Newsletter March / April 2015


1. Harmonium - Sound Samples
2. Sitar - Training Book with CD
3. Maihar in Germanistan (1) - Allauddin Khan
4. To India and Back Again: The Harmonium Story (1/5) - Discovery
5. Jai's Blog - Bhakti in India and the West
6. Workshops - April to June
7. Concerts - April and May


1.Harmonium - Sound Samples
- New on Our Website -

Musical instruments must not only look good. Most important is a good sound. Unfortunately, not everyone can make it to our shop in Berlin and try out our instruments on site. Therefore, we gradually create sound samples of our instruments. We try not to impress with virtuoso performances, but to bring across the sound of each instrument as directly and naturally as possible.

Harmonium New on our website are sound samples of most harmoniums from our assortment. Each model is played with all registers open, starting on the highest note and then descending down key by key to the lowest note. This is meant to give you an impression of the whole range. Afterwards you can hear three-note chords in middle range. That way you can get a feel of the model's suitability for chord accompaniment. The last chord and last single note alike are held in the end to give an impression of the sustain. Models with removable cover above the key mechanism (jali) are finally played all through the range without the cover, which gives a distinctively different, sharper sound. The Paloma Compactina has two separate sound samples - each one set with a different spring tension.

The recordings can be found at the bottom of the pages of the individual models. An overview of the harmonium sound examples is here. And the overview of all models is here. We have also made sound samples of two harmoniums from our special offer page - check them out here.

We have sound samples of other instruments as well: Sitar samples are here and tanpura sounds here. All sitar and tanpura sound samples are available at the bottom of the pages for the individual models, too, of course.

Are the sound samples helpful? For which other instruments would you like sound examples? We appreciate your feedback!


2. Sitar - Training Book with CD
- New in Our Assortment -

Good teaching material for self-study of musical instruments requires a deep knowledge of the instrument and its music tradition, a solid educational concept, answers to common practical questions and an intelligent combination of different media. All these features come together in Sitar Method by Josh Feinberg. That makes this combination of training book and CD highly recommendable, for absoute beginners as well as for people who have already been playing sitar for a while and want to refine their technique and / or get into the world of the Indian classical music tradition in more detail.

The book begins with a description of the instrument's parts and an introduction to the Indian Sargam notation system that is used throughout. This notation is quick and easy to understand for beginners without background in Western classical music reading and is ideal for representing Indian music (see text on Sargam notation below). Then it goes on to tuning and holding the sitar and to basic techniques for left and right hand - all described in clear language and well illustrated in photos and graphics. From page 22 onwards you get mostly notations of increasingly complex technical exercises and compositions in the ragas Yaman-Kalyan, Madhuwanti, Megh and Khamaj. Interspersed are small chapters on buying an instrument, ragas in Indian classical music, form, recommended listening, moving frets and changing strings. The book is completed by a glossary at the end.

Sitar Method truely comes alive in conjunction with the accompanying CD. Almost all of the notated material for sitar can be heard on it in commendable examples, performed clear and clean by author Josh Feinberg. In addition, the CD also demonstrates the tabla rhythms presented in the book. The tabla tracks and a tanpura track can be used as accompaniment for your practice. And the tracks of the compositions with tabla and tanpura accompaniment are a great inspiration to play along.

Josh Feinberg is a sitarist and double bass player. He learned classical Western music from childhood, first on the piano, then on the bass. At 15, he bought his first sitar and took lessons from Peter Row. Since 2005, he has been studying classical Indian music in the style of the Maihar (see below) tradition with Ali Akbar Khan, Aashish Khan and Anindya Banerjee.

The 63-page book in 23 x 30 cm large format including 67-minute CD with 42 tracks is available now for 14.90 Euro (+ 3.90 Euro shipping within Europe / overseas on request) from India Instruments. Cover photo and other material for Sitar is available here.


3. Maihar in Germanistan (1) - Allauddin Khan
- Background Story by Yogendra -

Great masters of the Maihar school like Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Nikhil Banerjee and Hariprasad Chaurasia have brought Indian classical music to the West and shaped its image worldwide for decades. We tell their story and show how the scene for Indian music in Central Europe is still moulded by Maihar musicians today.

Maihar is a small town of 35,000 inhabitants in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Until Indian independence in 1947 it was the capital of a small, formally independent princely state under British colonial rule. Like many others of the more than 500 Indian princes Maharaja Brijnath Singh of Maihar was an avid music lover and patron of the arts. In 1918, a certain Allauddin Khan applied for the just vacated position of Maihar chief court musician and princely guru. Allauddin Khan had run away from home to the thriving colonial capital Calcutta as a boy of eight to study music there. He first lived destitute on the streets, was then admitted into the house of a music master as a student, stranded out on the streets again after his master's sudden death and finally got accepted by another master. In those early, formative years he mostly played violin, but also mastered many other instruments with his natural talent, including, of course, tabla and singing. As a young man Allauddin finally discovered sarod as his main instrument, learned it for a few years with a teacher in Calcutta and then went to the court of Rampur to study with Wazir Khan, one of the last descendants of the legendary Mian Tansen and one of the most famous Indian musicians of the late 19th century. When Allauddin Khan finally applied in Maihar, he had decades of learning, practicing and performing behind him and was a master of the sarod and an accomplished performer of numerous musical styles and a variety of instruments. He got the job straight away - and found the basis for his life's work in Maihar.

Allauddin Khan Allauddin Khan revolutionised classic North Indian instrumental music. Before his times, instrumental music had stood in the shadow of the more esteemed vocal music and most instrumentalists had settled into highly specialised niches: Some played only slow pieces, others only fast ones, and still others only meditative solos. Allauddin was the first to combine the systematic raga development in the alap of the old dhrupad style with artistic variations in slow rhythms and virtuoso fireworks at top speed. He developed the sarod together with instrument makers so it could meet his musical requirements. That way he created a whole new large form with a stunning and coherent dramaturgy of evolution, acceleration and cumulation. When he was still unknown and hired at festivals to fill in some breaks, he moved the audience so much under the spell of his music that cigarettes went out in people'sr hands, the tea in their cups got cold and his performance extended for hours. His ever-increasing fame led him on tours throughout India and even to Europe in the 1930s. The depth and creativity, speed and endurance of his concerts were legendary. More than once an exhausted tabla accompanist had to be replaced in the middle of the concert.

Music was Allaudin Khan's absolute passion, playing his prayer, the ragas his gods, and he passed on his passion with missionary zeal. In the 1920s, he founded a music ensemble for orphans in Maihar, the Maihar band, and was one of the first musicians to experiment with the adaptation of improvised solo raga music for orchestra. He made his house a music center. A small number of hand-picked students always lived with him under one roof. Without accepting any payment, he led them to the essence of the raga tradition, sometimes over many years. His teaching was uncompromising, strict and full of devotion. Caning was as much part of it as tears of joy. With a fine sense, he grasped the individual character of each student and encouraged him to develop his own unique style. Thus, Allauddin's students did not turn into copyists of his playing but became his true heirs and ambassadors of his musical vision.

Allauddin Khan Allauddin ordered his son Ali Akbar Khan to spread his music as wide as the sun and moon do shine. In 1955 Ali Akbar was the first musician to appear in US television with classical Indian ragas. In 1968 he founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in California and made it one of the foremost institutions for the study of Indian music worldwide. Many other of Allauddin Khan's direct disciples became renowned teachers and performers and thus carried on the torch of his music. One of the most outstanding was Nikhil Banerjee, who combined vocal elements with meditative depth and refined form, thus giving a new dimension to sitar performance. By far the most famous was Ravi Shankar. By working with top stars of pop, jazz and classical music, he generated worldwide resonance for raga music. Today grandstudents and great-grandstudents of Allauddin Khan teach and perform almost everywhere on this earth. Allauddin could still witness the globalisation of Indian music during his lifetime. In 1972 he found his final resting place in Maihar. The tradition established by him is now known as Maihar Gharana.

Facebook page of the Maihar Gharana with numerous documentary, concert, teaching and interview videos. .
Documentary about Allauddin Khan made in 1963.
Interview with Nikhil Banerjee.


4. To India and Back Again: The Harmonium Story (1/5) - Discovery
- Background Story by Yogendra -

The harmonium is an integral part of many Indian vocal styles and of the global kirtan movement. However, it is originally a European instrument. How could it get established in India and spread back all over the world from there? An exciting story full of amazing twists...

It was the year 1840 (or was it 1842?) when Parisian organ and piano manufacturer Alexandre Debain filed a patent for an instrument called the harmonium. It was a full-fledged, imposing instrument with four continuous rows of metal reeds, which were set into vibration by compressed air. Its keyboard had a range of five octaves. Air was supplied by two big bellows, which were moved by foot pedals. Was Debain the inventor of the harmonium? Well, his patent application was used primarily to protect his economic interests as the owner of a factory for musical instruments with several 100 employees. Debain could already build upon 50 years of development history of similar instruments to construct his harmonium. What he actually invented were probably just certain technical details - and the name harmonium, which has remained with the instrument until today.

The typical sound of the harmonium is produced by thin metal plates that are attached to a closely surrounding frame at one end and are free to move and vibrate inside the frame at the other end when blown with enough pressure or suction. These so-called free reeds have probably generated greater public impact in Europe for the first time in 1780, when German naturalist Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein presented them to the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg in a scientific competition. Kratzenstein had seen the principle of the free reeds a few years earlier, when Bavarian musician Johann Wilde gave concerts in St. Petersburg on the Chinese mouth organ sheng. The sheng produces its sounds with free reeds made of metal and has been known in China, according to legend, for over 3000 years. Marco Polo is said to have brought the sheng to Europe as early as the 13th century. And composer Michael Praetorius probably gave a written description of the free reed in 1619. Unfortunately nobody was interested in it at that time. It was not until the late 18th century, that time got ripe in Europe and America to make use of the free reed principle for sound production o a large scale.

Harmonium In the first decades of the 19th century, instrument makers, musicians and inventors in various countries had a most creative time. They combined free reeds with bellows derived from the wind pipe organ and the widespread keyboard of black and white keys to create a large variety of new instruments. The result was a wealth of related but differently constructed instruments with such fanciful names as Orchestrion, Aeoline, Physharmonika, Orgue Expressif, Pan Harmonicon, Psallmelodikon or Poikilorgue. But from the mid-19th century onwards, the harmonium prevailed with its foot pedals for the bellows, several sets of reeds, wide range of pitch and numerous registers. It became a fashionable instrument, which was built en masse in factories in North America and several European countries. In Germany alone about half a million harmoniums have been built until the mid 20th century, and in the US even several millions. In full bloom at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, about twice as many harmoniums as pianos were sold in the Western world.

Harmonium The harmonium was pretty much everywhere at that time. The educated middle class kept richly decorated harmoniums in the living room to cultivate classical music. In smaller churches, it replaced the much more expensive, larger and more sensitive pipe organ. Composers wrote elaborate concert music specifically for harmonium. Popular show orchestras integrated it into their performances and used it for entertainment. In pietistic movements the harmonium was used to accompany the hymns in meetings and became a distinctive mark of worship. And during the First World, extra small, sturdy and simple so-called war harmoniums were made for field service. Its sturdiness and mobility helped the harmonium to a breakthrough in the global colonial empires of the major European powers at the same time. It is smaller and lighter than a piano or a pipe organ, and it is much easier and safer to ship or transport it across rough terrain without roads and railways. And while the strings of a piano get constantly out of tune in tropical heat and humidity, the reeds of the harmonium are relatively insensitive to climatic stress. The tropical export markets were so lucrative that the manufacturers specifically developed models with simpler structure and less extras, with folding mechanisms for convenient transport or with chemical coating for protection from termites and other tropical insects. Thus well equipped the harmonium made its way to India. The next episodes will tell how it survive there, was transformed and then conquered the subcontinent...

Slideshow of private homes with harmoniums from the 19th century, backed by harmonium music of James Austin Butterfield.
Demonstration of a Mason & Hamlin Liszt harmonium from 1887 with many registers.
Angelus by Sigfrid Karg-Elert on a harmonium from 1898.
Scandinavian folk music on a 100 year old harmonium.


5. Jai's Blog - Bhakti in India and in the West
- Notes by Jai Uttal -

Jai Uttal, disciple of Neem Karoli Baba and Ali Akbar Khan, is one of the pioneers of kirtan music since the beginning of the 1990s. He has released 18 records and has opened up new horizons in the merging of Indian traditions with Western elements in many of them. In 2002 his album Mondo Rama was the first ever kirtan record to receive a Grammy nomination. His blog lets us partcipipate in his thoughts, feelings and experiences as a musician and a devotee. We would like to share excerpts from his blog in a loose series from now on. More from and about Jai Uttal.

Jai Uttal A friend asked me this evening why don't I do some kind of ceremony before leading a kirtan. I thought about this for a while and said why would I want to do a ceremony before the ceremony? For me the kirtan IS the ceremony, the invocation, the dance of feelings, the Great Cosmic Drama of Devotion!

He also asked me what I thought about the Bhakti movement in the west. I said I didn't really think about it at all. There was silence on the other end of the line. Clearly I needed to say more. Bhakti is about a deep, intimate relationship with God, not a 'movement'. It's enough for me to just try and nurture my own heart of devotion, one day at a time. And this is what I hope and pray for others.

The 'Bhakti Movement' in the US these days is kind of strange to me. Wonderful, but also, weird. Wonderful because more and more people are experiencing the incredibly passionate joy of singing God's names; and weird because, as Americans, we seem to feel the need to make it 'special', and make ourselves 'special', and use Madison-Avenue type names to label and increase our 'special-ness'. We throw around words like 'bhakti,' 'bhava' and 'ecstacy' as if they are ice cream flavors or new types of kombucha. But in India, where all this stuff comes from, these words denote deep spiritual states, attained by only a few very lucky and very devoted souls who then become inspirations for the rest of us.

When we in the West get together for an evening of kirtan everyone is so eager to 'get off,' to have a super high euphoric experience, kind of like a rock concert'. This is fine, I suppose, but it's just sooooo different from what we experience in a small temple in North India, where the devotees feel like they've been chanting for lifetimes and lifetimes, oblivious to the highs and lows, riding the waves of emotion and mood, resting in deep longing and fulfillment and surrender, awaiting God's mercy. Is 'Bhakti' just a 'high'? A cool, blissed-out experience? The great 'bhaktas' (devotees) of old all write of an immense love and an even greater dependence on their beloved's response. 'My Lord, I've done nothing to deserve your embrace, but please come to me anyway!!!' Oh well. Maybe I'm just an old curmudgeon, too hard on myself and thus too hard on everyone else.


6. Workshops - April to June
- Scene Info -

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

April 2015 - April 2016 BERLIN: Training Voice Meditation - Meditative Singing Based on Dhrupad and Nadayoga with Amelia Cuni
April - November 2015 HOF KUPPEN: Nada Yoga Basic Training with Anne-Careen Engel & Ram Vakkalanka
03.04. - 06.04. OY-MITTELBERG (Allgäu): Harmonium learning seminar with Jürgen Wade
05.04. - 12.04. BAD MEINBERG: Mantra Yoga teacher training with Sundaram & Katyayani Ulbricht
10.04. - 12.04. OY-MITTELBERG (Allgäu): Harmonium advanced seminar with Jürgen Wade
10.04. - 12.04. BAD MEINBERG: Introduction to Nada Yoga with Anne-Careen angel
12.04. NL - AMSTERDAM: Master Class Sitar with Nayan Ghosh
17.04. - 19.04. HEMMOOR (North Sea): Sitar - step by step with Yogendra
17.04. - 19.04. OBERLAHR (Westerwald): Harmonium learning seminar with Govinda Roth
06.05. - 10.05. BAD HOMBURG: Masterclass Sitar with Partha Chatterjee
08.05. - 10.05. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium learning seminar with Narendra Hübner
09.05. VELEN (near Münster): Nada Yoga with Sundaram
14.05. - 17.05. OPFENBACH (Allgäu): Harmonium learning seminar with Gyanaroopa Dickbertel
14.05. - 17.05. GERODE (Harz): Nada Yoga - the healing power of sound with Barbara Irmer, Carmen Mager, Frank Beese
21.05. - 27.05. SEHLENDORF (Baltic Sea): Dhrupad with the Gundecha brothers
04.06. - 06.06. BAD HERRENALB (near Karlsruhe): Music Retreat with Sahana Banerjee
16.06. - 19.06. OY-MITTELBERG (Allgäu): Nada Yoga Retreat with Anne-Careen angel
June to November 2015 HAMMER BACH (near Hanau): Mantra singing, harmonium and drums in connection with Yogawith Sundaram
21.06. - 28.06. BAD MEINBERG: Chakras in Nada Yoga with Anne-Careen angel
26.06. - 28.06. WANGERLAND (North Sea): Harmonium learning seminar with Uma Marija Balic


7. Concerts - April and May
- Scene Info -

Spring is high season for Indian music and the concert calendar is again filled to the brim. For more detailed information, venues and times, as well as additional dates in 2015check our concert calendar .

M.Narayan Hariprasad Chaurasia

10.04. NL - AMSTERDAM: Nayan Ghosh (sitar, tabla), Terry Riley (vocal, drones),
11.04. NL - UTRECHT: Nayan Ghosh - Sitar
11.04. STUTTGART: Liyakat Ali Khan - Sarangi
12.04. STUTTGART: Liyakat Ali Khan - Sarangi
16.04. MAGDEBURG: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Schlagzeug
18.04. NL - AMSTERDAM: Satyaa & Pari - Kirtan
18.04. MOERS: Sundaram & Friends: Mantrakonzert (Kirtan)
18.04. MOERS: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Schlagzeug
20.04. STUTTGART: Subrata De - Sitar
21.04. STUTTGART: Subrata De - Sitar
24.04. BAD KREUZNACH: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Schlagzeug
25.04. JÜNKERATH: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Schlagzeug
25.04. AACHEN: Indrajit Roy Chowdhury - Sitar
25.04. GROSSRÄSCHEN (Cottbus): Sundaram & Friends: Mantrakonzert (Kirtan)
25.04. REGENSBURG: Satyaa & Pari - Kirtan
26.04. DRESDEN: Sundaram & Friends: Mantrakonzert (Kirtan)
26.04. RASTATT: Subrata De, Sitar
26.04. FRANKFURT/M.: Indrajit Roy Chowdhury - Sitar
27.04. LEVERKUSEN-HITDORF: Indrajit Roy Chowdhury - Sitar
30.04. GB - LONDON: SitarStation
30.04. STUTTGART: Monalisa Ghosh - Odissi-Dance
01.05. STUTTGART: Monalisa Ghosh - Odissi-Dance
08.05. MÜNSTER: Sundaram & Friends: Mantrakonzert (Kirtan)
09.05. BADEN-BADEN: Subrata De - Sitar
09.05. A - SCHRUNS: Indian Air
09.05. ESSEN: Sahana Banerjee - Sitar
09.05. AALEN: Partho Sarothy - Sarod
10.05. BADEN-BADEN: Subrata De - Sitar
10.05. RASTATT: Yogendra, Sitar
10.05. WEMMETSWEILER: Yogendra - Sitar
13.05. AACHEN: Sougata Roy Chowdhury - Sarod
14.05. A - IMST: SitarStation
14.05. BAD MEINBERG: Sundaram & Friends: Mantrakonzert zum Mitsingen (Kirtan)
15.05. BAD MEINBERG: Satyaa & Pari - Kirtan
16.05. LAUTERBACH: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Schlagzeug
16.05. BAD HERRENALB: Sougata Roy Chowdhury - Sarod
16.05. DARMSTADT: Debanjan Bhattacharjee - Sarod
16.05. STUTTGART: Subhankar Chatterjee - Vocal
17.05. STUTTGART: Subhankar Chatterjee - Vocal
17.05. FRANKFURT/M.: Sougata Roy Chowdhury - Sarod
18.05. LEVERKUSEN-HITDORF: Sougata Roy Chowdhury - Sarod
19.05. ESSEN: Sougata Roy Chowdhury - Sarod
20.05. KÖLN: Hariprasad Chaurasia - Bansuri
23.05. KASSEL: Sahana Banerjee - Sitar
28.05. BIELEFELD: Sahana Banerjee - Sitar
28.05. DARMSTADT: Swami Gurusharanananda - Kirtan
30.05. BONN: Deva Premal & Miten - Chants
30.05. AACHEN: Sahana Banerjee - Sitar
31.05. RASTATT: Somabanti Basu, Sarod

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