Newsletter November / Decemder 2011

1. Textbook with CDs - Improvisation with Hariprasad Chaurasia
- New in our Assortment -

Improvisation is an essential feature in the performance of classical Indian ragas. Traditionally, you learn to improvise properly by spending years or decades with a teacher, absorbing his music, re-producing it, and in that way internalising a model to eventually develop your own improvisation. But our fast-paced modern times make it increasingly difficult to spend long periods with great teachers. Therefore notations as well as audio and video recordings have become an important help in the learning process, in addition to or even as a substitute for personal contact.

Previously, however, there was a large gap in the published teaching media. Introductory material is available for many instruments. And concert recordings of great masters are there, too. But didactically prepared material showing how raga improvisation works at concert level, and to play along with, was not there before. This gap is filled by "Hariprasad Chaurasia and the Art of Improvisation", a 200-page book with two CDs and notations, compiled and published by Henri Tournier. This media package is almost compulsory for anyone who wants to deal in depth with playing the bansuri. It also offers fascinating insights and challenging study material for all instrumentalists, singers and music researchers who are involved in the study of classical raga performance.

Hariprasad Chaurasia, the most important Indian flutist of the last decades, globally recognized as a raga performer, fusion musician and film-music composer, has been teaching regularly in the Indian music studies at the Rotterdam Conservatory since 1991. However, he can not be on site all year through. Therefore he has made countless tailor-made recordings for his students, with which they could work during his absence. Basically, these are short concert pieces, reduced to essential characteristics.

In order to make the recordings accessible, they have been analysed and transcribed in Indian sargam notation by Henri Tournier, long-time student and assistant of Hariprasad, in collaboration with the students. Over the years, a vast collection of material was built up, which now has become an essential part of the syllabus of instruction at the Rotterdam Conservatory. Studying and playing these pieces is supposed to lead to a complete understanding of the underlying principles and to serve as a reference for creating individual new improvisations.

CD 1 features recordings in the ragas yaman, hansadhvani, desh, malkauns and bhimpalasi and tabla recordings of major talas. While the interpretations of yaman, desh and hansadhvani are kept very compact with about three minutes duration each, bhimpalasi with over 14 minutes and malkauns in 21 minutes present quite extensive performances. All recordings are analyzed thoroughly in meaning and structure and are documented minutely both in Indian sargam and in Western notation. The notations can be read while listening or used as a detailed score for playing.

Disc 2 features the ragas gujari todi (49 '46'') and mishra pilu (19' 01''). These two ragas are notated briefly in their specific movements, but the recordings are not written out. Instead they are only analyzed in their structure and meaning along a time line. They are meant to stimulate listening comprehension and the understanding of musical ideas rather than to give another example for exact reproduction.

"Hariprasad Chaurasia and the Art of Improvisation", hardcover, 200 pages, 2 audio CDs, full color, with numerous paintings by Sujata Bajaj, order number AC 136.37, 39.90 Euros (plus shipping)

More teaching material

2. tha-ki-ta-tha - Tabla Documentary
- New in our Assortment -

tha-ki-ta-tha is not just a sequence of rhythm syllables from the North Indian tabla language, but also the title of a short, well-made, charming and entertaining documentary on the tabla. In about 25 minutes the film accompanies the tabla from its construction until the concert performance, through its history, basics of composition and the recording studio. The film was shot mostly in the western Indian city of Pune. It features interviews with tabla maker Dryaneshar Jagtap, tabla virtuoso Vijay Ghate, musicologist Umesh Moghe, pakhawaj teacher Tukaram N. Bhumkar, tabla teacher Anup Joshi, sound engineer Nitin Joshi and kathak dance teacher Shama Bhate. Concert clips and teaching scenes show the tabla in all its facets - accompaniment for classical instrumental music, vocal and dance as well as solo instrument. Images from Indian street life add colour and atmosphere.

The strength and beauty of tha-ki-ta-tha is the fresh, unspoiled perspective of the filmmakers. They look behind the scenes with curiosity and enthusiasm and provide exciting insights into tabla manufacture, lessons, concert practice and historical and mythological backgrounds. This broad perspective is obtained by not only featuring well-known stars, but also people from the second or third row who devote their lives to the tabla. The film is a great introduction for the layman, which opens up a deeper understanding of the fascination of the tabla and is certainly worth watching several times. And Indian music aficionados will certainly discover interesting new aspects in this documentary as well.

tha-ki-ta-tha was produced 2010 by a group students from Stuttgart Media University, consisting of Sebastian Dille, Philipp Holl, Daniel Keller, Jochen Keller and Fabian Reck. Meanwhile, the film has been screend at the renowned Bollywood & Beyond film festival in Stuttgart. Spoken languages are Marathi and English with German or English subtitles. A free trailer that beautifully captures the atmosphere of the film is available on youtube

"Tha-ki-ta-tha: talking drums", DVD, running time 25 min, 12.00 Euros (plus shipping)

More Indian music DVD documentaries and teaching - please scroll down for the documentaries!

3. Christmas - Special Offers
- Company Info -

Christmas is THE time for gifts. We want to make choices easier for you with some special offers. Please check them out - you might find just the right gift for your loved one (or for yourself...)! We grant the following special conditions for all orders reaching us until December 24th:

* From meditative to virtuoso - for all lovers of traditional ragas: 10% discount on all Indian classical CDs!
- Overview of artists and styles

* The eye is listening! 20% discount on all concert DVDs from the label Navras (catalog numbers with NRDVD)!
- All titles

* Indian music in all its diversity - all non-classical single CDs from the label Navras (order numbers with NRCD) and all CDs from renowned world music group Indigo Masala for only 9.90 Euros!
- Overview of different styles and categories

* Instrument there, but case missing? 20% discount on all instrument cases!
- Overview of cases

These special offers are available only as long as supplies last. All prices plus shipping costs.

4. Jagjit Singh, King of Ghazal-Pop
- Obituary by Yogendra -

Since the 1980s, the singer Jagjit Singh was considered the uncrowned "King of Ghazal" by many, because of his velvety voice, his unconventional, innovative style, his enormous popularity and his impressive commercial success. In September, he suffered a massive stroke and was in a coma in a hospital in Mumbai. On October 10th, he passed away, aged 70.

Jagjit Singh was born in Rajasthan in 1941, the son of a civil servant, in a Sikh family. He first studied history in Haryana and went to Mumbai in 1961 to make a career as a singer. His breakthrough came in 1976 with his first album "The Unforgettables". It was produced together with his wife Chitra, a Bengali singer, with whom he recorded numerous other albums later on. A duet between man and woman was a sensational innovation at the time and made the two well-known stars almost instantly. Their unconventional approach, play with emotions and easily accessible music transformed ghazal from an elite semi-classical art form to upscale pop music for everyone. The great popularity of his style enabled Jagjit Singh to tour worldwide, publish more than 80 albums and contribute to numerous successful Bollywood movie soundtracks. In 2003 he received the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian medal, for his contributions to culture and music.

The form of the ghazal has probably first been developed in Arabic. It is essential that the first two half verses rhyme and that each and every second following half verse also ends with the same rhyme. Most important topic is the pain of love as well as the beauty of love, despite this pain. The great Persian poets Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz refined the ghazal into a highly complex system of form and meaningingful connotations since the 13th century. The original erotic content of the texts was filled with mystical and religious symbolism, so that secular eroticism and mystical love of God flowed seamlessly into one another.

In South Asia, the ghazal was mainly cultivated in Urdu and became a tradition of scillfully performed singing, based closely on the rules of raga and tala of classical North Indian music. Being a subtly refined courtly art, the presentation and enjoyment of ghazals demanded both high literary culture and a deep musical understanding. Begum Akhtar (1914 - 1974) was an outstanding representative of this tradition in the 20th Century. After independence and partition of the subcontinent ghazal flourished mainly in Pakistan. The leading performers were Mehdi Hassan (born 1927) and Ghulam Ali (born 1940). Their interpretations of ghazal were connected to the classical raga tradition and appealed mainly to a more educated audience.

Jagjit Singh's special achievement was to leave the established ghazal conventions behind and practically reinvent the genre anew. As a composer, he reduced the musical complexity and put the emphasis on understandable content. He preferred texts, which are meaningful to the common man on the street. In the duets with his wife Chitra, he made the heartbreaking pain and the bitter-sweet longing of unrequited love immediately palpable for everyone. And the introduction of simple harmonies and the guitar as an extra accompaniment (in addition to tabla and harmonium) underlined the emotional content of his ghazals even further at another level. At the same time he made use of cutting edge technology whenever it suited his purpose. E.g. he was one of the first Indian musician ever to work with multi-track recordings in the 1980s. With his flattering velvety voice, his plain lyrics and his suggestive emotional arrangements, Jagjit Singh reached hitherto unheard of sales figures and set a new standard for every success-oriented ghazal singer. For his fans, he is therefore the undisputed king of ghazal. Indian classical music lovers, however, will more likely remember him as the inventor of ghazal-pop.

India Instruments has the following title with Jagjit Singh (and others) available: Jai Jai Shrinathji - Gujarati Devotional, order number NRCD 0069, 15, - Euros (plus shipping), more details on our website

Traditional ghazals are available here

More detailed information on Jagjit Singh


5. Distributors (3) - Merlyn
- Company Info -

Merlyn in the little city Erpe-Mere, halfway between Brussels and Ghent, is currently our most important partner in Belgium. "Sounds for Healing" is Merlyn's motto, offering instruments from all over the world for therapy, healing, rituals, relaxation, meditation, wellness, music education, or simply enjoying the beauty of sound. Merlyn was founded in 2001 and is open mondays 14:00 - 18:00 hours, tuesdays 10:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 - 18:00 hours and saturdays 10:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 - 17:00 hours. At these times spontaneous visits are welcome. On other days the store is open by appointment only. Of course mail order is also possible.

Merlyn's assortment includes stringed instruments, wind instruments, drums and percussion, singing bowls, gongs and other metal instruments, tuning forks and therapeutic media. More detailed information and a video demonstration of some instruments in the shop is available here . India Instruments supplies Merlyn regularly with harmoniums, shrutiboxes, tanpuras, electrical tanpuras and bansuris. Many of these instruments are permanently available and can be tried and purchased in the showroom. Our partnership with Merlyn was started in 2008.

Patrik Niels, owner of Merlyn, is an active musician at concert level as well. Together with Myriam Cayet he also runs a center for self-development. In this context, he organizes workshops and concerts with healing sounds, gives sound sessions and runs a shop with esoteric, meditation and wellness products.

6. Mail from Delhi (2) - Qawwali Culture Shock
- By Martin Lamß, Leipzig / Delhi -

Oh man, India really got me now! I just came back from Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah. The shrine is the tomb of a famous Muslim saint. A suburb of New Delhi is named after him. Some say Qawwali was invented there, the sacred music of Islamic mystics of South Asia. You can hear them sing there every night.

But the short walk from the road to the shrine turns out to be actually quite long. You have to fight your way from the broad highway through a muddy lane.
Beggars with and without crutches, with and without leprosy are running, limping, crawling towards me. The alley is getting more and more narrow - not only from the right and left, but from above as well. For the alley is covered about a hundred meters away from the shrine, and the roof seems to lower itself more and more. As kind of a compensation everything shimmers colourful in there. The vendors sell everything that the pilgrim might need: devotional pictures (with and without flashing lights), DVDs, dead and half dead chickens as well as food that does not have to be slaughtered before you can eat it. For example, freshly fried dumplings of all kinds, saturating the alley with their strong smells. The dealers knew that I wanted nothing of all that, but that I had to do one thing: namely, take off my shoes to be allowed to enter the sanctuary. And so they all encouraged me loudly: I should not hesitate to park my beautiful slippers at their shop for a small fee. I did not know it at this point yet, but I already guessed: Between me and the shrine were still 50 meters full of leftover food, sewage puddles and fresh saliva with chewing tobacco. I wish I could have flown over it. I would never pull off my shoes before having passed that danger zone! But eventually I had to do it...

And that was at Selim's tea stall. You come to his house if you take a wrong turn just before the main entrance to the shrine. A wrong turn to the right. I can only advise everyone to take that wrong turn. Because of the relative peace and purity that you find at Selim's tea stall. Besides it is located next to a sparsely visited side entrance. And if you happen to get in there, you stand right at the Sufi grave in Taj-Mahal-style. The mystic musicians sit in a square on the white marble floor in front of it . A lead singer and two instrumentalists with harmonium and dholak, a barrel drum. The lead singer declares his love in erotic verses. But not love to a woman - to Allah! The twenty men seated around him to do the same, responding to the lead singer with the same words and clapping rhythm with their hands. This all sounds really danceable!

But dancing would probably have been inappropriate. Moreover, it was definitely too hot and too humid. Thanks be to Allah, there still is an original Pankhawalla at Nizamuddin shrine. This is a white-bearded man in a green dress, whose job it is to wag a fan. The thing is more similar to a flag on a pole, though. And it swishes so narrowly above the heads of the visitors that you must watch out not to get hit by it. I think I was pretty much the only westerner in the place and therefore got many friendly, sympathetic stares. But well, I've been staring too. Particularly fascinating were the people with the white gowns, caps and long beards who looked as if they had come directly from medieval Mecca. Just until they unpacked their smartphones. After twenty minutes I could not endure the heat and the flies any more, unfortunately, in spite of the humble efforts of the Pankhawalla. So I got back to Selim's chai shop.

He asked me to sit down with him for a while. Then he introduced me to his little old mom and his four year old son. The boy repeated a poem for me in English and Hindi with his miffed children's voice. That was really super cute. Especially because his face totally corresponded to the baby scheme with its big brown saucer eyes. However, I think they had trained the kid a bit for tourists. Then there were the usual questions of the Indian to the foreigner: name, where you're from, what are you doing here, and so on. "Ah journalist! Then write in your newspaper at home that the narrow access to the shrine has to be extended. After all, it's the most famous of the world. And then this whole mess! That's not good at all!" Well, now I have written it. And thanks Selim for seeing your neighborhood with similar eyes as I did. I had in fact been a bit scared that I looked at Nizamuddin with the arrogance of a culture-shocked westerner.

Martin Lamß studies journalism in Leipzig. He spent the summer of 2011 in Delhi to do research for his dissertation on German foreign correspondents and sent us occasional travel impressions.


7. Concert Dates
- Scene Info -

Winter is high season for concerts in India - many Indian musicians are on the road there now. For that reason there are relatively few events on our concert calendar for the next two months. Highlichts are the tours of charismatic young singer Pushkar Lele and of Anoushka Shankar presenting her new album togetehr with Spanish flamenco musicians. Please check our online concert calendar for more detailed information and additional dates for 2012

2.12. HAMBURG, RASALILA - Song and Dance of Love
10.12. BADEN, JESUS CHARITAM - Nateshwara Dance Group

All data without guarantee.

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