Newsletter March / April 2013

1. Learn to Play Harmonium - Media Set by Daniel Tucker
- New in our Assortment -

Yoga is booming in Central Europe and so is the chanting of mantras, bhajans and kirtans with harmonium accompaniment. Singing simple melodies, alone or in a group, just feels good and brings joy into your life - and the warm sound of the harmonium is a wonderful support. So far, however, there was no really good teaching material available for harmonium. Indian DVDs are focusing too much on classical Indian music, are based purely on melody playing and do not address the needs of Western learners. And western media usually provide only collections of songs but no systematic introduction to playing technique and musical basics. This gap is now closed by our new media set Learn to Play Harmonium by Daniel Tucker. It includes four DVDs, CD, book and practice cards in a box and is definitely the most comprehensive and best harmonium teaching material available today!

Daniel Tucker systematically explains and shows everything you need to know to be able to play the harmonium and accompany kirtans - fingering, bellows technique, basics of Indian melody playing, basics of chord playing and transposing. He also gives an introduction to care and handling of the harmonium, a vocal warm-up and two beautiful kirtans for implementing the acquired skills. The intelligent combination of various media makes the learning process transparent and inspiring. With Daniel's teaching you can understand the chords, scales and rhythms at the heart of kirtan music, and learn to read kirtan song sheets – and thus gain the tools for learning any number of kirtan songs. You can also gain confidence in your singing voice, develop your rhythm, feel comfortable playing in public and fall in love with your harmonium practice. And you can deepen your relationship to the divine names, connect with friends through music and song and open your heart and sing out, every day...

Daniel Tucker learnt Western music from early childhood. As a young man, he discovered his passion for kirtan and harmonium. He first learnt from different teachers (including Jai Uttal) in California, and then went to the Mayapur, a major center of the Indian kirtan tradition, for in-depth studies. On this basis, he developed his own harmonium teaching system that combines Indian melody and rhythm concepts with Western chords in a unique way.

Learn to Play Harmonium is now available form us as boxed media set for 95. - Euros (+ 6.90 Euros shipping within Germany / 19.90 Euros within Europe). For more information about the contents please check here.


2. Visionary of Indian Music (2/2) - Ravi Shankar
- Obituary by Yogendra, Germany -

Legendary sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar passed away on December 11th, 2012, aged 92. The first part of this detailed obituary in our previous newsletter dealt with his childhood and youth and his way to becoming a world-famous pop icon.


Ravi Shankar used his status as a pop icon to advance his career, but psychedelic drugs, free love and the revolutionary attitude of the juvenile western counter-culture remained disturbingly alien to him. He saw himself neither as part of the hippie movement nor as a mere entertainer in showbiz, but remained true to his identity as classical Indian raga musicians from the strict school of Allauddin Khan. From beginning to end of his career in music, he played traditional sitar concerts wherever opportunity presented itself. Initially, he could reach only a small circle of connoisseurs in India. Even his first tours in the West in 1956/57 brought his music mainly to Indian overseas students and immigrants. But with increasing awareness, he reached an ever bigger public, both in India and in the West. Ravi Shankar's raga performances were not rigidly orthodox. On the contrary, with his creativity, his genuine interest in new ideas and his fine feeling for musical effect, he introduced a number of new, invigorating elements into the tradition: He modified the sitar to expand its tonal range, redefined the role of the tabla accompanist by giving him space for his own solos, used unusual rhythmic cycles, integrated ragas and rhythmic structures from South Indian music into his playing, created new ragas and, together with Ali Akbar Khan, established the duet of two equal melody soloists on different instruments as a new form. Besides, he also passed on his knowledge and ideas to the next generation of musicians, according to ancient custom, by taking selected students into his house and teaching them there. All this made him not only one of the major raga performers but also one of the most effective innovative forces of North Indian classical music in the second half of the 20th Century.


Ravi Shankar's musical output was not limited to the improvised performance of traditional raga music. He was also fascinated by the sounds that arise through the interaction of several instruments. Most influential on his work were his impressions of the mixed music ensemble accompanying Uday Shankar's dance shows, of the Maihar band of his teacher Allauddin Khan and of Western orchestras in the 1930s. Early in the 1950s, Ravi Shankar worked as music director at All India Radio in Delhi and seized this opportunity to establish a National Chamber Orchestra with predominantly Indian instruments. Here he had the necessary freedom to develop his own ideas and put them into compositions. A first milestone after that was his music for Satyajit Ray's internationally acclaimed Apu Trilogy 1955-59, followed by several more striking film and theater musics for artistically ambitious Indian productions. From 1971 onwards he entered new compositional territory with a total of three concertos for sitar and orchestra that were performed with renowned western orchestras and himself as soloist around the world. In 1982, he contributed to the soundtrack of Richard Attenborough's Academy award-winning Gandhi biopic, and in 1990 he explored contemporary Western compositional concepts for the CD "Passages” in collaboration with minimal music composer Philip Glass. But no matter what he tried, the musical basis of all of Ravi Shankar's creative experiments remained the traditional music of India with its ragas, folk songs and religious chants.


The public also has an interest in the personal life of its celebrities. Ravi Shankar's was for a long time overshadowed by tensions and conflicts. In his second autobiography "Ragamala", published in 1997, he wrote about it frankly. His marriage to his first wife Annapurna broke apart after only a few years. The two finally broke up in 1967, but Annapurna agreed to official divorce only in 1982. The relationship to their son Shubho remained difficult until the latter's untimely and unfortunate death in 1992. From the late 1940s until 1981, Ravi Shankar maintained a relationship with Kamala Shastri, but could not marry her because of the continuing marriage to Annapurna. He also had numerous changing affairs. With Susan Jones, Ravi Shankar became father of Norah Jones (now a well-known soul and jazz singer) in 1979, and with Sukanya Rajan he became father of Anoushka in 1981. From 1974 onwards he had serious heart problems, which made a quadruple bypass surgery necessary in 1986. After that and many years as a globetrotter with no real home, Ravi Shankar decided to give a new order to his life. In 1989 he married Sukanya and settled down with her and Anoushka in California. The loving relationship and marriage with Sukanya lasted until his death. After the marriage, however, Sue Jones broke up with him bitterly and denied him any contact with their daughter Norah. Only when Norah had grown up, father and daughter established a positive relation once again. Ravi Shankar's relation with Anoushka was a very close one. He trained her as a classical sitar player, performed with her regularly and supported her career to the best of his capacities. Her success as a musician and the birth of her son Zubin in 2011, were a great joy to him. Together with Anoushka he gave thelast concert of his long and eventful life on November 4th, 2012.


Ravi Shankar has written wonderful music, has given great concerts, has enriched Indian classical instrumental music with many innovations and has thus contributed considerably to its increased popularity compared to vocal music in India. He has clearly earned his place in the history of music in general and the history of Indian music in the 20th Century in particular. But the cultural and historical significance of his life's work goes far beyond that. Almost single-handedly, gifted with a unique musical and artistic creativity, equipped with language skills, eloquence and a charismatic and inspiring aura like no other Indian musicians of his time, driven by a visionary impulse, he freed Indian music from being confined to its native culture and revealed its universal beauty to the world. Today's cross-cultural and global network of Indian music and its status as one of the world's great classical traditions is inconceivable without Ravi Shankar. His work has not only changed the inside of the music world, but how music is perceived in the world at large.

"My goal has always been to take the audience along with me deep inside, as in meditation, to feel the sweet pain of trying to reach out for the supreme, to bring tears to the eyes, and to feel totally peaceful and cleansed." - Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar's documentary film "Raga" is available from us on DVD at 24.90 Euros - more info at our media page.
Ravi Shankar's classic book "My Music, My Life" is available from us at 21.90 Euros - more info at our book page.


3. The Young Maestros (6/8) - Murad Ali
- Background Reportage by Arunabha Deb, India -

In the first edition of the new Indian music, dance and theatre 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.

Murad Ali, 35, Delhi, sarangi player of the Moradabad gharana

As the most promising young ambassador of the sarangi, Murad Ali is wanted across the board: classical vocalists, music directors and bands all vie for his time. He succeeds in not disappointing any of them. Alongside, he also gets solos at festivals like Sawai Gandharva and Vishnu Digambar Jayanti, where there are no regular slots for sarangi solos. A sixth-generation sarangi player, Murad says that he was never pressurised to take up the instrument. "My twin brothers play the sitar. Even I could have chosen another instrument. But I wanted to carry on the family legacy," he says.

He took lessons in singing and on the instrument from his grandfather Ustad Siddique Ahmad Khan and father Ustad Ghulam Sabir Khan respectively. By his early 20s, Murad was a regular in studio recordings and had also built considerable reputation as a classical musician. "I have a huge debt to Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan," he says. "I was part of her Ab Ke Sawan and have been playing with her ever since. She encouraged me to believe that I could be a classical and a commercial musician at the same time." He is not hesitant to admit that he has learnt as much from music directors during studio recordings as he has from his gurus. "Studio recording is far from easy. There's no room to go wrong and anyone would hate being corrected by the music director in front of other musicians. That pressure constantly pushes you towards perfection."

In keeping with the trend of his generation, Murad is also neck deep in collaborative music. He was a member of Purbayan Chatterjee's ensemble Shastriya Syndicate and has recently formed his own band Soul Samvaad. "Fusion requires serious engagement," he says, "and it's also a great way for us to earn money. And fusion doesn't have to be the dhik-chik variety - our pieces are based on raags and what conforms to our aesthetics." Murad is in agreement with Purbayan Chatterjee: as long as the two kinds of music don't overlap, listeners on both sides are content. However, he does sound a note of caution: he feels that fusion is often seen as a sham because for many young musician it is an easy route to get shows. "If you want to advance as a Hindustani musician, you have to go through a period of uncompromised talim," he says. "Only when the fundamentals are in place, can you think of venturing towards new and meaningful experiments."


4. New in Our Team (1/2) - Atul Krishna
- Company Info -

In 2012 we have expanded our team by two wonderful freelance workers. They both are outstanding professionals in their fields, and contribute their special knowledge and skills to our store. We would like to introduce them one by one in this and the next newsletter and the next.

Atul Krishna was born in 1986 under the civil name Ashok Guran in the Netherlands. He is the son of immigrants from the former Dutch colony of Surinam. His ancestors had moved to Surinam four generations earlier as indentured labour from the East Indian regions Bihar and Bengal. In his very spiritually oriented family he grew up with bhajans, kirtans and ghazals, Indian classical music, temple life, Hindi lessons and reading Hindu scriptures. From the age of eight, he learned dholak, later on nall, khol, madal and tabla. At the age of ten the spiritual master Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja initiated him into the Bhakti tradition and gave him the name Atul Krishna. In 2004 he went to India for the first time to deepen his studies in khol and tabla. Two more trips to India followed and he spent years as a traveling musician in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Great Britain.

Since 2007 Atul lives in Berlin and is an active musician in the yoga scene. He plays regularly with his group Bliss Kirtan at the Jivamukti Yoga Centre. He also performed in several pieces on the wonderful CD Heart and Soul by the Kirtaniyas. His special contribution to India Instruments is his extensive experience with various North Indian drums and the music of the Bhakti tradition. He is also a great help with current computing work in the background and with unloading, packing and maintenance of our instruments. Not least, his reliability, his sharp mind and his humor always contribute to a good mood.


5. Indian Music for the Netherlands - John Eijlers
- Historical Perspective by Eva-Maria van Straaten, Netherlands / Germany -

With the recent closing of the Tropentheater in Amsterdam, an era of Indian music concerts in the Netherlands seems to have come to an end. One of the main forces behind the organisation of these concerts of Hindustani classical music as well as a variety of classical and folk dance performances in the Netherlands, was the late John Eijlers (1943 - 2004). His involvement with Indian music started with the organisation of small concerts in his home town Abcoude in the summer of 1970, and ended with a concert of bansuri player Hariprasad Chaurasia at the Tropentheater almost three decades later in 1999. John was very passionate about this music, describing Hindustani classical music as opening Western listeners "a way of being that you would otherwise not experience". His motive for bringing this music to the Netherlands was best expressed in metaphor: "If I have a house with a lot of rooms, but not all of those rooms are lived in, then this music opens a room that would otherwise be closed and dusty." In the following I will give a brief overview of John's activities regarding Indian music in the Netherlands.

Disappointed with the university system, mainly due to the lack of depth he experienced in his studies of psychology and social pedagogy at the University of Amsterdam, John started his first travels to India over land in 1968. At that time he associated India mainly with Tagore, Ravi Shankar, Gandhi and Buddha, but also with friendly and relaxed people, a beautiful scenery and a country you might simply want to visit in case you want to smoke some hash. When John came back to the Netherlands in 1970 he started working in the youth centre Mahadma in Abcoude, where he organised his first Indian music concerts. In the summer of 1973 he was appointed at the Mozes and Aaron church in Amsterdam, where he began organising weekly sitar concerts (with amongst others Jamaluddin Bhartiya and Darshan Kumari, who were both living in the Netherlands at the time) as part of a project implemented by the local government to attract more youth tourists to Amsterdam. This series of concerts turned out to be so successful, for both tourists and locals, that John continued with its organisation on a freelance basis after the project was finished. The audience at this time was, as John retrospectively suggested, mainly interested in "the East"; there was a strong perceived relation between meditation, smoking joints, and sitar music, a music that at the time was mainly popularised by Ravi Shankar'’s connection with the Beatles. Tripping hippies balancing themselves on the church banks was not an unusual sight during concerts of that time, which was not always appreciated by the musicians playing at the church.

From 1974 to 1976 John went back to India, and upon his return in 1977 he again started organising meditation sessions and India concerts at the Mozes, still on a freelance basis. First building on the knowledge and network present at the Tropeninstitute, mainly personified in ethnomusicologist Felix van Lamsweerde who had studied in India with both Vilayat Khan and Imrat Khan and had been organising concerts of Indian music since 1957, John slowly built up his own network in the years to follow. Most artists that were considered the stars of Hindustani classical music performed at the Mozes at least once, including but certainly not limited to Nikhil Banerjee, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Ram Narayan, Bhimsen Joshi, the Dagar Brothers, Imrat Khan, Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia. During his time working for the Mozes, John organized twelve concerts a year, the number of visitors for each concert ranging from 250 to 500 persons. Although the church's acoustics were relatively unsuitable for the performance of Hindustani classical music, the allegedly spiritual atmosphere of the church space and the by now relatively knowledgeable audience was much appreciated by the musicians who traveled from India to perform there. And importantly, the personal contact John kept with all the musicians, the continuous energy he put in personally picking artists up from the airport, making sure their hotel was comfortable, that they were brought to the concert venue and that there were enough biscuits available to keep their tummies satisfied, made him an appreciated host for musicians.

In the following years, mainly pushed by the Dutch government who partly funded his organising activities and urged him to make his program more "meaningful" to a larger part of the Dutch citizens, John expanded his organisational activities to Vredenburg in Utrecht and De Doelen in Rotterdam. Radio and television organizations such as KRO, VPRO, NOS and Concertzender were regularly recording these concerts and broadcasted them in programs like De Wandelende Tak and Horizon. Finally, in 1989, when the concerts could no longer take place at the Mozes because it had to close due to a rebuilding of the church, John was invited by the Tropeninstitute to continue his programme there. He successfully continued his organising activities for another ten years there, until his final concert in 1999. Until the closing of the Tropentheater on the 1st January 2013, Francis de Sousa has continued the organization of concerts of Hindustani classical music in this concert hall.

All in all, John has played an important role in the popularisation and promotion of Hindustani classical music in the Netherlands. His influence might be illustrated by the fact that he got Prince Claus, the late husband of Dutch Queen Beatrix, to visit a Ravi Shankar concert and to buy a number of LPs of notable artists in 1988. But mostly, the energy and love he put in the promotion of Hindustani classical music in the Netherlands, will be remembered by the many musicians and audiences he brought together in and through this music!

6. Sharing Diversity - Tollygunge Mehfil
- Concert Review by Andrew Kay, Canada -

Calcutta is certainly one of the largest and most densely populated places I've ever experienced. Millions of people inhabit the city, all going their own way, here, there and literally everywhere. Over the last 5 years of living and visiting this magical city I can say that among this chaos there is truly something simple yet very special about the people who dwell here. Their blank stares quickly turn into a wide smile with the nod of your head. Just a few words of Bengali will have half the neighbourhood gathered around trying to help you in whatever way you need. Chai will be offered as a warm hello on every corner, in every home and you are really made to feel welcome and as if you are apart of their family. Even though I'm sure not everyone has been fortunate enough to experience this sort of hospitality here in Calcutta, I feel, especially within the arts and cultural circles there are a great amount of musicians, music lovers and travellers who find a rich and inspiring circle of likeminded people who can all say they've experienced and maybe even fallen in love with Kolkata's atmosphere. It's at a gathering like the Tollygunge Mehfil where this is evident and no doubt felt by all.

Last year I was invited to the first annual Tollygunge Mehfil; I had heard from a friend of a friend about it and knew that there would not only be a great lineup of musicians performing on a wide variety of instruments but that there would be a global collection of musicians, listeners and music lovers from many different countries. Something I think most foreigners here in Calcutta could say is that they have become used to sticking out at the many concerts and festivals that are mainly filled with Bengalis and Indians. Maybe this is due to the lack of interest in Calcutta in the travel and tourism guides, or just the large amount of programs and Indians that attend them; either way, the Tollygunge Mehfil breaks all of these norms and creates an absolutely wonderful atmosphere to share and enjoy in the rich culture and tradition of Indian classical music and dance. While attending last year's all night concert I met Carsten Wicke, the organiser and host of the Mehfil and was quickly inspired by his dedication, passion and the beautiful energy he offers to Indian classical music and this community. Last year's all night concert was surely a highlight for me, as well as a couple friends that I brought along, so this year I was more than excited and honoured that Carsten asked my brother Jonathan and I to perform at the 2nd Annual Tollygunge Mehfil.

Planned as an all-day affair this year's Mehfil featured a wonderful array of instruments, from the most ancient rudra veena and pakhawaj, to the traditional sitar, sarod, and tabla, to the newly modified saxophone. Featuring performances in the dhupad, khyal, instrumental and kathak dance styles, the gathering of over 50 people were treated to certainly the most diverse cultural program that I've performed and/or attended. I performed alongside my brother Jonathan Kay in a saxophone jugalbandi (duet) accompanied by Sudhir Ghorai, an absolutely wonderful tabla player to a packed room of listeners, comprised of musicians, friends and other raga music lovers. Just as we never met many of these people, they too had never met us and especially heard raga music performed on the saxophone. With our guru's blessings we offered a rendition of raga multani at the perfect time, the sun was setting and slowly darkening the room as we played. Having performed raga music in a wide variety of settings here in India, I can genuinely say that the feeling in the room, the attentiveness and concentration of the audience was by far one of the best I've ever experienced. Music is a language of vibrations that strives to connect the musician and the listener to something greater. As a performer I couldn't have asked for a better atmosphere to share raga music. As a listener I hope that I was a part of creating the same mood for the other performers. All of the performances that I heard were beautiful, sincere and humble and very much for the greater good of the music and community. There was a beautiful energy of sharing, caring, and love of Indian classical music.

An excerpt with nearly four hours of music from the Tollygunge Mehfil 2013 is available here.


7. Workshop Calendar
- April / July -

Workshops are a great opportunity of getting fresh inspiration in the study and practice of Indian instruments, Indian music and Indian dance. We support that! Therefore we will publish an overview of current workshops regularly in our newsletter from now on. Details of all workshops are available in our website's network section on the workshop page.

14.4. - 19.4. WANGERLAND: Harmonium Intensive with Uli Schuchart
15.4. - 18.4. NEUSTADT / WEINSTRASSE: Sitar Intensive with Kushal Das
19.4. - 21.4. BAD MEINBERG: Nada-Yoga with Anne-Careen Engel
19.4. - 21.4. ESSLINGEN: Sitar - Step by Step... with Yogendra
3.5. - 5.5. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium Advanced with Darshini Devi
5.5. - 12.5. WANGERLAND: Nada-Yoga Training with Anne-Careen Engel
9.5. - 12.5. MELLATZ: Harmonium with Tobias Dickbertel - Gyanaroopa
14.5. - 18.5. BERLIN: Master Class Sitar with Partha Chatterjee
17.5. - 19.5. WANGERLAND: Harmonium with Gauranga Heinzmann
20.5. - 24.5. OBERLAHR: Harmonium with Govinda Roth
18.5. - 24.5. BERGAMO (Italy): Dhrupad Intensive with the Gundecha Brothers
31.5. - 2.6. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium Advanced with Jürgen Wade
31.5. - 2.6. BAD MEINBERG: Nada-Yoga with Anne-Careen Engel
9.6. - 11.6. / 16.6. WENDLAND: Bharata Natyam with P. T. Narendran & Kalamitra
21.6. - 24.11. GUT HUEBENTHAL / KASSEL: Training Mantra, Kirtan & Nadayoga with Sundaram
19.7. - 21.7. RAMSTHAL: Sitar - Step by Step... with Yogendra


8. Concert Calendar
- April / May -

Anoushka Shankar performs in Dortmund with different projects on four days in a row. Kushal Das, Partha Chatterjee and Subroto Roy Chowdury are masters of the classical North Indian raga tradition. And European sitar players tour with their fusion bands Indigo Masala, Indian Air, Avant-Rag and Ganga Jazz Ensemble. Good times for fans of the sitar! Details, venues and further dates for 2013 are listed in our online concert calendar.

04.04. CH - BERN: GANESH & KUMARESH - Violinen
05.04. A - WIEN: RINA CHANDRA - Bansuri
06.04. UE BERLINGEN: INDISCHE NACHT - Rudra-Vina, Sitar, Vocal, Dance, Yoga
07.04. A - MOEDLING: RINA CHANDRA - Bansuri
14.04. NEUSTADT / WEINSTRAßE: KUSHAL DAS - Sitar & Surbahar
19.04. DORTMUND: ANOUSHKA SHANKAR - A Raga-Flamenco Journey
20.04. DORTMUND: ANOUSHKA SHANKAR - Indian Classical Ragas
25.04. A - WIEN: AVANT-RAG
26.04. A - GRAZ: AVANT-RAG
26.04. NL - MAASTRICHT: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
27.04. AACHEN: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
27.04. A - WIEN: AVANT-RAG
28.04. DRESDEN: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
04.05. STUTTGART: MONA LISA GHOSH - Odissi Dance
05.05. STUTTGART: MONA LISA GHOSH - Odissi Dance
20.05. KARLSRUHE: YOGENDRA - Sitar solo

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