Newsletter May / June 2013

1. Vocal Devotional - Krishna Das Songbook
- New in our Assortment -

The Krishna Das Songbook "Breath of the Heart" features songsheets for all the songs on Krishna Das' popular kirtan album of the same name, published in 2001. Songsheets are given in Western staff notation as well as in Indian sargam. Each chapter is illustrated with rare photos from Krishna Das's time in India with Neem Karoli Baba, and exclusive behind-the-music stories from Krishna Das, illuminating how the songs were composed, what the mantras mean, and lots more.

The following six songs from "Breath of the Heart" are featured: Baba Hanuman, Kainchi Hare Krishna, Ma Durga, Kashi Vishwanath Gange, Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, Vrindavan Hare Ram. The book is compiled and edited by Daniel Tucker, an American kirtan musician and harmonium teacher from the next generation. The songsheets are adorned with beautiful original deity artwork by Jennifer Mazzucco.

Kirtan, chanting holy names of Indian gods in call and response between lead singer and group, is one of the central practices of Bhakti Yoga. American Krishna Das, born in 1947, is one of the most important pioneers of kirtan in the west and today one of the most popular kirtan singers worldwide. He was a disciple of Neem Karoli Baba in the 1970s and worked closely with Ram Dass, Neem Karoli Baba's other well-known American student. His first CD was published in 1996 and was followed by about a dozen more albums, two books and a documentary about his life. In his music, Krishna Das combines ancient Indian kirtan melodies and Indian instruments such as the harmonium and tabla with Western musical concepts such as chord accompaniment and underlying bass voice. Thus he is able to inspire people in East and West alike.

* Krishna Das: Breath of the Heart, 35 pages, six songs, numerous illustrations and photos - now available from India India Instruments @ 25.- Euros (plus shipping). Cover image and other material for kirtan and chanting here.


2. Raga Studies with CDs - Gyan Educational Series
- New in our Assortment -

Singing is the very foundation of classical Indian raga music - the essence of a raga and the differences and similarities between related ragas can be shown best with the voice. In that sense a vocal understanding is absolutely essential to an authentic raga interpretation on any instrument. Only those able to sing through their sitar, sarod, flute or violin can bring a raga to real life.

"Gyan", knowledge, is the title of a wonderful series of double CD sets with explanations and notations for in-depth study of selected ragas through vocal music. The concept comes from Vijay Kichlu, longtime director of the Sangeet Research Academy (SRA) in Calcutta, a unique institution for grooming professional classical North Indian music performers in the age-old teacher-student tradition. Each CD set consists of two CDs that present four to five similar ragas each. They include narration by Vijay Kichlu and sung raga phrases and vocal compositions, performed by renowned singer Subhra Guha. All vocal compositions (three to six per raga) are written out in Indian sargam notation in the accompanying booklet to make it easier to follow and learn them. The presentation demonstrates peculiarities, differences and similarities between the ragas clearly and the compositions provide an abundant wealth of study material. The sets are highly recommended for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of raga performance beyond the basics!

The whole series, subtitled "Educational Series of Indian Ragas", is aimed at presenting detailed analysis of about 60 ragas for students of North Indian classical music. So far the following four CD-Sets with 35 ragas have been published: Gyan Vol. 1: Ragas Yaman, Bhupali, Deshkar, Shudh-Kalyan, Kedar, Kamod, Hamir & Chhayanat Gyan Vol. 2: Ragas Bhairav, Kalingra, Ahir Bhairav, Kafi, Bhimpalasi, Bageshwari, Rageshwari & Barwa Gyan Vol. 3: Ragas Bilawal, Behag, Marubehag, Nand, Shankara, Marwa, Puriya, Sohini & Bhatiyar Gyan Vol. 4: Ragas Bhairavi, Bilaskhani Todi, Malkauns, Miyan-ki-Todi, Multani, Khamaj, Jhinjhoti, Desh, Tilak-Kamod & Jaijaiwanti

* Vijya Kichlu: Gyan - Educational Series of Indian Ragas, 2-CD-Sets with extensive booklets, Vol. 1 - 4 now available from India Instruments @ 24.90 Euros per set (plus shipping). Cover pictures, further details and more teaching material for Indian singing here.


3. The Young Maestros (7/8) - Satyajit Talwalkar
- 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.

Satyajit Talwalkar, 35, Mumbai, tabla player without specific gharana

Since the success of the group Shakti in the late Seventies, with Ustad Zakir Hussain as one of the driving forces behind it, the tabla has probably emerged as the most popular cross-cultural instrument. Consequently, tabla players have been in great demand to participate in collaborative ventures. Satyajit is among the finest young tabla players in the country today; it is not surprising that he has been asked to collaborate with several groups. But, like sarangi player Murad Ali, he has taken his time before taking the plunge.

He is the son of tabla maestro Pandit Suresh Talwalkar and vocalist Padma Talwalkar. Though he was always interested in vocal music, his love for rhythm even as a child pushed him towards the tabla. Under his father's guidance, he phased out his learning (and eventually his career) according to the strict rules of tradition. "Initially, I was trained to be a soloist. For the first few years, till I was 16 or so, that was my main focus. Most of my talim comprised matter that I could play in solos. Gradually, my father started asking me to accompany vocal and then, after some time, instrumental music. And then, much later, when I felt that I was somewhat comfortable with these two aspects of tabla playing, did I decide to venture into fusion," he says.

Satyajit asserts that it is imperative to first establish oneself as a classical musician. According to him, "That is where the real challenge lies. In fusion, a lot of stuff is rehearsed, you know where the piece is going to go. But in classical you don't know where the artist is going to go. Plus, in classical concerts, you perform in front of connoisseurs, that's always a different feeling." He does play very often with other genres but insists that the satisfaction in playing pure classical music is unmatched.


4. The Beauty with the Sitar - Anoushka Shankar
- Review by Dieter Zarnitz -

In April Anoushka Shankar kept audiences under her spell for four consecutive nights with four different programmes at Konzerthaus Dortmund. The elaborate production "Svatantrya" on the first night combined classical South Indian Bharatantyam dance with contemporary European modern dance and puppetry, formed into large shadow theatre. Anoushka saw herself and her sitar as a mere narrator in this production. The title of the second night was "Anoushka Shankar and Friends" and presented original new music for sitar, piano, voice, cello, hang (a kind of steel drum), flute, tanpura and percussion. Her albums "Breathing Under Water" and "Rise" had already shown Anoushka's great interest in popular music. In collaboration with composer and producer Nitin Sawhney she had now put together an ensemble of musicians from her adopted home of London especially for the Dortmund gig. As a tribute to a cosmopolitan city by a global citizen, she ventured into modern art pop again with her friends.

It was a long way from Rajasthan to Andalusia. A hike of "untouchables" who saw no prospect of decent living in the Indian caste system some 1000 to 1200 years ago according to some sources. They carried their music in their hearts. Singing and rhythmic clapping of hands were the first forms of expression. Blends with other styles emerged. And in the 19th Century, the guitar was added, forming what is today known as flamenco. Anoushka's CD "Travellers" gives a good impression of these relationships. Her "Raga Flamenco Journey" could be experienced live on the third night. The last night featured classical Indian ragas and was "a tribute to my father", according to Anoushka. Is she just someyoung sitar player who happened to have great master Ravi Shankar for a father? No! Her performance was a deep bow towards her legacy. Anoushka is mature. She has developed her own style. Her sound production is brilliant and clean, her playing is full of imagination and her sound has a crystalline richness of colours.

"How is this concept received by the audience?", I asked the organiser Konzerthaus Dortmund. "Theconcerts were always well attended. Much better than calculated", was the reply. This gives us hope that, after the hype in the late 1960s, finally dawns a renaissance of the perception of Indian culture and Indian life. It is desirable that not only negative press reports draw attention to this rich culture.

For more information: (in German)


5. New in Our Team (2/2) - Jens Petersen
- Company News -

Jens Petersen was born in Wiesbaden in 1967. He developed a strong interest in music from childhood. At nine he began singing, and as a teenager he played the flute. After first steps in western classical music, he was active in an ensemble specialising in early music from the Middle Ages to Renaissance to Baroque. Various instruments required for this music, e.g. crwths and a harpsichord, were difficult to obtain, so the ensemble members built them themselves. Jens's special focus in this endeavour was the timber work. Since that time he has continued to work regularly in the field of instrument making. From the age of 21 he switched to African percussion. After studies in chemistry, Jens moved to Berlin in 1992, where he became a member of the Afro-percussion group La Fort Sacre and co-founder of the now famous Carnival of Cultures. In his mid 30s, Jens ventured into new musical territory again and discovered the classical South Indian rhythm system. He learnt the classical Carnatic percussion intruments mridangam, ghatam, kanjira and morsing from S.V. Giridhar in Berlin and Bangalore. Since 2012, he continues his studies with Manickam Yogeswaran and also started learning South Indian vocal.

Jens is especially interested in exploring the natural order processes that underlie our lives and our health. He is a qualified medical practitioner with a specialisation in craniosacral therapy, sees the world organised according to harmonic principles, examines the effects of rhythmic vibrations on body and soul, and, against the background of his chemical expertise, also explores the poperties of natural raw materials and traditional craftsmanship techniques. As our specialist for restoration and complex repairs he makes use of the extensive and detailed knowledge and skills that he has thus obtained. Jens is a master of wood processing and the production and processing of natural glues, varnishes and paints and loves to share his knowledge and experience with his teammates. By now, he has already brought a number of seemingly dead Indian instruments back to life.

More staff portraits and background information on India Instruments here.


6. Restricted Service - July
- Company News -

Our manager Norbert Klippstein will be on vacation from July 9th till July 26th. Unfortunately India Instruments can only offer restricted service during his absence - sorry! Email traffic will not be affected, however - we will answer all enquiries and take orders and reservations as quickly as usual. We will also try to process and ship orders to the best of our capacities - just allow an extra one to two weeks for delivery. Small items can probably be delivered with only a very small delay.

Shipping of large bulky instruments, however, might have to be postponed until after July 28th in most cases. Urgent and time-restricted orders can not be handled from from July 9th till July 26th, unfortunately. Visits to our Berlin store are restricted to special appointments within that period. We apologize for the inconvenience!


7. Indian Classical Music (7/7) - Tradition & Renewal
- Background Info by Yogendra -

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.

The subtleties of Indian classical music can hardly be represented in notation. Therefore the letter notation that has been developed in India is mainly used as a memory aid, not as an exact playing instruction (such as in the western classical). How to learn this music then, and how to pass it on over centuries?

Oral Tradition - Guru Shishya Parampara

The key is the oral tradition known as guru shishya parampara. Guru means teacher, shishya means student and parampara is the word for the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. Not only music is handed down like that, but e.g. also spiritual, medical or craft knowledge. Since all knowledge ultimately has a divine origin, this transmission is seen a sacred act. There is even a special goddess for it, called Saraswati - not just the goddess of wisdom and learning, but also of speech and music! The guru is the keeper of this knowledge and the student ideally receives it faithfully and obedient, with reverence and fervour, patience and trust, preserves it, and one day, when he himself has become a guru, he passes it on without any changes.

Traditional Training - Road to Mastery

From time to time the music guru carefully chooses particularly talented boys from his family or circle of acquaintances and takes them into his household for training. He supplies them with all they need as if they were his own children and takes full responsibility for their musical and personal development. His knowledge and understanding of art - the meaning of his life - can only live on if he chooses the right students and trains them withgreatest care. For several years, students receive daily instruction, practice under the guru's ears and listen to his practice. Without notations or other written records, just by imitating the guru's music more and more accurately, they learn the playing technique of the instrument, an extensive fund of compositions in various ragas and talas and the ability to improvise. When a student has reached concert maturity, the guru takes him on stage and plays in duet with him. He thus uses his prestige to present a worthy successor and to give him artistic recognition.

Technique - Training and Structure

There is an extensive canon of exercises for the development of technical mastery in terms of strength, speed, precision and endurance, with scales, rhythmic and melodic patterns, which even great masters usually practice regularly every day. But these exercises are not only pure technical training - they also engrave melodic and rhythmic structures into the mind, which can then be used in improvisation. At the same time they form patterns of perception that structure musical events mentally. Thus one learns to understand and use complex melodic and rhythmic sequenceses as meaningful units.

Compositions - Essence of Ragas

Compositions usually consist of only two to four short stanza-like melody lines. They are like a concentrated miniature representation of a raga's essentials. While the raga itself can never be defined, fixed and described exhaustively, the composition is a handy model of its main features that is authorized by the tradition and can be used for guidance and orientation. The more compositions are mentally present in the musician's mind, the more vivid and precise will be the raga interpretation that he designs in his improvisations. Therefore, the compositions must be memorised faithfully and should be kept in memory all life long.

Improvisation - Spontaneity with System

For the development of improvisational skills, it is important to be surrounded by the music as much as possible, to take it in consistently at all levels, no matter how much it is already understood consciously. Like a child learning to speak or an adult learning a foreign language it is essential to listen, listen, and again listen as much as possible. To experience again and again how it sounds right. To watch through the ears. To perceive. To feel for. But a conscious learning approach is required as well: First, the guru improvises one melody line after the other and the students repeats them after him like an echo. Once this level is mastered, the student plays the phrases of the guru no longer like an echo, repeating after him, but like a shadow, closely following, almost simultaneously, anticipating where the movement is going to go. Then the student continues the melodies of the guru independently, beginning to bring in his own ideas. Finally only the student plays, drawing upon the memory of countless previous improvisations and the trained formulas of the memorised compositions and exercises, and the guru listens, nods, comments with only small corrections, and blesses his disciple, who has now become a master in his own right

Learning Today - Ideal and Reality

Traditional India is changing in ever increasing pace in our globalised present. Economic pressure rises constantly, and old traditions are given up for the sake of individual freedom. Classical musicians are no longer supported by wealthy sponsors or the aristocracy, but have to compete on the open market. Although the ideal of the guru shishya parampara is still held up, it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue it in its traditional form. Lessons are limited nowadays and must be paid by the hour. The little time that guru and student have with each other must be used as intensively as possible. Digital recording devices and easy access to recordings of great masters past and present partially replace personal interaction and help students to learn more independently. Not only proteges of established gurus can make a career as classical musicians under these circumstances, talented outsiders have a chance as well.

Tradition in Transition - Key to Vitality

Indian classical music is no longer as fashionable in the West as it was in the late 1960s and 1970s. But it has been a pioneer of what has become an independent part of ??the global music industry under the name of world music, and it has captured a solid niche of its own in the concert circuit in Japan, North America, Australia and Europe. And in India itself classical music is still in full bloom. Its masters are well-known stars, so much that even the gossip columns of newspapers write about them. And many great young musicians carry on the tradition into the 21st Century. This is probably only possible because Indian classical music is deeply rooted in Indian culture and has a unique solid core in its concepts of raga and tala, while on the other hand it has never gotten stuck in the mere repetition of established forms. A musician just repeating exactly what his guru taught him would not be considered an artist but a parrot. Each raga performance requires a creative interpretation, drawing on the unique quality of the present moment, giving ever fresh life to raga and tala. As long as Indian classical music manages this balance between preservation and renewal, as long as it remains a living tradition in constant transition, it will certainly retain its charming freshness and will continue to delight and inspire people from all over the world.


8. Workshop Calendar - June to September
- 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 here regularly. Details of all workshops are available in our website's network section on the workshop page.

31.5. - 2.6. BAD MEINBERG (near Detmold): Harmonium advanced seminar with Juergen Wade
31.5. - 2.6. BAD MEINBERG: Nada yoga introductory seminar with Anne-Careen Angels
8.6. - 9.6. BERLIN: Kathak - Indian classical dance with Ioanna Srinivasan
9.6. - 11.6. / 16.6. WENDLAND: Classical Indian dance Bharata Natyam with PT Narendran & Kalamitra
21.6. - 24.11. GUT HUEBENTHAL (near Kassel / Goettingen): Year group mantra, kirtan & nadayoga with Sundaram
7.7. - 14.7. B - NEUFCHATEAU: Indian music workshops tabla, sitar, vocal, bansuri & Kathak Dance with Anindo Chatterjee, Ashok Pathak, Sayeeduddin Dagar, Jay & Maitreyee Mahatma Gandhi
12.7. - 18.7. CH - TICINO: Intensive dance course Bharata Natyam with Nateschwara Academy
19.7. - 21.7. RAMSTHAL (between Fulda and Würzburg): Sitar - step by step ... with Yogendra
17.8. - 18.8. BERLIN: Raga Meditation - Dhrupad vocal and Feldenkrais with Amelia Cuni & Ute Birk
18.8. - 23.8. BAD MEINBERG (near Detmold): Harmonium advanced seminar with Juergen Wade
23.8. - 25.8. BAD MEINBERG (near Detmold): Harmonium advanced seminar with Juergen Wade


9. Concert Calendar - June to July
- Scene Info -

Great masters of Indian classical music are going to perform in Germany again: Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on 31.5. in Munich and Hariprasad Chaurasia on 18.6. in Cologne - don't miss them! June offers a varied program in many smaller towns as well - keep your eyes open! For more detailed information, venues and times, as well as further dates in 2013, check our concert calendar.

01.06. CH - BADEN: RITIKA CHAKRABORTY - Nateshwara-Dance
02.06. BERLIN: KATYAYANI - Harmonium & Vocal
02.06. CH - LUGANO: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
07.06. CH - PORRENTRUY: PREM JOSHUA & Band - World Fusion
08.06. BAD ESSEN: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
08.06. CH - ASCONA: PREM JOSHUA & Band - World Fusion
09.06. I - LERICI LA SPEZIA: PREM JOSHUA & Band - World Fusion
09.06. BIBERACH: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
14.06. WEINHEIM: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
15.06. STUTTGART: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
16.06. HEIDELBERG: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
19.06. REMSCHEID: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
20.06. COLOGNE: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
22.06. COLOGNE: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
23.06. SCHÜTTORF: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
24.06. BAD BENTHEIM: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
28.06. CH - BERN: PREM JOSHUA & Band - World Fusion
28.06. FREIBURG: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
29.06. STUTTGART: NAVAB KHAN - Santoor, IMRAN KHAN - Vocal
29.06. CHEMNITZ: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
30.06. STUTTGART: NAVAB KHAN - Santoor, IMRAN KHAN - Vocal
30.06. SCHMIEDEBERG: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
30.06. BONN: MEERA VARGHESE - Bharatnatyam-DANCE
01.07. LEIPZIG: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
04.07. FREIBURG: Vikash Maharaj - Sarod, Abhishek Maharaj - Sitar
06.07. BONN: Indische klassische Musik mit Odissi-Tänzen
10.07. F - COMPS: PREM JOSHUA & Band - World Fusion
19.07. STUTTGART: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion

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