Newsletter November / December 2019


1. Ramakant Gundecha - Sound Researcher and Perfectionist
2. 25 Years India Instruments - More Concert Videos

3. Learn Harmonium – Online Sources
4. Brief News: Shankar 100, Kutiyattam Researcher, 40 Years of Indian dance in Berlin
5. How to Make (Indian) Music? (21) - Finding Your Own Truth
6. Workshops - December to March

7. Concerts - December to February


1. Ramakant Gundecha – Sound Researcher and Perfectionist
- Obituary by Akhilesh Gundecha -

The great Dhrupad singer Ramakant Gundecha passed away in Bhopal on November 8th. Out of the blue he suffered a fatal heart attack while he was on his way to a concert together with his older brother Umakant. Ramakant was 56 years old. His younger brother Akhilesh recollects.

The year was 1981. My older brothers — Ramakant and Umakant Gundecha — had been working in Nagda, near Ujjain, after completing their post-graduation. Ramakant was employed at a post office and Umakant taught music. About six months after they had started their respective jobs, it came to their attention that Bhopal’s Ustad Allaudin Khan Sangeet academy was setting up a new Dhrupad Kendra. Both my brothers applied, and were awarded scholarships by the Kendra. At the time, our father was working as a teacher in higher secondary school Ujjain. My brothers asked him if they should quit their jobs and join the Dhrupad Kendra. His reply to them was: There are thousands of music teachers and post office clerks, but there are not even a dozen Dhrupad singers.

With our father’s unwavering support, my brothers quit their jobs and shifted to Bhopal, to study Dhrupad under Zia Fariduddin Dagar and his elder brother Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. The scholarship amount was Rs 350 per month. I used to travel from Ujjain to Bhopal regularly and witnessed their struggle firsthand. Despite the hardships, my brothers found happiness in what they were doing and left no stone unturned in their pursuit of excellence. In the Kendra, Pt. Srikant Mishra from Banaras was appointed as a pakhawaj player. Ramakant thought that I should study the pakhawaj, so that all three of us brothers could pursue and perform music together. I would travel to Bhopal to study pakhawaj with Pt. Mishra.

Ramakant GundechaBy 1985, my brothers began performing Dhrupad at various concerts and festivals around India. Within just a short period of time, their popularity grew in leaps and bounds. With that came a flood of students from all over the world, who wanted to study and pursue Dhrupad. It has been my brothers’ passion to spread Dhrupad and restore it to its former glory. Since the art form of Dhrupad is niche and practised by very few, their task became even more difficult.

They were also determined that none of their students would face the struggles they had in acquiring this knowledge; their students' struggles would only be limited to their own riyaaz. To accomplish their dream, they set up a traditional Gurukul on the outskirts of Bhopal. Land for the Gurukul was purchased in 1999; the first building was completed after five years of work. It was inaugurated by Bharat Ratna Pt. Bhimsen Joshi in 2004. My brothers had been teaching for a long time even before the inauguration of the Gurukul, but after the inauguration, their dream truly started taking shape in the manner that they had envisioned. As a result, we have now taught over 250 students from more than 35 countries, and many of them have gone on to become professional Dhrupad artists in all three fields (vocal, instrumental and percussion), who are now performing and teaching all over the world. Therefore, I can say with confidence that Ramakant's biggest dream and singular passion — of training professional Dhrupad artists and enthusiasts — has come to fruition and will continue to grow beyond his wildest dreams.
Ramakant Gundecha
As an older brother, Ramakant always made sure that I was taken care of, as well as everyone else in the family. He single-handedly took care of so much work that we barely knew what was going on. His family reaped the rewards of his hard work and vision.

He was perhaps the most radical and revolutionary musician of our generation. He did not like conforming to the traditional ways of Indian classical music. His biggest contribution to the world of Indian classical music was his scientific approach: he experimented a lot with the already existing content and on top of that piled a lifetime of research to develop a totally new sound in Dhrupad…a sound that was unheard of before Gundecha Bandhu.

As a guru, he made sure that his students did not become his carbon copies. He worked really hard and kept finding new ways to make his students discover their own unique identity and individuality. His mantra was, “Never believe what the ancestors, traditional texts or even your own guru have said blindly; apply it, experiment with it, experience it and only if their truth becomes your truth should you accept it. If not, discard it no matter who said it or in which book it was written”. For over three decades, he put his life and soul into teaching his students… ignoring his own health for the same. His philosophy in life was exactly the same as his music and his teaching. He was the same man inside and out in all situations. Each step he took was for a singular purpose — i.e. the 'vistaar' of Dhrupad.

I believe just like his music, his life's mantra was never believe anything blindly, no matter how impressive the source of the information is. Continuous experimentation, practical application, and experiential knowledge were his ways of discerning whether the information he was receiving through his senses was worth keeping and sharing with others or it needed to be discarded. He respected everyone but did not allow anyone's personality to overpower his own. Especially being an outsider to the musical fraternity, he was even more protective of his individual identity then most others.

Dhrupad was for sure the most important thing in his life. However, I believe he would have been the same kind of human being had he done something else with his life. He would have chased excellence no matter which field he would have chosen. And that is apparent by the fact that he involved himself so deeply in things that seemingly had nothing to do with music or teaching or his performing career or his students. He chased perfection in everything that he did. In my opinion, it was not about being the best Dhrupad artist or teacher; for him it was always about doing the right thing morally and maintaining his integrity. My brother Ramakant Gundecha lived and died with his head held high and taught the rest of us how to do the same.

Originally published at

2. 25 Years India Instruments - More Concert Videos
- Scene Info -

India Instruments celebrated its 25th anniversary in August. The core of our celebration were 13 concerts that showed a wide range of what can be done with Indian instruments and elements of Indian music - and what kind of people support our store. From 11:00 a.m. to midnight, students as well as regional and international professionals, employees, customers and friends could be seen and heard on stage. The musical spectrum ranged from Indian classical music, kirtan and mantras to jazz and world music. We have filmed the concerts in order to give everyone who was not able to attend our festival a little glimpse of it. In October we have uploaded the first 5 videos to our YouTube-channel.Now we have completed the review with the missing cuts or complete concert videos of all performers who have approved the publication. Please subscribe to our channel and share the videos!


Atul KrsnaJens PetersenFeel the Groove: Atul Krsna and Jens Petersen, staff members of India Instruments, present the barrel drums mridangam and khol and the small frame drum kanjira. After short solos they play a little duet to clap along in a 7 beat rhythm.


Hub HildenbrandThe Garden of Stolen Sounds: Hub Hildenbrand is a guitarist who has travelled extensively in Asia, North America and Europe. In his music he merges the manifold sounds he has heard and collected into an independent musical language. His solo programme The Garden of Stolen Sounds is an inner journey into a colourful world of sound. The video features his introductory improvisation.


Tabla EnsembleSounds of Tabla: The Tabla Ensemble Kamalesh Maitra is led by Laura Patchen, master student of tablatarang player, sarodist and composer Kamalesh Maitra, and plays mainly works by Maitra. Laura was a founding member of Maitra‘s Ragatala Ensemble and has performed on several of its MCs, LPs, and CDs. Other ensemble members include Frank Schubert, tabla, and Viorica Buckow, tabla and dilruba. In the video the ensemble plays in Dadra (6), Jhaptal (10) and Tintal (16).

Acoustic Raga Chamber Jazz: Sitar magic, swirling tabla grooves and driving RussianIndigo Masala accordion, exquisitely arranged with beguiling vocals, sophisticated multi-coloured percussion, exuberant joy of playing and a fine hint of jazz – all this was presented by the trio Indigo Masala. Passionate, energetic, sensitive, meditative, witty - and sometimes all this at once. Unfortunately the sitar was not recorded because of a technical error. That's why the video only shows programme excerpts without sitar.

Dreyer & CaspiClassical Hindustani Ragas: Sebastian Dreyer learnt the sitar from Gisela Tarwitt and Partha Chatterjee. He gives international concerts with classical North Indian ragas and world music, teaches and has participated in various cinema, television and theatre productions. Yatziv Caspi is a drummer, percussionist and tabla player, has played drums since his youth and learnt tabla from Sanjay Sharma. The video shows their complete performance in raga jhinjhoti with alap, slow and fast tintal and jhala. /
Ecstatic Vrindavan Kirtan: Kirtaniyas is a global collective of passionate kirtan musicians in varying line-ups around charismatic bandleader Vijay Krsna. Vijay learnt traditional kirtan in Vrindavan, the stronghold of Krishna worship. The Kirtaniyas sing and dance and play harmonium, khol / mridanga, violin and tabla. In their ecstatic kirtans the boundaries between artists and audience blur - all unite in a single voice and become part of the band.


3. Learn Harmonium – Online Sources
- Practical Tipps -

Harmoniums are simple instruments - you don't have to tune them, you don't have to learn difficult playing techniques before you can produce pleasant vibrations, and their full sound is a wonderful basis for singing. This is probably why the harmonium has become more and more popular in recent years, especially in the yoga and kirtan scene. If you can't figure out melodies and accompanying chords for your favourite chants from recordings by yourself, you'll have to rely on sheet music and good teaching material. Fortunately supply has grown with demand! Here is a little overview of helpful sources on the net:

* Deva Deva Music 41 free videos with chords for pieces by Krishna Das, Daisy Bowman and Nina Hagen as well as for some traditionals, all pieces played and sung from beginning to end without further explanation, each video 1.5 to 7 minutes.

* Happy Hippo Harmonium 50 videos for free. chord accompaniment with English explanation for pieces by Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Snatam Kaur, Wah!, Omkara and Krishnabai & Mooji as well as for traditional mantras. Additional instruction videos on basics, scales, basic chords and chord reversals. Each video 4 to 15 minutes.

* Yoga Vidya Over 300 free videos with simple melodies for mantras and chants. In addition short German explanations on meaning and background of the texts.

Keys* Bhakti Breakfast Club For a small monthly fee, Daniel Tucker offers probably the most comprehensive, well-founded and systematic teaching on Bhakti, Mantra and Kirtan music available online. Currently (as of November 2019) the Bhakti Breakfast Club includes 46 video lessons for harmonium of about 45 minutes each, 14 lessons for guitar, 4 lessons for vocals and 4 lessons for tabla. There are also 9 units of Bhakti Satsang with Jai Uttal, Shyamdas and Krishna Das. The membership offers unlimited access to all material and can be cancelled at any time. We highly recommend the Bhakti Breakfast Club!

* Mantramobile Individual lessons in harmonium from an experienced professional teacher via skype or a similar online live streaming service.

* India Instruments Various music books and instruction videos to order.

4. Brief News: Shankar 100, Kutiyattam Researcher, 40 Years of Indian dance in Berlin
- Scene Info -

Ravi Shankar Shankar 100 – 100th Birthday Event Series in London

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of great sitarist, composer and world music pioneer Ravi Shankar. Since his first concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1958, Shankar has established a lifelong relationship with the Southbank Centre in London. To celebrate his life and legacy, the Southbank Centre now presents Shankar 100, a series of events developed in collaboration with Shankar's wife Sukanya and daughter Anoushka Shankar. Highlights include concerts and performances with Norah Jones, Olivia Harrison, Zubin Mehta, Nitin Sawhney, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Akram Khan Company and BFI Southbank. Shankar 100 also offers free public events, including an archive exhibition, a specially commissioned film and a school day with interactive music workshops and performances for primary schools. Oliver Craske's biography Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar will also be published to mark Ravi Shankar's 100th birthday. First of the series will be a performance of Shankar's opera Sukanya with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on January 15. Sukanya, first performed posthumously in 2017, combines Indian and Western music, dance and theatre traditions to create an impressive spectacle. More on Shankar 100.


Gisela Bonn-Preis – Award for Kutiyattam Researcher and Performer Heike Oberlin

Heike OberlinThe Gisela Bonn Prize was donated by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in 1996 and is awarded annually for special achievements in the field of Indo-German relations. This year the indologist and Kutiyattam performer Heike Oberlin was awarded the prize. Heike Oberlin coordinates the Asia-Orient Institute of the University of Tubingen and also works as an associate professor at Tubingen‘s indology. Already as a student she began to learn the classical South Indian dance style Bharatanatyam, first in Germany and later in Chennai. During her indology studies in Tubingen she came across the Sanskrit theatre Kutiyattam. This traditional form with over 1000 years of living performance history and its interplay of music, drama and strictly stylized pantomime is nowadays performed only in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Heike Oberlin went to Kerala, where she learned Kutiyattam and the native language Malayalam. She has been performing Kutiyattam since 1995 and is still committed to research and documentation of Kutiyattam to preserve this unique tradition. The award ceremony took place during the annual general meeting of the Indo-German Society in Halle.

Acceptance speech (in German) and images by Heike Oberlin.


Rajyashree Ramesh – 40 Years of Indian Dance in Berlin

Rajyashree RameshIndian dancer, choreographer and dance teacher Rajyashree Ramesh has completed 40 years of living and working in Berlin. From the age of 7 she learnt the classical dance styles Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi as well as classical South Indian vocal in Bangalore. After completing a state degree in dance, further training as a Laban movement analyst in the USA and basic scientific studies in India, she came to Berlin in 1979. There she first completed a master's degree in socio-cultural studies and later earned her doctorate at the European University Viadrina on the emotive-kinetic foundation of meaning. Parallel to her studies, she taught Bharatanatyam from the beginning, developed special teaching methods and vocabulary for her predominantly adult German students and finally founded her own Academy for Performing Arts in Berlin in 1993. At the Academy, Rajyashree Ramesh trains children and amateurs as well as professional stage dancers. In addition, she conducts her own ensembles for dance and dance theatre, researches and publishes. On December 13th, on the occasion of her 40th anniversary, she will show an interface between the past and the future with works from the last 8 years.

More about Rajyashree Ramesh, her Academy and the anniversary programme.

5. How to Make (Indian) Music? (21) - Finding Your Own Truth
- Quote by Ramakant Gundecha -

The series "How to Make (Indian) Music?" presents thought-provoking, inspiring or controversial quotes from artists and intellectuals.

Ramakant GundechaNever believe what the ancestors, traditional texts or even your own guru have said blindly; apply it, experiment with it, experience it and only if their truth becomes your truth should you accept it. If not, discard it no matter who said it or in which book it was written.

Ramakant Gundecha (1962 - 2019) performed together with his older brother Umakant as a Dhrupad singer from 1985 until his death. The Gundecha Brothers enriched the traditional Dhrupad with numerous innovations and contributed significantly to the growing worldwide popularity of this venerable style. In 2004 they founded their own institute in Bhopal to train professional Dhrupad musicians. Quote from the obituary for Ramakant Gundecha by his younger brother Akhilesh (see above).

6. Workshops – December to March
- Scene Info -

Details of all workshops are available in our website's network section.

14.12. CH - ST. GALLEN: Tabla Workshop with Manish Vyas
03.01.-05.01. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium Beginner's Workshop with Kalyani
19.01. CH - BIEL / BIENNE: Learning Harmonium with Andreas Reese
31.01.-02.02. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium Beginner's Workshop with Jürgen Wade
31.01.-02.02. WESTERWALD: Harmonium Beginner's Workshop with Marco Büscher
14.02.-16.02. NORDSEE: Harmonium Beginner's Workshop with Jürgen Wade
06.03.-08.03. BAD MEINBERG: Harmonium Beginner's Workshop with Kalyani
26.03. MARKTOBERDORF: Konnakol - Door Opener to Rhythm with Magnus Dauner

7. Concerts – December to March
- Scene Info -

For details, locations, times and further dates check our concert calendar.

06.12. HAMBURG: Klaus Falschlunger - Sitar
07.12. COLOGNE: Satyaa & Pari - Kirtan
07.12. BERLIN: Duo Swarsangam - Bansuri
10.12. BAD MEINBERG: The Love Keys - Kirtan
14.12. CH-ZURICH: Prema Hara - Kirtan
15.12. ROSTOCK: The Love Keys - Kirtan
21.12. FRANKFURT: Joachim Böttcher & Friends - Mantra
27.12. KEMPTEN: Prema Hara - Kirtan
28.12. AUGSBURG: Prema Hara - Kirtan
29.12. CHIEMING: Satyaa & Pari - Kirtan
31.12. BAD MEINBERG: The Love Keys - Kirtan
17.01. MANNHEIM: Prema Hara - Kirtan
18.01. UBERLINGEN: Prema Hara - Kirtan
21.01. BAD MEINBERG: The Love Keys - Kirtan
31.01. FR-AIX-EN-PROVENCE: Anoushka Shankar - Sitar
01.02. FR-LYON: Anoushka Shankar - Sitar
13.02. COLOGNE: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums
14.02. BAD WILDUNGEN: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums
15.02. LEIPZIG: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums
29.02. POTSDAM: Pulsar Trio - Sitar, Piano, Drums

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