Newsletter November / December 2012

1. Price Reduction - Harmonium Paloma Companion
- Company Info -

Good news for all friends of the harmonium: We have considerably lowered the price for the model Paloma Companion D 27/2! The Paloma Companion now costs only 490, - € instead of 540, - €! With its light weight and small dimensions, it is the perfect accompaniment for mantras and kirtans on the road or at home - light, compact, sturdy, comfortable to use and yet a full harmonium with a warm, round tone. For easy and safe carrying a lightweight padded bag is included.

The Paloma Companion is ideal for those who value the highest quality in materials, workmanship and sound, but who find the Paloma Premium and the Paloma Compactina too big, too heavy or too expensive. The Companion is both great as a main instrument and as a mobile second harmonium for traveling. The 27 notes ranging from g to a over 2 1/4 octaves cover the gamut of almost all common mantras and kirtans. High-quality double reeds provide good response and a warm, full sound. The mat surfaces in natural wood look, typical for most Paloma harmoniums, flatter hand and eye alike.

Photos and more detailed information.


2. Christmas Special - Indigo Masala & Ragas
- Special Offer -

In the advent season we offer a few CDs at a reduced special price. With one of these titles, you can certainly make your loved ones happy - or secure a bargain for yourself!

  • INDIGO MASALA: GODS BIG & LITTLE ANIMALS - 12. - Euros A colourful variety of world music compositions with Indian inspiration for sitar, cello, tabla, percussion and vocals. This debut album of award-winning trio Indigo Masala, released in 2006, was hailed as "probably the hottest album of the year" by the trade press. With its beautiful acoustic sound, the album is perfect gift even for those without any inclination towards Indian music. Listen to samples.
  • INDIGO MASALA: LEGENDS OF PANIPUR - 12. - Euros An adventurous and immensely varied journey into the imaginary princedom of Panipur with sitar, tabla, cello, Russian buttoned accordion, vocals, ghatam, tin whistle, and a wealth of different percussion instruments. Passionate, energetic, sensitive, meditative and funny - and sometimes all of these at once. World Music for the whole being. Listen to samples.
  • YOGENDRA: PEACE, LOVE & JOY - THREE FOR RAGAS SITAR & TABLA - 12. - Euros The balanced round tone, the clear, soulful melody lines, the peaceful mood and the choice of immediately accessible ragas make this sitar CD a soothing journey to India for everybody - and a wonderful introduction for all those new to Indian classical music in particular. The tasteful and sensitive tabla accompaniment is played by Ashis Paul. Listen to samples.
  • TEJENDRA NARAYAN MAZUMDAR: RAGA AHIR BHAIRAV ??- 12. - Euros A delight for all lovers of Indian Classical: Tejendra Majumdar, probably the greatest sarod virtuoso of his generation, gives a complete interpretation of morning raga Ahir Bhairav ??with solo alap, jor, jhala, the usual slow gat in tintal and finally an extraordinary fast gat and jhala in jhaptal. The wonderful tabla accompanist is Shubhankar Banerjee. A true gem!

And the best for last: Two CDs of this special offer are available for only 22. - Euros, three for 31.50 Euros and all four for just 40. - Euros! These special prices apply to all orders up to December 24th. Incidentally, you can get the music of these albums on the download platforms with the samples, too - but only without the lavish booklets that make a CD into a really compelling gift...

Overview of our complete media offer.


3. Concert Life in Calcutta (5/5) - Fusion at the Roxy
- Background Reportage by Yogendra -

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

After a private all-night house concert and concerts at the music lovers circle Bhawanipur Sangeet Sammilani, the prestigious Sangeet Research Academy and the huge KMDA Garfa Festival I've seen a lot of the classical Indian music scene in Calcutta. Time for a different experience. The opportunity is given to me by an invitation by star sitarist Purbayan Chatterjee. He wants to release his new album Hemisphere, a fusion CD, I'm told, with a live performance in the trendy Roxy Bar.

The Roxy is located in Park Street in the city centre, on the ground floor of the noble Park Hotel. A stylish place that advertises with a choice of 56 different wines from around the world and the slogan "Irresistibly sexy - invitingly Roxy" and could probably as well be found similarly in any other big city anywhere on the planet. I arrive on time, but the two floors of the Roxy with their seating capacity of well over 100 guests are still pretty empty with just one to two dozen lonely people. The program will start later, I'm told, because certain VIPs are still missing. Only now do I realize that I'm not at a concert, but at a CD release event staged for the media, with only invited guests having access. Well, one can pass the waiting time by sipping free drinks and munching snacks, by having small talk with stars and starlets of the Bengali celebrity scene, with the attending musicians and their students from Japan or, just for fun, by giving an interview to the attending yellow press. After one or two hours of sitting idle, the small illustrious assembled crowd finally moves in front of the stage, drinks in hand. Tabla virtuoso Tanmoy Bose, wirepuller in the Calcutta music scene, solemnly cuts a red ribbon and holds a Hemisphere CD into the cameras, and after he and a few others have praised the album and emphasized how great it is to be here today, the music finally starts.

The band for the evening consists of Anubrata Chatterjee, Anindo Chatterjee's son, on tabla and percussion, an unnamed featured keyboarder, a similarly anonymous bass guitar player, "Marc from America" ??on drums and of course Purbayan Chatterjee with his electric sitar and vocal. True to style, the musicians appear not in traditional kurtas, but in cool casual jeans and shirts. The volume is high, but still below pain level - something that needs to be appreciated in Calcutta. The music, although with a modern pop sound and lots of electronics, is still handmade in good old traditional fashion. However, despite some noticeable enthusiasm of the musicians with extensive solos, beguiling sitar licks and spontaneous involvement of celebrity guest Tanmoy Bose, the audience doesn't really get warm or enthusiastic. Too arbitrary is the mix of styles on Hemisphere, which stretches from African, Celtic, Indian and jazzy elements to an instrumental cover version of Sting's "Fragile". Artistically, the result is simply too lean. Significantly, the CD has only seven songs with a total playing time of just 30 minutes. And it's all too clear that the evening at the Roxy is not about musical experience, but about marketing a product of the entertainment industry.

What a pity. In recent years, with his classical ensemble Shastriya Syndicate and his fusion album String Struck, Purbayan had realised widely clebrated, artistically ambitious projects which were commercially very successful, too. And his openness and creative curiosity have him constantly looking for new musical possibilities. But success and fame probably increase the pressure from the music industry and the public considerably. Purbayan's latest contract to produce about half a dozen more concept albums for the Indian media company Times Music (including one with famous Western classical music hits on sitar) doesn't seem to be holding very good promises.

More and more renowned young classical musicians are now trying to balance between an identity as a traditional performer of classical ragas on the one hand and commercial productions with Bollywood, pop, rock and fusion on the other. The possibilty of reaching beyond the raga niche to a wider audience, while also making some real money, seems very tempting. Such crossing of frontiers is not altogether new, of course. Ravi Shankar owes his world fame largely to his experiments with film and orchestral music, and to his collaborations with non-Indian musicians. And artists such as Hariprasad Chaurasia and Shivkumar Sharma have benefited from their work with the Indian film industry in every respect. But nowadays it could seem as if the combination of global acceleration and commercialization with the infinite technical possibilities of digital music production make it rather more difficult for the young Indian musicians to develop a healthy creativity and come up with something really meaningful. If music is nothing but a part of a globalised entertainment industry, the artistic quality and the soul of the artist may get lost all too easily. Or is the liaison with show business and the flirtation with wealthy corporate sponsors simply a necessity nowadays, in order to get funding for the raga tradition and thus keep it alive? The future will tell.


4. The Young Maestros (5/8) - Omkar Dadarkar
- Background Reportage by Arunabha Deb -

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.

Omkar Dadarkar (34), Kolkata, Singer of the Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur Gharanas
The only other male vocalist whose name crops up alongside Jayateerth Mevundi's is that of Omkar Dadarkar. His singing style is totally different: as a disciple of Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar he fuses Agra, Gwalior and Jaipur in his gayaki. But in terms of impact on audiences he is at par with Jayateerth. It works out differently for each young musician and Omkar is certainly not yet as busy as Jayateerth, but if recent recitals are anything to go by, he should not be far behind. Last monsoon, his rendition of Miyanki Malhar at a Kolkata recital (with his guru sitting in the front row: always a nerve-wracking experience) was nothing less than unforgettable. Eyes shut, it would have been impossible to tell that it was an upcoming artiste who was singing and not a maestro. His pukaars in the higher octaves, his supersonic taans and the splendour of his baritone at large all combined to assert his position as one of the finest young artistes in the country.

And he does not seem to be particularly perturbed about popularity. "Different people have different notions of success. Right now I am happy to be where I am," he says. He is presently a junior guru at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata, a position that gives him time for riyaz and, more importantly, proximity to his guru who is also at the academy. In spite of an intimate talm schedule with his guru, Omkar has been careful to avoid imitation. Kashalkar is one of the leading maestros of the country today; over the last decade audiences have been exposed to both him and Omkar; it was imperative for the disciple to forge an individual style. Imitation would have certainly resulted in rejection by the audience: it is well established that nobody wanty a photocopy, particularly when the original is still in circulation.


5. Khyal Pioneer in Europe - Mohammad Sayeed Khan
- Obituary by Yogendra -

The great singer Khyal Mohammad Sayeed Khan passed away in Amsterdam on October 6th, aged 77. He came from an old family of traditional musicians in Mumbai and was a representative of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana. He had learned from childhood from his father, the sarangi virtuoso Abdul Majid Khan, a student of Gharana founder Alladiya Khan and of sarangi legend Bundu Khan. Mohammad Sayeed Khan and his younger brother Mohammad Rashid Khan became known internationally as Khan Bandhu when they pblished several recordings and toured the world together with their vocal duet in the 1960s and 70s. After Rashid's premature death, Mohammad Sayeed Khan and his family settled in Amsterdam in the 1980s, after a detour in Suriname. He lived there as a teacher and concert artist until his death and has been an important pioneer of Indian music in Europe.

None of his children was willing to carry on his musical legacy. Therefore, in 2007, after a pilgrimage to Mecca, Mohammad Sayeed Khan decided to break with an established tradition of many families of Indian singers. He did not keep his musical knowledge as a jealously guarded secret and pass it on only orally to carefully selected relatives or very close disciples. Instead he presented his collected musical treasures to the public in a book and on CD in 2009. 238 khyal compositions in 115 ragas from his family tradition are thus saved from oblivion. A brief

recording of the old record of the Khan brothers with Raga Raatki Gunkali is available on YouTube.

6. My India Live - Video Blog
- Media Info -

Carsten Wicke, German-born Rudra Veena player and filmmaker (Music Masala), has been living in India for several years now. He is currently based in Calcutta and is dedicated to his mission of maturing into a concert level Rudra Veena performer. He also develops new Rudra Veenas in collaboration with local craftsmen, not least to counter the current shortage of instrument makers for Rudra Veenas.

Carsten has no time for new film documentaries, but he recently published a video blog. Originally recorded for an inner circle of friends, these videos give close insights into life in Calcutta. The latest contributions feature the recently held great festivities in honour of Goddess Durga on Durga Puja, the most important holiday in Bengal, and the festival of lights Diwali, one of the most popular holidays across India. The narration is in German, but the images often speak for themselves. There is also the opportunity to experience a Rudra Veena performance by Carsten.

My India Live.


7. Concert Calendar - December / January
- Scene Info -

In the winter months concerts with classical Indian music are rare in Europe - it is high season in India, and most artists are active there. But the tours of the Pakistani khyal singer Shafqat Ali Khan and slide-guitar virtuoso Debashish Bhattacharya are true highlights nevertheless. For more detailed information, places and time, as well as other dates for 2013 check our concert calendar.

7.12. BERLIN: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
9.12. CH - BERN: SHAFQAT ALI KHAN - Khyal-Vocal
2.2. NL - UTRECHT: DHRUPAD FESTIVAL Marianne Sva¨ek & Céline Wadier - vocal / Bahauddin Dagar - rudra veena
3.2. NL - UTRECHT: DHRUPAD FESTIVAL Pushparaj Koshti - surbahar / Zia Fariduddin Dagar & Pandit Nirmalya Dey - vocal


8. Indian Classical Music (6/7) - Instruments: Magic of Sound
- 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.

Indian Classical Music (6/7) - Instruments: Magic of Sound
The instruments of Indian classical music have their very own distinctive sound magic. Most typical are their shimmering overtones, caused by bridges with curved surfaces and many sympathetic strings, and the ability of imitating many aspects of the human voice. Although you can play Indian classical music on instruments such as the violin or saxophone, its peculiarities are come across particularly well on instruments created in India.

Tanpura - Symbol of Eternity
Even before the first note of a ragais played or sung, you can hear almost always a fine shimmering drone sound in Indian music, which continues unchanged in the background during the whole raga performance. It is played on the tanpura, one of the least known and yet most traditional and important instruments. The tanpura with its constant drone always defines the tonic - it is the foundation on which the whole intricate raga architecture is built, the canvas on which the raga painting is painted, and the earth on which the raga is dancing. Tanpuras usually have four or five strings, which are always plucked open in a constant rhythm. The plucking is so soft that the vibrations of each string appear to merge into a continuous shimmering sound. The tanpurasymbolises the eternal ground of being from which all (musical) creation unfolds. Since tanpuras are tuned to the particular high or low tonic of each singer or instrument, they are available in different sizes and shapes. Typical is the type with large dried gourd for a resonator and an attached long neck made of wood. In concert, students of the main artists usually play the tanpura for them.

Sitar - The Sound of India
Probably no other instrument has a more typically Indian sound than the sitar. Primarily due to the world-renowned sitar master Ravi Shankar its silvery sound has become the epitome of Indian music. It is a technically demanding solo instrument, usually with 17 to 20 strings. Of these, only six or seven are used as playing strings. The remaining 13 are not be plucked, but vibrate in resonance when their pitch is played on the melody strings. Thus the sympathetic strings create a kind of built-in reverb. Similar to the tanpura the sitar has a gourd resonator with a long wooden neck. Many sitars have an additional second resonator up at the back of the neck. Tied across the neck are metal frets. Pressing the strings down on them changes the pitch - similar to a guitar. One can also change the pitch by pulling the strings laterally, thus increasing their tension. This bending technique is particularly well suited for imitating the continuous movements of the human voice - after all, Indian classical music is all derived from singing. However, the lateral pulling is also particularly difficult to master. But fear not - on a well-tuned sitar, even beginners can quickly create fascinating typical Indian sounds!

Sarod - The Unfamiliar Excellency
In Europe, the sarod is much lesser known than the sitar - although it enjoys the same high status as a solo instrument in India. Its sound is rounder and more brilliant than of the sitar. The plucking with a thick plectrum made of coconut allows an extremely dynamic rhythmic playing that can unfold a very powerful volume thanks toreplacement of a wooden top by a goat skin. Another unique feature are the subtle melodic articulation possibilities: The four melody strings are pressed with the fingernails onto an extremely smooth fretless chromimum-plated stainless steel fingerboard. Any small change in the position of the finger nail changes the pitch - thus sliding along the string allows for fascinating melodic expression. The sarod is an instrument that is absolutely worthy to discover!

Veena - King of Instruments
The word veena is actually a generic term for various stringed instruments. Best known are the Rudra veena in Northern India and the Saraswati veena in South India. The Rudra-veena is several centuries old, was long regarded as the noblest of all instruments and is today seen as one of the precursors of the sitar. Its two big gourd bodies are mounted on a wooden resonance tube, along which the strings run. Metal frets are mounted on top of the tube. The Rudra-veena has an archaic, majestic character and is now unfortunately almost extinct. Very much alive, however, is the Saraswati veena, main solo instrument of Carnatic music and therefore the correspondence to the North Indian sitar. Its shape with a spherical body, long neck, frets, pegs and second upper resonator is similar to that of the sitar. However, the Saraswati veena has no sympathetic strings and is made of other materials. Its playing technique and musical repertoire is also quite different from its Northern Indian sister.

Bansuri - Krishna's Allure
The Bansuri is actually nothing more than a simple dried and hollowed bamboo with six or seven finger holes and one hole for blowing. It is blown like a Western flute and has an important place in the mythology of Hindu god Krishna - as a young man, Krishna beguiled the hearts of the girls and lured them to erotically coloured games with his small, high-pitched bansuri. For centuries, the bansuri was simply a folk instrument - popular but very limited in its possibilities due to its simplicity. It was not until the mid-20th century that musicians began to perform classical ragas on particularly large, deep, warm and round sounding bansuris. Since the bansuri has no mechanism, these large instruments are very difficult to handle due to the required finger spread. Mastering them needs a lot of practice. The blowing technique has evolved during the decades of the bansuri's use as a classical solo instrument and incorporates very sophisticated rhythmic variations nowadays.

Santoor - The Scent of Kashmir
The santoor is originally a folk instrument from Kashmir, the mountainous Northern border region between India and Pakistan. Its enchanting, crystal-clear sound cascades have won it fans all around the world today. The resonator is a trapezoidal wooden box and it has about 90 strings in total. Three adjacent strings each are tuned to the same note and run over one small bridge together, giving the santoor a total of 30 notes. The strings are struck with two wooden mallets, which are held between the fingers of the right and left hand. The pre-tuned pitches can not be changed while playing - no sliding sound movements are possible. In spite of this limitation, the santoor has conquered its place among the classical Indian solo instruments over the past decades, thanks to its sophisticated rhythmic possibilities and refined new playing techniques.

Sarangi - The Singing Soul
The singing nasal sound of the bowed string instrument sarangi is one of the most fascinating phenomena in Indian music. It has more sympathetic strings than any other Indian instrument and thus unmatched reverberation - especially because the vibration of the melody strings directly transmits to the sympathetic strings through the thin goat skin on the wooden body. The melody is played on three gut strings. The pitch is altered on these strings without fingerboard or frets by laterally pushing against them with the nail bed. This unique technique and the very short distance from note to note provide an unbeatable flexibility in articulation. Thus, the sarangi is better able to imitate all the subtleties of the human voice than any other instrument. Traditionally, it was therefore mostly used for vocal accompaniment. But today it can also be heard as a solo instrument. Unfortunately, due to the demanding technique, less and less musicians are still playing sarangi nowadays.

Harmonium - Europe in India
The harmonium, an immensely practical, easy-to-play instrument, has widely replaced the sarangi in vocal accompaniment today. It was invented in the 19th Century in Europe and then imported to India and modified. In the West, it is now virtually extinct, but in India it thrives as the universal accompaniment for all classical and semi-classical singing style as for devotional songs of various traditions, bhajan, kirtan and mantra chanting to qawwali and shabad. The Harmonium doesn't have to be tuned, you don't need practice to produce a sound and you can support a voice very well without get in its the way. You just pump the bellows at the back of the instrument press the keys on the keyboard with the other - perfect for everyone. The harmonium is not used as a classical solo instrument, though.

Tabla - A Universe of Rhythm
The dancing fingers on the tabla move faster than the eye can follow, and produce a sparkling rhythmic hurricane that one would never have expected from a single musician. If you have ever seen a good tabla player in live performance you will most likely never forget the experience. The tabla is one of the most complex rhythm instruments in the world and offers a variety of sounds as wide as that of a whole percussion ensemble elsewhere. It consists of two hand drums that are always used together as a pair. The smaller one is made of heavy wood and can both produce precisely tunable bell-clear sounds as well as noise-like slaps and taps. The larger bulging drum, usually made of chromium-plated copper, provides the bass. By pressure and movement of the hand resting on the skin the pitch can be changed with incredible flexibility while playing, so that the instrument seems to be speaking literally. Crucial for the sound is a black paste of cooked rice mass and iron filings, which is applied in a complex process on the drum heads made of goat skin. Noadays, tabla sounds can also be bought as digital samples that are used widely in a variety of musical styles.

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