Newsletter November / December 2015


1. Christmas Sale - 50% discount on CDs & DVDs
2. Bargains – Harmoniums, Tablas, etc.
3. Kirtan (8) - Bhagavan Das: The American Yogi
4. To India and Back Again - The Harmonium Story (5/5): Resurrection
5. Maier in Germanisten (5/6) - Kushan Das, Martha Bose, Daniel Bradley, Khalil Shankar
6. Jai's Blog - Cookies and Tea in Vrindavan: A Slight Shift in Perception (1/2)
7. Workshops - December to April
8. Concerts - December to January


1. Christmas Sale - 50% discount on CDs & DVDs
- Special Offer -

CDs at India Instruments Still looking for a Christmas gift? Browse our assortment of CDs and DVDs! Classical Indian music provides listening pleasure for discerning art lovers and is also used to support meditation, nada yoga and dosha balancing in ayurveda. Popular instruments are sitar, sarod, bamboo flute, santoor and tabla. In India the human voice is considered the noblest instrument and the origin of all music. Therefore, we offer a wide range of vocal music from female and male soloists as well. In addition to classical Indian music, we offer a wealth of other styles from fusion and world music through bhajans, thumri and ghazal, mantras, qawwali and regional folk music to film and dance music. An overview of all CD categories is available here.

DVDs at India Instruments The essence of Indian music is improvisation, making each concert new and unique. Films convey much more of the atmosphere of a live concert than CDs. In addition, they are also perfect study material for advanced playing techniques. An overview of our concert video DVDs with sitar, sarod, vocal, bamboo flute, santur, slide guitar and violin is available here.

And the best part: Any order that reaches us until December 24 gets 50% discount! Get two (or more) CDs or DVDs - and pay only half the regular price! This special offer is valid with a minimum order of two CDs or DVDs, except of those listed as teaching material in our section Learning & Practice. And it is only valid as long as stocks lasts. We do not order CDs and DVDs any more - what is gone is gone ...

2. Bargains – Harmoniums, Tablas, etc.
- Special Offer -

Bargains and rarities, curiosities and treasures - Harmonium Dwarkin Premium Double Reedsin our special offer section you can find all the things that we do not sell as part of our regular assortment in the online catalogue. Recently we have done intense research on new harmonium suppliers and new harmonium models for our assortment. In that process we have ordered quite a few samples. Some have already arrived, others are expected in the coming weeks. However, most of these sampes will not make it into our regular assortment for one reason or the other. Therefore we have now started selling them in our special offer section – all of them brand new individual items in good condition. A few examples:

Harmonium Bina Dulcetina - 490 €
Harmonium P&Brothers Premium Double Reeds – 590 €
Harmonium Dwarkin Premium Double Reeds – 590 €
Harmonium Dwarkin Premium Triple Reeds – 690 €

NBB Dayan Special OfferIn course of time we have also collected some Narayan Badya Bhandar premium tablas with slight buzzing sounds in the open strokes. We now offer about a dozen of them with a discount of 30%. These instruments have top professional quality in materials and workmanship and the typical bell-like tone of best Calcutta tablas. Tabla player Ashis Paul, renowned disciple of Anindo Chatterjee, has tuned and played all these tablas in our shop in October 2015 – according to him they all are fit for concert performance even with the subtle buzz. Available sizes range from 5 1/8 to 5 5/8 inches.

Narayan Badya Bhandar Premium Tablas – each 159 €

An overview of all our special offers with string instruments, shrutiboxes and percussion is avaiable here. Enjoy surfing!

3. Kirtan (8) - Bhagavan Das: The American Yogi
- 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.

Neem Karoli Baba has influenced and inspired numerous people in the late 20th century. I’ve already introduced his disciples Krishna Das and Jai Uttal in previous episodes. Another chanting follower of Neem Karoli Baba is Bhagavan Das, an ascetic, kirtan singer, spiritual teacher and author. He is going to share his wisdom and his music at the Jivamukti Yoga Center in Berlin this December, together with his wife Sharada Devi!

Bhagavan Das’ journey started in 1963 in India, in Bhagavan Dassearch of a guru. It led him to live and meditate in a cave, fasting and praying for a dozen months and meeting several masters, of which the following might ring a bell: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Neem Karoli Baba, Lama Kalu Rinpoche, AC Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada and Anandamayi Ma. He spent 7 years wandering as an ascetic in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, accumulating knowledge and experiencing realizations. He received initiations into several diverse traditions, making him a representative of Bhakti Yoga, Shakta Tantra, Nada Yoga and Tibetan Shangpa Kargyupa alike. In 1967, whilst in India, Bhagavan Das travelled together with Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert), author of the classic book Be Here Now. The title of the book is derived from a statement made by Bhagavan Das during their conjoint journey. Eventually this lead to Ram Dass meeting with their beloved guru, Neem Karoli Baba.

As Neem Karoli Baba's name keeps popping up, it might be a good idea to go a little into his story. Neem Karoli Baba (aka Chamatkari Baba / Magical Baba, born c.1900) was not a man of many words. Disciples describe his power in being in his presence. I guess it’s hard to really grasp this without having had a chance of experiencing it. Maharaj-ji (as his disciples used to call him) was a Bhakti Yogi and a follower of Hanuman (the monkey god). Several ashrams / temples have been built in his name, glorifying Hanuman and his Lord, Sri Ram. A famous quote of Maharaj-ji is: „Love all, feed all, serve all“. In this way Maharaj-ji tried to teach humility and togetherness. Neem Karoli Baba passed away in 1973 in Vrindavan, India. His samadhi (tomb designed to be a temple) is situated within his Vrindavan ashram. Many people have paid their respects by visiting his samadhi, including Steve Jobs and Marc Zuckerberg.

Many have travelled to Eastern countries to find answers. Bhagavan Das is of these spiritual travellers who now dedicate their lives to sharing whatever they have gathered. His way of sharing is a very raw, traditional style of kirtan. He usually accompanies himself on the ektara, a simple and archaic folk instrument with a large pumpkin resonator with skin top and a stick for a neck. Its single string is plucked with one finger and produces a hypnotic drone. Musical sophistication is not his cup of tea – the music in his kirtans is just a means to get in touch with the divine. In between the chanting, Bhagavan Das often gives small discourses or tells magical devotional stories

If you’re interested in experiencing some traditional kirtan and moving deeply into the world of Nada Yoga with Bhagavan Das and Sharada Devi, please check the Jivamukti Berlin website.

Kirtan withBhagavan Das.
Kali chant with Bhagavan Das.
Dotara (a 2-stringed version of Bhagavan Das' ektara) from India Instruments.

4. To India and Back Again - The Harmonium Story (5/5): Resurrection
- 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... The previous episodes dealt with the ban of the harmonium from All India Radio since 1940 and the extinction of the harmonium in the West after World War 2.

All India Radio's ban on the use of the harmonium remained effective for 30 years. But the ban could not stop the success of the harmonium in India. It conquered an undisputed and pervasive place as a useful accompaniment in music education, classical concert performance, regional folk music traditions and religious music. The possibility of playing it on the ground with only one hand on the keyboard proved to be the perfect adaptation to the requirements of musical practice in India. Electric organs that replaced the harmonium in the West were no competition in India - compared to the mature native harmonium production they were too expensive, too big and too heavy, and they depended on electricity, which was not always reliably available in India in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. In 1970 All India Radio eventually drew the conclusions of the development. Experts discussed the pros and cons of the harmonium controversially once again in a specially held conference. Subsequently, the harmonium ban on certain groups of artists and genres was repealed. Thus, the last obstacle to the establishment of the harmonium in Indian music traditions had been removed.

Harmonium in the WestIn the West, harmoniums were no longer produced in the 1990s - the instrument was practically extinct. That was the time when the yoga movement started to transform itself, slowly and initially largely unnoticed, from an esoteric niche practice into a powerful new trend for everybody. And in the wake of yoga, chanting of mantras and kirtans became increasingly popular in the West. A forerunner were the first albums by Jai Uttal (Footprints, Monkey) in the early 90s. The first kirtan album by Krishna Das (One Track Heart) appeared in 1996, followed in 1997 by mantra arrangements by sitar legend Ravi Shankar (Chants of India). In 1998 the first disk with chants by Deva Premal (Essence) hit the market, and in 2002 the first CD by Snatam Kaur (Prem) was published. Except for Ravi Shankar all these artists had been completely unknown before that - today they are world-famous stars of the scene and fill large halls. Mantra and kirtan singing has gained widespread popularity, be it as part of a spiritual practice, or simply because it's healthy and enjoyable. The majority of the now famous western mantra and kirtan pioneers use the harmonium to accompany their singing, just as is common in the Indian traditions. And the ever-growing number of their students follow in their footsteps, whether as a performing artists or as teachers of yoga and spirituality. Harmonium has become hip!

In Europe and North America, however, the requirements for the harmonium are different from those in India. There are hardly any workshops for maintenance and repair in the West. The instruments should therefore be sturdy and require hardly any maintenance. Many kirtan musicians need to move around with their instruments for concert tours or for playing in regional yoga studios. This calls for particularly lightweight and compact harmoniums. And finally, due to different listening habits, western musicians tend to use more chord progressions than pure melody and place more emphasis on volume variations. For their style of playing, the springs of the bellows must be softer than the Indian standard. Some Indian harmonium makers have adapted to these requirements of western markets and have developed a variety of innovative models. And specialised importers like India Instruments make sure that these models are conveniently available in good quality in their stores. That way the harmonium has come alive again in the West - resurrected in its Indian version!

Meanwhile the harmonium has come Harmonium Workshopunder pressure again in India. The introduction of cheap digital keyboards since the 1990s is about to oust it from several genres. In our times of increasing Westernisation and digitisation, the entire traditional instrument business in India is suffering from stagnant or declining sales. Young musicians today take up digital keyboard, guitar or drumset rather than harmonium, sitar or tabla - or produce music on the computer straight away instead of learning an instrument at all. In addition, handicraft has a low social status and is relatively poorly paid in India. That makes it difficult for instrument makers to find qualified staff and motivated youngsters as trainees. This precarious situation will probably only consolidate if the demand for Indian instruments in the West remains stable, if India manages to keep its different traditional styles of music alive, and if the Indian instrument makers meet international quality standards and get more respect and significantly higher payment. It remains to be seen who will be able to cope with the upcoming changes and how the harmonium will find its way through the 21st century.

Overview of harmoniums from India Instruments.
The Harmonium in North Indian Music – musicological background book.
Teaching material for harmonium.

5. Maihar in Germanistan (5/6) - Kushal Das, Partha Bose, Daniel Bradley, Shalil Shankar
- 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 Maihar musicians contribute to the scene for Indian music in Central Europe today..

In addition to sitarist Partha Chatterjee, who has been featured in the previous episode, several other freelance Maihar musicians are active in Central Europe as well. Since they work without support from institutions, without management and without permanent circles of students, their work gets less public attention and unfolds mainly in direct contact through small concerts or private lessons. Nonetheless these artists also leave their marks, therefore four of them shall be noted briefly as examples in this series, too - all of them sitarists, two residing in Europe and two from Calcutta.
Kushal DasKushal Das (* 1959) is one of the outstanding sitarists of his generation. His concerts in India are often the enthusiastically acclaimed highlights of large music festivals. Especially in his hometown of Calcutta Kushal is extremely highly valued. He learnt sitar from an early age, first with his father, esraj player Sailen Das, and his uncle Santanu Das, a student of Ali Akbar Khan. Later on, in order to deepen his understanding and broaden his horizons, he studied with singers Manas Chakraborty and Ramkrishna Basu, sitarist Sanjoy Bandopadhyay and composer and musicologist Ajoy Sinha Roy, a student of Allauddin Khan. Kushal may therefore not be a Maihar purist, but precisely this openness for stylistic variations and influences from other traditions is an essential feature of the Maihar school. And listening to Kushal's tone production and meditative approach reveals how much he follows his declared model Nikhil Banerjee and resolves any doubts about his musical orientation. Kushal has been performing regularly in Central Europe since the late 90s, also giving private lessons and occaisonally small workshops. In recent years he has also taken to playing surbahar, a deeper and larger version of the sitar. As a teacher and as a performer he works without any airs, devoted entirely to the music, and thus sets a very inspiring example for many longtime sitar students.

Kushal Das as master of virtuoso runs
and for a full hour with twilight raga Marwa on the surbahar..

There are striking similarities between Partha BosePartha Bose (* 1962) and Kushal Das. Partha is only three years younger, also grew up in Calcutta and received lessons in sitar from early childhood. Partha also evolved into an outstanding sitarist, tours around the world and performs in Central Europe since the 90s. And just like Kushal he has glasses and beard – having started long before young hipsters made them popular. However, instead of first learning in the family and then studying with various other masters, Partha's only formative teacher from the outset has been sitarist Monoj Shankar, who led him to concert level. Monoj Shankar himself had first learnt from Ali Ahmed Khan, a brother of Maihar founder Allauddin Khan, and later became a student of Bahadur Khan, one of Allauddin Khan's nephews. Partha leads the life of a constantly touring concert soloist even more than Kushal. That hardly leaves him any time for teaching. In Germany, he is mainly known for his concerts, but teaches only a few scattered students.

Partha Bose with Raga Mishra Gara

Daniel BradleyAmerican Daniel Bradley has been living in Vienna since 1969, where he initially studied classical Western singing and eventually discovered his passion for the sitar. From 1979 he studied with Nikhil Banerjee. After Nikhil's death in 1986, he learnt from Ali Akbar Khan for some years. In 1992 he finally got accepted as a student by Annapurna Devi, Ali Akbar's sister and the first wife of Ravi Shankar. Under her strict guidance Daniel has studied especially the dhrupad style, which pays particular attention to purity and subtle nuances of the ragas. He gives occasional concerts and teaches regularly at the annual workshops of the Ali Akbar College of Music in Basel, Switzerland. Of course, he also gives private lessons at his home in Vienna. Daniel has also learnt the traditional techniques of Indian instrument manufacture from the great sitar maker Hiren Roy in Calcutta. He is probably the most distinguished expert for construction, setup and restoration of sitars in Europe today.

Shalil Shankar (* 1947) has been studying Shalil Shankarsitar in the 60s as a close disciple of Ravi Shankar, had his concert debut in Calcutta in 1970 and has since worked as a freelance musician on the go. His tone and style closely resemble that of this guru. Extensive concert tours have taken him to Europe again and again, until he finally settled down in Switzerland in the 90s. Since then he has played a few successful tours in South America, but his concerts in Central Europe have become rare. Shalil has focused more on composing symphonic works for sitar and orchestra. His enthusiasm for classical Western music shows striking parallels to Allauddin Khan and in his compositional work he tries to further develop ideas of his guru Ravi Shankar. Nowadays he lives relatively reclusive and teaches only a few private students.

Excerpt from Ravi Shankar's documentary Raga (1971) with the initiation ceremony of Shalil Shankar.
Shalil Shankar live in Argentinia.

Websites of Kushal Das, Partha Bose and Shalil Shankar
(Unfortunately we could not find anything from Daniel Bradley online...)

6. Jai's Blog - Cookies and Tea in Vrindavan: A Slight Shift in Perception (1/2)
- 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 Jai UttalUttal here.

Bhakti Yoga brings us into the world of mystery, a realm where the dissecting, discerning qualities of the intellect are powerless next to the vast ocean of feelings. For most practitioners, the goal of Yoga is union, oneness with the Supreme. But in Bhakti Yoga we don't think about the goal, we only weep, laugh, cry, sing and dance with our Beloved. Bhakti is about relationship; our stormy love affair with God. And Bhakti is about surrender; surrendering our personal heart into the Great Heart, offering our self will and all our efforts and actions to that vast Consciousness, to God. Not my will but Thy will be done.?

In the holy places of India, towns and villages permeated with devotion, magic is a daily occurrence. Perception shifts like clouds moving across the sun. When the aroma of God's name wafts down a village street we can suddenly find ourselves walking in the ancient footsteps of Rama and Sita, or Hanuman, or Radha and Krishna.Throughout the day, we hear bells ringing, mantras being uttered from every doorway, kirtans bursting from the primitive loudspeakers. We smell incense and flower offerings. We catch glimpses of Gods and Goddesses around every corner. Doing pilgrimage to the sacred shrines is an invitation to the mystical breath of Bhakti.

The ancient village of Vrindavan, the town that was home to the young Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha, is one of these great sanctuaries, imbued with worship. The lines between the past and the present, the astral and the concrete, are very thin, and pilgrims come from all over India to partake of the nectar of Rasa, or divine emotion, that colors the town. When I first visited Vrindavan in 1971, I was absolutely stunned by the sheer quantity of living temples. It seemed that literally every other building was a holy shrine, and the sound of God's names reverberated from wall to wall, street to street, crumbling alley to archaic temple.

One day I was walking along Parikrama Road, a path that circumambulates the village. Devotees walk this dusty path (approx. 5 miles) as an act of worship, feeling that they are Radha, circling the body of her lover, Krishna. Walking around Parikrama you see ancient India, priests chanting the Vedas, pilgrims weeping, sadhus gathered around their holy fires, swaying to the driving rhythms of a kirtan chant, peacocks, cows, on and on... I used to take this walk every morning before dawn, timing it so I could have my first chai of the day watching the blood red sun rise over the Yamuna river. As the sun climbed into the sky my heart never failed to melt at the passionate cries of Radhe or Hare Krishna that echoed through the misty morning air.

(to be continued in our next newsletter)

7. Workshops - December to April
- 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.

December / January, IN - VELAGAR, GOA: Living with the Frank BeeseVoice with Peter Pannke
11.12. - 13.12. HEMMOOR (North Sea): Sitar - Step by Step: Raga Yaman with Yogendra
26.12. - 31.12. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium and Kirtan Vacation Week with Devadas Mark Janku and Anandini Einsiedel
27.12. - 01.01. OBERLAHR (Westerwald): Yoga Mantra Vacation Week with Sundaram
21.02. BERLIN: Harmonium Workshop for Beginners with Reina Berger
18.04. - 24.04. SEHLENDORF (Baltic Sea): Dhrupad with the Gundecha Brothers

8. Concerts - December to January
- Scene Info -

Check our concert calender for more detailed information, venues, times and additional dates in 2016!.

10.12. BERLIN: Kohinoor Darda - Kuchipudi-TanzPriscilla Brüllhart
10.12. BERGEN: SitarStation - Fusion
10.12. CH - FRIBOURG: Rohan Dasgupta - Sitar
11.12. CH - FRIBOURG: Praveen Kumar Mishra - Vocal
12.12. CH - FRIBOURG: Gauri Priscilla Bruelhart & Ravi Shankar Mishra - Kathak Dance
12.12. MAINZ: Satyaa & Pari - Kirtan Concert
12.12. NL – AMSTERDAM: Siddharth Kishna - Sitar
12.12. CH – BADEN: Vijaya Rao & Sharmila Rao - Abhijnana Shakuntala Dance Drama
19.12. BERLIN: Bhagavan Das - Kirtan
19.12. CH – ZURICH: Bhakti Beat Festival
26.12. A – SALZBURG: Klaus Falschlunger - Sitar
27.12. A – REITH: Klaus Falschlunger - Sitar

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