. Top artists like sitarist Kushal Das and bansuri players Hariprasad Chaurasia and Rupak Kulkarni will be on tour. But the lesser-known artists are certainly interesting and worth listening to as well... More detailed information about accompanying musicians, venues and times and further dates in 2012 as always at Konzertkalender

Up to 22.4. BERLIN: Satyendra DEO SHARMA - sitar, various performances
8.4. AACHEN: Madhubanti Sarkar (vocal) & Indradeep Ghosh (violin)
20.4. NL - AMSTERDAM: RAJENDRA Prasanna - bansuri & Shahnai
21.4. B - ANTWERP: RAJENDRA Prasanna - bansuri & Shahnai
21.4. ESSEN: INDIAN DANCE - CLASSICAL & FOLK with Durga Arya etc.
27.4. AUGSBURG: DANCE OF THE UNIVERSE - Gertrud Sohler - Indian Dance
28.4. STUTTGART: Subroto Roy Chowdhury - Sitar
29.4. STUTTGART: Subroto Roy Chowdhury - Sitar
29.4. DIEPHOLZ: Yogendra - Sitar
30.4. MELLE: Yogendra - Sitar
1.5. BAD MEINBERG: Yogendra - Sitar
2.5. HECKENBECK: Yogendra - Sitar
4.5. SCHAFFHAUSEN: Kushal Das - Sitar, KEN ZUCKERMAN - Sarod
4.5. BRUNSWICK: Yogendra - Sitar
5.5. STUTTGART: Prosenjit SENGUPTA - Sarod
5.5. CH - BASEL: Kushal Das - Sitar
6.5. BAD GRUND: Yogendra - Sitar
6.5. CH - BASEL: Kushal Das - Sitar, KEN ZUCKERMAN - Sarod
6.5. ST. MARTIN: Kushal Das - Sitar
6.5. STUTTGART: Prosenjit SENGUPTA - Sarod
10.5. HANOVER: SUDOKSHINA CHATTERJEE - Khyal singing, Prosenjit SENGUPTA - Sarod
11.5. GÖPPINGEN: Kushal Das - Sitar
11.5. AACHEN: Mysore M. Manjunath (violin), Indradeep Ghosh (violin)
12.5. TÜBINGEN: Kushal Das - Sitar
12.5. LAUTERBACH: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
12.5. STUTTGART: SARASWATHI RAJATHESH - Mohiniattam-u Kuchipuditanz
13.5. STUTTGART: SARASWATHI RAJATHESH - Mohiniattam-u Kuchipuditanz
13.5. HEIDELBERG: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
17.5. BAD MEINBERG: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic World Fusion Asian IOANNA Srinivasan - Kathak
19.5. STUTTGART: APRATIM Majumdar - Sarod
20.5. STUTTGART: APRATIM Majumdar - Sarod
24.5. AACHEN: Rupak Kulkarni - Bansuri
25.5. ESSEN: Rupak Kulkarni - Bansuri
27.5. BERLIN: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
30.5. COLOGNE: Hariprasad Chaurasia - Bansuri

7. Indian Classical Music (2/7) - Raga & Tala
- Background Info -

Indian classical music and its instruments are the basis for the work of India Instruments. But what's so special about this tradition? In a 7-part series by Yogendra, we are giving an introduction for beginners.

Indian classical music (2/7) - raga & tala, heart & soul

Raga and tala, melody and rhythm, are the soul and the heart of Indian classical music traditions. The Sanskrit word raga is derived from the verb "ranj" which means "colour". Ragas are melodic structures for improvisation and composition, that are supposed to have a certain psychological effect on the audience - figuratively speaking they are to colour the mind. Tala literally means "clap" and refers to the rhythmic level, the vibrant pulse on which the music unfolds.

Rules for ragas

Each of the several hundred known ragas has a very unique individual sound-shape, which distinguishes it from all other ragas. It is defined by an ascending and a descending tonal movement, each with five to seven notes. Often the ascending and descending movement use the same notes, but in some ragas they can also have quite different notes. Sometimes the notes come straight in succession like a scale, but sometimes they also make zigzag movements. Some notes are used plain, almost naked, while others are embellished with refined ornaments. Some notes invite you to stay, others are only touched briefly. Some notes form fixed characteristic sequences, while others are combined and recombined in ever new ways. And all the notes refer to an uninterrupted drone, a shimmering carpet of sound in the background that is usually played by an instrument called tanpura.

Unfolding the structure

From all these rules we get a unique structure for each raga. It can be likened to the vocabulary and the grammar of a language, the steps of a dance or the genetic information of an organism. In order to unfold this structure, the language must be spoken, the dance must be danced, and the organism must grow and develop. Only in this unfolding of the raga it becomes alive and takes on a specific manifestation. This can be a fixed form in a particular composition - like a poem which contains the rules and the beauty of a language. However, most of the raga development happens spontaneously, improvising in the moment - just as we usually do not recite memorised texts when we talk, but express ourselves spontaneously according to the situation.

Magic of the Raga

Each raga has not only a certain formal structure but also an emotional quality, a mood, colour, energy, or whatever you want to call it. E.g. many ragas are associated with a certain time of day, a season or a deity. For centuries, people have also tried to portray the unique character of a raga in the form of paintings and poems. All of these associations may help opening doors to experiencing certain aspects of a raga. However, its full magic can not really be grasped by them. Beyond any words or images, only with abstract sound produced by the carefully refined art of great musicians, a raga can touch our innermost self, become a fresh and ever renewing spring of subtle joy and lead us to a place of deep peace within.

Eternal flow of time
v Tala, the rhythmic structure, has an important role in the unfolding of the raga. Talas are not linear like the bars in Western music, but circular - beginning and end are the same, so that the movement basically continues eternally. We know this phenomenon from the clock: Midnight can be called 24:00 as the completion of one day - or 00:00 as the beginning of another. But no matter how we look at it - time is flowing on and on evenly and unchanged. Just like that the tala moves on continuously in even pulses, creating a dynamic framework for the music. Special importance is given to the first beat, the beginning and end of the cycle. The music revolves around this first beat, orbiting it, moving away from it, sometimes apparently even loosing it, until the performers finally release the rhythmic tension by miraculously returning to the first beat together.

Structure of talas

This intuitive, seemingly magical interaction is only possible because each tala has a clearly defined structure. The total number of even pulses in any tala is usually between six and sixteen, divided into sub-groups of 2s, 3s or 4s. In this structure, each pulse is assigned a certain sound that is played on a drum in performances. In addition to its mathematical clarity, the tala thus manifests with a beguiling sensuous quality and characteristic movement. It is precisely this movement that is ticking exactly in the minds of musicians and connoisseurs in the audience alike throughout a concert, creating a sometimes downright intoxicating inner connection.

Recommended further reading:
* Ruckert, George: Music in North India - Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture; 100 pages, paperback, 16 illustrations, audio CD - 19.90 Euros
* Shankar, Ravi: My Music, My Life; 180 pages, hard cover, many pictures and illustrations - 21.90 Euros

Further info here

Go back