Newsletter November / December 2013

1. Relaunch - New English Website
- Company News -

After two years of work we proudly present our completely revised new English website! The light and friendly design with its clear and intuitive structure and the many new features and pictures are an invitation to relaxed and comfortable surfing. Check it out and bookmark !

Some of the helpful new features:

  • translation tool in over 70 languages on all pages - great if you feel more comfortable in your mother tongue
  • separate sections for instruments , media, accessories and network
  • order tool with shopping cart and prices (including shipping and non-European Union prices) for all items
  • contact tool for easy communication
  • search tool
  • extensive info with track lists and artists' bio-data for all items in our CD department
  • brand info department
  • special offer department with bargains and rarities, oddities and treasures
  • list of distributors in Germany and Europe - you can try out selected instruments from our assortment there
  • extensive collection of background texts in our network section - infos, reports, features, reviews, etc.

Nobody is perfect, and we're no digital natives... So please let us know if you face any problems with our new site or find any bugs or mistakes! Fedback is most welcome, too! Just use our contact form - or write us to, or call us at +49-30-6211724. Looking forward to hearing from you!


2. Jubilee - 20 Years India Instruments
- Company News -

India Instruments turns 20 in 2014 - and we're going to celebrate it! Therefore we offer the following 20th jubilee specials from January 1st until December 31st 2014:

  • 20% discount on all our audio CDs (except Learning & Practice) - great opportunity for bargains amidst the gradual closing down of our CD department
  • An art print postcard of Saraswati, Indian goddess of music, arts, language and learning, as a free gift with every purchase.
  • A CD as a free gift with every purchase over 100.- Euros - choose between "Peace, Love & Joy" with three classical Indian ragas by Yogendra (sitar) and Ashis Paul (tabla) - sample - , and "Legends of Panipur" with acoustic Asian world fusion by Indigo Masala - sample. Please let us know your choice of CD with your order!

We are also planning a great jubilee celebration with lots of music in Berlin in the summer! It will become an inspiring opportunity of musical exchange and personal encounters. All our staff and many friends are supposed to perform live with their various projects. Date and venue still need to be sorted out. Please let us know if you would like to join this unique event as a musician!

3. Remember Shakti - Passion and Love
- Concert Review by Yogendra -

Thunderous applause and a standing ovation from about 2,000 enthusiastic people greet the five musicians as they return to the stage of the great hall in Brussels' Bozar Palace of Fine Arts after over two hours of concert without a break and an encore. Shankar Mahadevan, the exceptionally gifted Indian singer, reaches for his mobile and films the euphoric crowd with childlike joy, much like a curious tourist. And tabla wizard Zakir Hussain plays the role of experienced guide by his side and points out the most attractive views in pit, tier and loges with an outstretched arm. What a charming and witty final moment of an intoxicating concert!

Remember Shakti is a tribute to the legendary band Shakti, which set standards in the fusion of Indian classical music with current jazz from 1974 - 78, with three groundbreaking albums and countless festival appearances. Trademarks of Shakti were breakneck fast instrumentals pieces full of seething energy, in unusual keys and odd rhythms, heavily inspired by classical South Indian music, and elaborated in extended, highly virtuosic solo improvisations. Working together at that time were John McLaughlin (guitar), L. Shankar (violin), Zakir Hussain (tabla) and Vikku Vinayakram (ghatam) - some of the best representatives of their traditions and instruments. All were still relatively young, open to experiment, willing to learn, and determined to finally create a true synthesis of Indian music and jazz, artistic, sophisticated, breathtakingly exciting - and way beyond the rather superficial pop enthusiasm for Indian music in the late 1960s and early 70s. Today, the music of Shakti is still a benchmark for any world music project.

20 years after the disbanding of Shakti, John and Zakir played some concerts together again in the late 90s. However, reuniting the original band failed because L. Shankar was nowhere to be found and Vikku Vinayakram felt too old for touring. Instead, Vikku recommended his son Selva Ganesh as a new percussionist with ghatam, mridangam and kanjira. After an interlude with Hariprasad Chaurasia on the bansuri and various other guests, singer Shankar Mahadevan and mandolin virtuoso U. Srinivas finally joined to form Remember Shakti. Although today's quintet still plays many of the old pieces, the group is not a mere museum project of aging stars. Instead it gives a contemporary reinterpretation of the classics and pushes the Indo-jazz synthesis another step further with new pieces. That way Remember Shakti attracts old fans as much as the young Indian diaspora, jazz listeners, world music lovers and India enthusiasts from the ever growing yoga movement. Accordingly, the audience in Brussels was very diverse and colourful, spanning generations as well as cultures.

As always, Remember Shakti appeared in traditional Indian outfits, sitting in a semicircle on the floor on a large rug. The band does not make any concessions to showbiz glamour in the presentation. Band leader John McLaughlin leads confidently through the evening in fluent French - which, unfortunately, some members of the Indian diaspora are not able to follow. Zakir Hussain's occaisonal attempts in assisting often fail due to a non-functioning microphone.

In a recent interview, John has said that his fellow performers are like younger brothers to him, and that they all feel spiritually connected on the same level. This deep appreciation of the musicians for each other clearly shows in radiant looks, in supportive head wobbling, in repeated laudatory announcements between the pieces, and in keeping time with clapping during extended solos. Nobody drops out when it's not his turn, everybody is always passionately involved. And the audience can sense this passion and love and enjoys sharing it.

Remember Shakti still captivates with technically challenging pieces in intricate rhythms, played in precise perfection at high speed. South Indian prodigy U. Srinivas provides the compulsory virtuoso solos as reliably on his mandolin as John on his guitar. And the extensive dialogues and rhythm battles, nowadays between Zakir and Selva Ganesh, never fail to generate great enthusiasm. The music is as vibrant and full of overflowing energy as ever - a manifestation of Shakti, the universal creative energy. However, the breathlessness of this constant throbbing can get tiring in the long run. At this point the phenomenal Shankar Mahadevan comes into play. When he sings and lets his hands dance through the air in perfect grace, a door into another sphere seems to open. Effort turns into floating lightness, a deep breath swings through the body, and amidst the oscillating play of forms a higher essence can be sensed. I can only compare his charisma with that of the legendary qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Shankar Mahadevan adds a new and previously missing dimension to the music of Shakti. He is Shiva, whose consciousness gives meaning to the otherwise blind workings of the Shakti energy and thus makes it truely complete.

Live impressions of the concert in Brussels
DVD Gateway To Rhythm by John McLaughlin and Selva Ganesh

4. Sitar-Fusion from Germanistan (1/6) - Pulsar Trio
- Background Feature 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 at this ignored tradition...

"Pulsar Trio impressed with their dynamic stage show, the surprising instrumental interventions of a sitar and their passionate harmony in playing together." These were the jury's words while confering the regional Berlin Creole world music award to Pulsar Trio with German sitarist Matyas Wolter this September. The surprised jury was apparently not aware that Pulsar Trio stands in a tradition of German sitarists that originated in the 1970s...

From 1976 - 1986 the group Orexis with guitarist and sitarist Georg Lawall toured Europe and Asia, produced eight LPs and received the German Record Prize in 1978. From 1977 - 1981 Tri Atma with sitarist Manfred Flathe had great success with three LPs and the Special Prize of the German Phono Academy in 1978. Since the 1980s sitarist Al Gromer Khan created over 40 albums of ambient music. Since the early 1990s, sitarist , saxophonist and bansuri player Prem Joshua tours the world with his own band and has published 15 albums by now. In 2006 Indigo Masala with sitarist Yogendra won the regional Lower Saxony Creole award. And in recent years, Austrian sitarist Klaus Falschlunger breaks new ground with a variety of projects. The public, however, has completely ignored the amazing success story of German world music sitarists so far. Therefore, the history of this phenomenon shall be told for the first time in this series.

But now let's get back to the current Creole winner Matyas Wolter with Pulsar Trio. The young East German band plays original compositions, created from joint improvisation sessions. The music is driven by Beate Wein's (born 1981) powerful and vibrant piano and Aaron Christ's (born 1986) grooving drum set and is elaborated live with extensive improvisations. But there are also leaned back minimalistic pieces that explore subtle sound qualities. Adding a saxophone to this piano and drum combination would give you a typical jazz trio. Instead, Matyas Wolter's (born 1978) sitar comes in with sounds, phrasings and formal elements derived from North Indian classical music. This unusual combination of instruments gives the music its own distinctive flavour. You can get a wonderful impression of it on Pulsar Trio's first album Erpelparka Suite (Erpelparka being East German slang for goose bumps), published by UK label First Hand Records in 2012.

Matyas Wolter played in various bands as a guitarist and drummer, studied musicology at the Technical University Berlin and was active as a multi-instrumentalist and sound artist before he took his first sitar lessons on a trip to India in 2004. Since 2005, he studys technique and repertoire of the classical North Indian raga tradition with Berlin and Calcutta-based sitarist Subroto Roy Chowdhury. Since 2007, he focused exclusively on the sitar and spent a total of three years in Calcutta as part of his studies. Today Matyas gives concerts with classical ragas on sitar and surbahar. In 2013 he has published his first album of Indian classical music, titled Calcutta Musings, with accompaniment by Sanjib Pal on tabla and pakhawaj. In spring 2007, as part of a longer trip through Asia, Beate Wein visited Matyas  in Calcutta, where he studied sitar, and listened for long hours to his practice. There she discovered her affinity to the sitar, and the idea for Pulsar Trio was born. Matyas and Beate met again months later in Potsdam and started jamming together regularly. And when Aaron Christ joined their sessions, the band was complete.
Matyas's deep understanding of Indian classical music is probably one of the main sources for Pulsar Trio's cleverly structured compositions and the enthralling improvised live interaction. It is also a prerequisite for integrating the sitar beyond mere exoticisms and using its full expressive potential - including non-traditional playing techniques. Equally important: Pulsar Trio is not just a short-lived project, but has been working together in the same constellation for many years. Only that way, the band could develop the vibrant vitality that is its trademark today. And only like that, they could go beyond a superficial juxtaposition of different styles and create something truely new and unique of their own. Let's hope that the jury of Creole national competition in May in Hannover will appreciate these qualities.

Video portrait of Pulsar Trio
More on Pulsar Trio
More on Matyas Wolter

5. Kirtan (3) - Dave Stringer & Karnamrita in Berlin
- Series by 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 kirtan scene is growing fast, especially in the US. Massive festivals such as the Bhakti Fest bring together thousands of people to enjoy, live, practice and experience kirtan. Some of the American kirtan musicians have started touring the world, sharing their understanding of the ancient call and response music. I recently had the privilege of playing with two of these American kirtan artists during their stay in Berlin. Each has his / her own distinctive approach. Karnamrita Devi Dasi is rooted in the classical Indian traditions, giving me the opportunity of playing classical beats on both tabla and khol. And Dave Stringer mixes Western and Indian styles, leaving me lots of space to improvise and combine various beats.

Karnamrita grew up in an ashram in West Virginia, USA, with kirtan, Sanskrit and japa meditation as daily practice. She used to wake up at 3 am for meditation and didn't even know what a TV was. She learnt kirtan under the guidance of guru Swami Bhaktivedanta. After Karnamrita turned 16 she got in contact with western society and started exploring different fields, such as healing herbs and cooking. She met different teachers in her life and was blessed to have been taught by Ali Akbar Khan, to whom she refers as her last teacher.

For Karnamrita it was the first concert in Berlin. It was held in honour of the deceased mothers of the organiser and Karnamrita, as well as of the late Shyamdas (a fellow kirtan singer and disciple of Neem Karoli Baba, who left his body earlier this year). About 50 guests attended the concert, making it a fairly intimate gathering. They were presented ancient chants together with various devotional stories. Karnamrita explained how her mother wanted her to study singing, which led her to the art of classical Indian dhrupad vocal, which is one of the roots of her style today. Karnamrita on harmonium was accompanied by bansuri, guitar, back-up vocals and tabla & khol.

In contrast to Karnamrita's performance, Dave Stringer's concert was more like a rock show, using piano, accoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, tabla, hackbrett and khol to accompany the harmonium. Although it was held in the same hall, it was attended by a crowd of 200. Dave's goal is to introduce kirtan music on a broader platform. Therefore his music blends eastern, jazz and rock music. You will always find the audience dancing during his concerts. Some people find the structure of his songs repetitive, because they usually speed up a couple of times and then break down again. But many people are craving for this dancing experience, making them loose awareness of time and space.

Dave Stringer first came in contact with kirtan during a stay in India as a film director. He was on a mission to shoot a documentary and ended up in an ashram in Ganeshpuri, observing and eventually learning the art of kirtan. His style of kirtan goes back to a little siddha yoga ashram, where everyone would dance in ecstasy. This aspect can be found in Dave's understanding of kirtan.

After the concerts, lots of people started sharing their personal kirtan experience. It's a bit like singing karaoke - only you're not alone! So keep an eye on our concert calendar, if you'd like to give it a try...

Karnamrita live in Berlin
Video of Karnamrita
Video of Dave Stringer

Festival in Belgium - Europalia India
- Scene Info -

Probably the biggest festival of Indian culture that has ever taken place in Europe is currently running in Belgium. Europalia India started in the beginning of October and lasts until end of January. It presents around 600 events of Indian art and culture, held at 300 locations all across the country. The four months programme includes 26 exhibitions, nearly 100 concerts, 200 film screenings and dance and theatre performances, as well as numerous other events in the form of performances, workshops, readings, lectures and symposia. Seven topics are meant to give some orientation in the abundance of events: Body, Indomania, India Tomorrow , Living Traditions, Water, Bollywood & Beyond and Diaspora.

From the Indian side, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations ( ICCR ) is working together with the Belgian planning staff, funding fees and travel expenses of selected Indian artist. In addition to this official level, Europalia India also integrates independent initiatives of Belgian and Indian artist. Their concerts, exhibitions and performances thus benefit from an enormously enlarged public platform - and the festival gains a richness and complexity that could not be achieved by official means alone.

Amongst others, the following artists have already performed in the first two months of the festival: sitarists Shujaat Khan, Purbayan Chatterjee and Shubhendra Rao, sarodist Amjad Ali Khan, santoor player Abhay Sopori, bansuri player Harsh Wardhan, khyal singers Ashwini Bhide and Meeta Pandit, dhrupad singing Gundecha Brothers, Carnatic vocalists Sudha Raghunathan and Aruna Sairam, Carnatic violinist L. Subramaniam, the group Remember Shakti with John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain (see above) and the world music singer Susheela Raman. The second half of Europalia India will have performances of, amongst others, the Bollywood Brass Band, percussionist Trilok Gurtu, guitarist Prasanna, khyal singer Madhup Mudgal, kathak dance duo Vidha and Abhimanyu Lal, the Kerala Kalamandalam kathakali ensemble and bharata natyam dancer Alarmel Valli.

Europalia takes place regularly since 1969, usually every two years, with a focus on a new country each time. Today it is one of the largest and most important cultural festivals in Europe. Until 2007 the partner countries had been exclusively European, but since then the concept has been opened globally. The most recent partner countries have been China in 2009 and Brazil in 2011. Patrons of the festival are always the Belgian king and the head of state of the partner country. Europalia India has been opened on October 4th in Brussels by the Belgian King Philippe and the Indian president Pranab Kumar Mukherjee. Non-Belgians can only admire and envy such highest level political support for a festival of Indian culture - and travel to Belgium to enjoy it.

More on Europalia

7. Workshops - December to February
- 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.

26.1. - 29.1. Haus Yoga Vidya Westerwald: Harmonium Beginner's Seminar with Govinda Roth
21.2. - 23.2. Saarbrucken: Raga & Tala Intensiv with Yogendra

8. Concerts - December to January
- Scene-Info -

The winter months are always a low for Indian music in Central Europe. However, the Europalia India festival (see above) and some European artists still offer a few very interesting programmes! Detailed info, venues and times, as well as further dates for 2014, as usual in our concert calendar.

2.12. BERLIN: Shebana Devi Mangold - Kuchipudi-Dance
3.12. BERLIN: Pulsar Trio
4.12. B - BRUSSELS: Joachim Lacrosse - Sitar
6.12. TROSSINGEN: Kalyan Mukherjee – Sarod
7.12. FREIBURG / WALDKIRCH: Kalyan Mukherjee – Sarod
8.12. FREIBURG: Kalyan Mukherjee – Sarod
12.12. B - LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE: Reynald Halloy - Vocal, Guitar
12.12. COLOGNE: SATYAA & PARI - Kirtan & Mantras
13.12. POTSDAM: Pulsar Trio
13.12. B - BRUSSELS: Vida & Abhimanyu Lal - Kathak Dance
14.12. B - BRUSSELS: Bollywood Brass Band
19.12. B - LEUVEN: Trilok Guru - Percussion
20.12. B - GENK: Trilok Guru - Percussion
8.1. B - BRUSSELS: Joachim Lacrosse - Sitar
10.1. BERLIN: Matyas Wolter - Sitar
11.1. BERLIN: Matyas Wolter - Sitar
11.1. BIRCHES (Paderborn): INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
12.1. BOCHOLT: INDIGO MASALA - Acoustic Asian World Fusion
12.1. B - BRUSSELS: Kerala Kalamandalam - Kathakali-Dancetheater
16.1. B - SINT NIKLAAS: Prasanna - Guitar
17.1. B - GENT: Prasanna - Guitar
17.1. B - ALSEMBERG: Madhup Mudgal - Khyal Vocal & Ragini Trio
18.1. B - BRUSSELS: Carnatic Duo with Raphaëlle Brochet (Vocal) & Carlo Strazzante (Percussion)
18.1. B - AALST: Madhup Mudgal - Khyal Vocal & Ragini Trio
19.1. B - BRUSSELS: Madhup Mudgal - Khyal Vocal
24.1. B - BRUSSELS: Alarmel Valli - Bharatanatyam-Dance
25.1. B - HANNUT: Reynald Halloy - Vocal, Guitar
25.1. B - BRUSSELS: Alarmel Valli - Bharatanatyam-Dance
28.1. F - VALENCIENNES: Alarmel Valli - Bharatanatyam-Dance

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