Newsletter May / June 2014


1) Tumbi - Single String Instrument from Punjab
2) Wooden Kartals - Castanets from Rajasthan
3) Sitar Holder SitarFlex - Playing Aid & Storage Device
4) Hariprasad Chaurasia - Honorary Award of German Record Critics
5) Kirtan (5) - Karatalas: The Ancient Bells
6) Sitar Fusion from Germanistan (4/6) - Prem Joshua
7) Workshops - June to August
8) Concerts - June & July


1) Tumbi - Single String Instrument from Punjab
- New Item -

Tumbi The tumbi is a small, lightweight folk instrument with just one string from the northwestern Indian state of Punjab. It is used to play simple tunes with characteristic timbre. The instrument has made an amazing career: First, the tumbi became the standard accompaniment of folk singer in the Punjab during the 20th century. Then it became popular among the Indian and Pakistani expatriate communities in the UK and the U.S., together with the danceable Bhangra music. At the same time it was frequenly used in Bhangra scenes in Bollywood movies. And finally, after the turn of the millennium, it even became fashionable among international hip-hop stars.

The tumbi consists of a wooden staff with a small resonator made of pumpkin and covered by a skin attached to its lower end. At the upper end of the staff it has has a peg which holds a single string. The string is attached to the lower end of the staff and passes over a small bridge on the skin covering the resonator. With the fingers of the left hand, the string can be pressed onto the wooden staff to change the pitch. The tumbi is plucked with upward and downward movements of the right index finger. The other fingers of the right hand hold the tumbi at the staff directly above the resonator.

The tumbi is now available from us for 39. - Euros (+ 9.90 Euros shipping costs within Europe).

More info and photos here.
An overview of other folk string instruments is available here

2) Wooden Kartals - Castanets from Rajasthan
- New Item -

Rajasthani kartals are a simple rhythm instrument made of thin hardwood boards. They come from the western Indian state of Rajasthan. They are related to the castanets used in flamenco. Rajasthani Kartals are relatively wide and long and are played in two pairs, just like castanets - each hand holds one pair. Their sharp, clear, clacking sound is produced by striking two boards together in one hand.

Kartal The alternating clack of the two hands makes it possible to play artful, rousing rhythms. However, fast and clear playing requires a good amount of practice. But even laymen can produce pleasing sounds with the Rajasthani kartals by using them like claves. Rajasthani kartals have been used to the accompany bhajans or for solo performances for centuries. They are usually manufactured by the ethnic groups of the Langas and Manganiyars.

The wooden Rajasthani kartals are now available with us for 19.50 Euros per pair (+ 3.90 Euros shipping costs within Europe).

Video impressions of Rajasthani kartals be found here.
More info and photos here.
An overview of other rhythm instruments is available here.


3) Sitar Holder SitarFlex - Playing Aid & Storage Device
- New Item -

The traditional sitting position for playing sitar - cross-legged on the floor with the instrument resting on the left foot - is a big problem for many sitar lovers. It may even spoil the joy of playing permanently. Our sitar holder SitarFlex offers a solution for this problem. It was developed by a German sitar player and engineer and holds the sitar stable and steady in the desired playing position - with the body on the ground and the neck pointing diagonally upward in an angle of about 45 degrees. That way neither a specific leg position is required to keep the sitar in position, nor a pressure of the right forearm. The instrument stands completely by itself!

SitarFlex The base of SitarFlex is a curved steel pipe, coated by a soft foam padding. This is were the gourd resonator is placed. The top end of the pipe holds a hook for a fabric ribbon. The other end of the ribbon is placed around the base of the neck of the sitar, underneath the sympathetic strings. The angle of the instrument's neck can be set by adjusting the length and position of the ribbon. Thanks to the flexibility of the ribbon and the elasticity of the steel pipe, the sitar is not fixed rigidly, but can be move slightly while playing without losing stability. This results in a very organic feel.

SitarFlex allows for a relatively traditional sitting position on the ground. However, you have the freedom to cross your legs or stretch them at will. SitarFlex can be used equally well to play on a sofa or a bed. The padded base pipe is then simply pushed underneath your legs. You can also use SitarFlex for storing the instrument upright without any external support (e.g. a wall).

The sitar holder Flex is now available with us for 59. - Euros (+ 19.90 Euros shipping costs within Europe) with us.

Video demonstration (in German).
More info and photos here.
An overview of other sitar accessories is available here.


4) Hariprasad Chaurasia - Honorary Award of German Record Critics
- Scene News from Yogendra -

On May 27, renowned bansuri maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia has received an honorary award from Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (PdSK, Price of German Record Critics). With this award, his life's work was appreciated. The record critics found the album "Making Music", released by ECM label in 1986, particularly commendable. Hariprasad Chaurasia plays alongside Zakir Hussain, John McLaughlin and Jan Garbarek on this recording. The critics called it one of the most successful productions of East-West fusion ever. Hariprasad's recordings of classical ragas, which appeared in the 1980s and 1990s on the label Chhanda Dhara, were highlighted, too. They showed an uncommonly sensitive and spiritual master who let the flute sound like the voice of divine love, the critics said.

The Price of German Record Critics (PdSK) is an independent association of currently 145 music critics and journalists from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It was founded in its present form in 1980 and builds on the tradition of an earlier association of the same name that was founded in 1963. PdSK would like to give a quality-focused orientation on a music market that is getting ever more confusing with tens of thousands of new releases every year. Its quarterly lists name the best and most interesting new releases of the previous three months in nearly 30 categories. Once a year the PdSK bestows up to 14 annual awards for the best productions of the past year, irrespective of category. Moreover, PdSK gives honorary awards to deserving artists who have made outstanding contributions to recorded music as a performer, artist or producer.

The honorary award 2014 sets Hariprasad Chaurasia in a line with conductor Marek Janowski, jazz trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and classical baritone Christian Gerhaher. The award for Hariprasad is not only a great recognition for the individual artist, but also for the tradition of North Indian classical raga music, which he represents, and for the creative handling of this tradition, which he has successfully demonstrated. After Indian classical music has disappeared more or less from public attention in Germany in a slow process throughout the past 10 years, the award might possibly serve as a wake-up call. After all, great new generations of classical Indian performers have grown in the shadows of the old masters, continuing the classical raga tradition, as well as making creative new experiments. These generations are waiting to be discovered!

A very personal appraisal of Hariprasad Chaurasia, written on the occasion of his 75th birthday by radio producer Jan Reichow, was published in our newsletter July / August 2013.
More on PdSK here (only in German. Hariprasad Chaurasia DVDs here.
Classic Indian CDs with Hariprasad here - with 20% anniversary discount in 2014!
Creative world music with Hariprasad here - with 20% anniversary discount in 2014!
Hariprasad Chaurasia and the Art of Improvisation - Textbook with CDs here.


5) Kirtan (5) - Karatalas: The Ancient Bells
- Series of Atul Krishna -

Kirtan has become ever more popular around the world in the past two decades - and so have the Indian instruments used to accompany it. Atul Krishna, himself an accomplished kirtan percussionist, gives background info on history, styles, musicians and instruments of kirtan in an open series.

The Karatalas (a.k.a. kartals, manjeeras, talas or cymbals) are small hand-percussion instruments made of brass, bronze, copper, zinc or bell metal. Often they are bound together in pairs by a cord which passes through a hole in their centre. Or they have wooden knobs, making it possible to hold them properly. The karatalas are very important, sometimes even essential, during kirtan. They keep the tala / beat, as can be derived from their name, and therefore help both singer and drummer. Kara means „to do“, so karatalas means „doing rhythm“. Karatals also give an extra dimension to the kirtan, as they can either adapt to what the drummer plays or just stick to the tala / beat. Karatalas can be found in different sizes and pitches. It is actually almost impossible to find a pair that is exactly tuned to the same pitch. This being said, it can also be seen as the charm of the instrument.

Karatalas Function & Playing Technique
Karatalas are played mainly in bhajans and kirtans. Professional karatala players are rare. Their job could be compared to playing tanpura in classical Indian music, even though karatalas might eventually have a much bigger impact due to their penetrating sound. There is definitely no way a karatala player could be headlining in a concert. Just like the khol (or mridanga), the karatalas enjoy popularity amongst the Hare Krishna movement. It is said that this small instrument was already used during the very first street kirtans led in the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the early 1500s. However, they are uncommon within classical Indian music and also rarely used by kirtan musicians outside the Krishna movement. Western kirtan musicians using karatalas are Krishna Das, Jai Uttal and Dave Stringer, to name a few. There are two basic strokes: open and closed. Variations of these two options define the funkyness of karatalas. For a clearer understanding, please click the following video links. Introduction by kirtan teacher Daniel Tucker and Groove with variations.

Problems with Karatalas
Karatalas can be very loud, depending on how many of them are played in a kirtan and where they are placed in the room. Kirtan is seen as something which is meant for everyone – „the audience is part of the band.“ This small fact makes it hard to restrict the number of karatalas being played during a kirtan. Actively participating during a kirtan is often mistaken for actively playing an instrument. Even though karatalas seem to be very tiny instruments, they can leave a big impact. Playing this instrument requires sensitivity and either a good sense of rhythm or knowledge of tala. If a player possesses these qualities, a kirtan can lead you to another dimension. If karatalas are misused during a kirtan, it can lead to frustration with both singer and drummer. The sheer number of karatalas being played during some kirtans can even lead to tinnitus. Beauty lies in the ear of the listener. Let’s all work together to keep this tinnitus from spreading!

Kartalas / manjeeras at India Instruments here.
Concert video with songs of Kabir and many karatalas.

6) Sitar Fusion from Germanistan (4/6) - Prem Joshua
- Background report by Yogendra -

Ravi Shankar's heirs keep the sitar alive - not only in India but also in Central Europe! It is a little-known fact that sitarists with German roots have already been successful professional performers for decades. They have explored original new ways of combining Indian sounds with other musical styles and have thus contributed substantially to what is known today as world music. Time to take a closer look and tell the story of this ignored tradition...

The globally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and composer Prem Joshua is probably one of the most dazzling figures in the current world music scene - and has been for over 20 years! His story begins quite unspectacular in 1958 in a middle-class family in a Swabian provincial town. As a child he learns to play recorder and to read music, but he is already driven by a certain musical passion, prompting him to improvise instead of just following the notation. As a teenager, in the early 1970s, he rebels against the establishment, grows long hair, connects with the creative music scene around Ralf Illenberger and Martin Kolbe in Stuttgart, plays flute, saxophone and guitar in bands, listens for the first time to a recording of sitar master Ravi Shankar, and sees jazz greats such as Oregon, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and John McLaughlin's group Shakti live in concert.

When he is 18, Prem Joshua finally leaves civic life behind and travels overland to India, the promised land of the hippie movement. After arriving in India, he feels immediately at home and ends up in Pune in the ashram of spiritual master Osho (called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh at the time and harshly criticised as a public danger and sex guru by the establishment). He becomes Osho's disciple and lives mainly in his ashram for the next few years. In Pune, Prem Joshua also gets closer access to classical Indian raga music and becomes a student of sitar virtuoso Usman Khan. At this time, however, he earns his living not as a musician but as a painter of large-scale murals in Germany. His decisive musical awakening happens as late as 1986: his master Osho is temporarily on the Greek island Crete, and Prem Joshua gets to play directly in front of him for the first time. This experience opens a new dimension of music making for him - it feels as if he does not play himself, but is merely a medium for a higher energy. From that time onwards he keeps on playing original pieces in front of Osho with musicians from all over the world in the ashram band in Pune on a daily basis.

After Osho's death in 1990, Prem Joshua starts bringing his own music out of the ashram and into the world. Together with some ashram musicians he founds the band Terra Incognita, gives concerts and publishes two albums. At this stage the global network of Osho followers is a great help. The first record under his own name, released in 1993, is Tales of a Dancing River. It is followed by a remarkably long productive phase: Until 2010, Prem Joshua produces a new album with his own compositions nearly every year. He works with different partners who give creative input and influence his development. Particularly noteworthy in this context are Rishi Vlote, Manish Vyas, Maneesh de Moor and Chintan Relenberg. These cooperations lead Prem Joshua to a more and more unique fusion of various genres from East and West - Indian classical, elements of kirtan, chant and sufi music, reggae, funk and jazz. Without professional management Prem Joshua gets known beyond the Osho circles. Stamina, unbroken musical creativity and tireless diligence eventually lead to more and more success. Especially in India, his music gets great response. Today he is a genuine star who is not limited to any single spiritual scene and who plays in front of thousands of people.

On his first records Prem Joshua mainly plays flute and saxophone. Although elements of Indian classical music can already be found in his compositions, the respect for the Indian tradition was perhaps still too big to give the sitar a prominent role then. However, in course of time, the sitar moves more and more into the foreground, and on his later albums there is hardly any piece without it. The great success in India might have to do with the inclusion of the sitar. Today most of his new pieces are created on the sitar and the daily sitar practice is his meditation.

Prem Joshua has also become considerably bolder in using his voice over the years. Today he fills his role as a band leader and melody soloist as a singer and as a sitarist, saxophonist and flutist. A good example of his versatility is Jhule Lal,a piece based on a Sufi text. Raul Sengupta on tablas and percussion provides lively grooves with ethnic touch and rich sophisticated rhythm. Satgyan Fukuda, an old friend from the ashram years in Pune, lays the foundation on bass guitar. And Chintan Relenberg brings in contemporary digital sounds on the keyboard.

Prem Joshua's deep spiritual roots and its intimate relation to the classical Indian raga tradition give many of his pieces a very natural meditative dimension. Without ever getting into esoteric kitsch he creates complex musical structures with high artistic quality - e.g. in Saroja. On the other side his music has also become more energetic and danceable in course of his career. Remixes of many pieces circulate in clubs around the world. His biggest hit in this regard is probably Shiva Moon.

Despite all his success Prem Joshua has never become aloof. The survival as a freelance musician beyond pop, rock and sponsored classical mainstream remains difficult and exhausting even after all these years. The work without an agency for booking and promotion requires constant efforts and usually takes much more time than the actual music. And the global nomad lifestyle with months-long concert tours has its price, too. Maybe that's why Prem Joshua has no airs and graces. He is simply a true musician, who has remained open and approachable and always willing to talk shop with fellow sitarist. Not least, his studies in classical Indian sitar music have taught him great humility - Indian classical music is endless and overwhelming, and one life does not seem sufficient to capture its entire depth, he once said.

Prem Joshua's new album Kashi, a co-production with Chintan Relenberg, appears in July 2014. His CDs are available in stores and as downloads everywhere. More information on his Website.


7) Workshops - June to August
- 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.

27.06. - 03.07. ITALY - APULIA: Dhrupad - Vocal & Percussion with Ramakant, Umakant & Akhilesh Gundecha
09. - 16.07. CH - OLIVONE: Indian Dance & Music Week with Vijaya Rao
18.07. - 20.07. NORTH SEA: Harmonium Intensive with Juergen Wade
02. - 10.08. FREIBURG: Tamburi Mundi Festival - frame drums intensive
15. - 17.08. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium Advanced Seminar with Devadas Mark Janku
17. - 22.08. NORTH SEA: Harmonium Intensive with Uli Schuchart
29. - 31.08. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium learning seminar with Darshini Devi

8) Concerts - June & July
- Scene Info -

Summer is a quieter time for Indian music in Central Europe, but we can still list more than 20 programmes in the next two months. Check our concert calendar for more detailed information, venues and times as well as further dates in 2014.

18.06. CH - THUN: Carnatic & Hindustani
20.06. BERLIN: Amelia Cuni - Dhrupad Vocal & Friends
22.06. FRANKFURT / M.: Hindol Deb - Sitar & Max Clouth - Guitar
25.06. CH - BERN: Carnatic & Hindustani 26.06. A - VIENNA: Indian Air
26.06. CH - GENEVE: Carnatic & Hindustani
27.06. CH - LUCERNE: Carnatic & Hindustani
27.06. BONN: Anandita Basu - Sufi Vocal & Harmonium
28.06. TUBINGEN: Anandita Basu - Sufi Vocal & Harmonium
28.06. STUTTGART: Shirin Sengupta - Vocal
29.06. STUTTGART: Shirin Sengupta - Vocal
29.06. FRANKFURT / M.: Dilshad Khan - Sarangi / Imran Khan - Sitar
01.07. BERLIN: Shirein Sengupta - Vocal
03.07. - 06.07. RUDOLSTADT: Song, Folk, World Music Festival
03.07. - 06.07. BERLIN: Yoga Festival Berlin
04.07. BERLIN: Indigo Masala - Asian Acoustic World Fusion
05.07. BUECKNITZ (Brandenburg): Ioanna Srinivasan - Kathak Dance
05.07. ORSINGEN: Jayalaksmi Sekhar - Veena
05.07. WITZENHAUSEN (in Göttingen): Prem Joshua & Band
06.07. RUDOLSTADT: Indigo Masala - Asian Acoustic World Fusion
11.07. F - COMPS: Prem Joshua & Band
17.07. CONSTANCE: Subroto Roy Chowdhury - sitar
19.07. STUTTGART: Subroto Roy Chowdhury - sitar
20.07. STUTTGART: Subroto Roy Chowdhury - sitar

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