Newsletter September 2011

1. Ravi Shankar Documentary "Raga" on DVD
- Review by Yogendra -

In the late 1960s sitar master and creative genius Ravi Shankar had reached the peak of his fame. The collaboration with George Harrison of the Beatles and his appearance at the legendary Woodstock festival had made him a world famous pop star. However, Ravi Shankar saw himself as a serious classical musician who was very critical about the flower-power philosophy and the drug trips of the hippie generation of that time. In order to make his deep roots in traditional Indian spirituality and the classical raga music more clear to the public, he published his first autobiography "My Music, My Life" in 1968, followed by the also highly autobiographical documentary film "Raga - A Film Journey into the Soul of India" in 1971. This unique historical document is now available on DVD from India Instruments.

"Raga" was filmed in 1967 and 1968 in the U.S. and India. However, due to financial and technical problems, it could be published in 1971. Director was Howard Worth, producer was Ravi Shankar himself, and the more experimental music parts were contributed by his student Collin Walcott, who later became world famous himself amongst friends of jazz and world music with his band Oregon. Throughout the film Ravi Shankar is featured in numerous concert sequences, with his then accompanist Alla Rakha on tabla.

The first half of the film is all about Ravi Shankar's deep roots in Indian culture - here the subtitle "Film Journey into the Soul of India" fits perfectly. It shows evocative images of Indian street life, birth and death in Varanasi, the dance theatre Kathakali from Kerala, a trip to his music guru Allauddin Khan in central Indian Maihar, a visit to his spiritual guru Tat Maharaj, the initiation ceremony of his student Shalil Shankar and his working with various Indian master students. Here, Ravi Shankar is staged as an orthodox traditionalist, mourns the bygone times and worries about a young generation alienated from its own roots.

The second half of the film features the innovative aspects of Ravi Shankar's artistic work and his perception by the West public, starting with a rehearsal scene for an orchestral composition with classical Indian musicians. We see his collaboration with the Western classical violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin, his lessons for Beatle George Harrison and various groups of Western students, the initiation ceremony of Collin Walcott, the award ceremony of an honorary doctorate from the University of California and a private garden party. This part of the film culminates in a collage that reflects the distortions of the time - Indian music mixed with rock, hippies and drugs.

From today's perspective, with a distance of 40 years, "Raga" appears as an exciting historical document in several ways. On the one hand, the film provides insight into a traditional Indian culture, which was already in danger of disappearing even in those days of a slowly modernizing India (and which is even more seriously threatened today in the era of relentlessly raging globalization). On the other hand, it demonstrates the fascination, but also the strangeness and misunderstandings with which India was seen by the younger generation in the West in a time of breaking up of encrusted structures in the late 1960s. The film is also a beautiful document of Ravi Shankar's own ambivalence. It presents him as a selfless and highly spiritual musician, deeply rooted in ancient tradition who cares for the future of his cultural heritage.

But it also shows how much Ravi Shankar was fascinated by and attracted to a Western lifestyle, starting right from his youth with the dance company of his brother Uday in Paris in the 1930s. His impressive life's work as a bridge builder, who has probably achieved more than anybody else for the cause of global recognition of Indian music, can probably only be understood with this ambivalence in mind. And in a broader sense the biography of Ravi Shankar also reflects the fundamental conflicts of contemporary Indian classical music - those between tradition and modernity as well as between spirituality and show business.

DVD "Raga", running time approx 96 minutes, English without subtitles, 24.90 Euros plus shipping.
"My Music, My Life", 180 pages, 55 pages with exercises and Sargam notations, 21.90 Euros plus shipping.
More DVD documentaries on Indian music and Concert DVDs are available on our website.


2. Rabindranath Tagore Prize for Günther Paust
- Scene Info -

The music manager Günther Paust was awarded the Rabindranath Tagore Cultural Award of the Indo-German Society at its annual meeting in Dresden on September 24th. Günther Paust was honored for his tireless work as a tour organizer for music and dance from India. He has arranged a total of 52 concert tours in the last three decades with a total of around 1,850 events across Europe and in India.

It was the sitar player Ravi Shankar with his appearance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, who awakened Günther Paust's enthusiasm for Indian music. His own ambitions as sitarist ended in disillusionment on his first trip to India in 1975, but the journey brought him in contact with different musical families in Varanasi. In 1981 he organized the first European tour with some of these artists. A key to success in the next few years was certainly the fact that Günther Paust did not bring a single melody solo instrumentalist with tabla accompanist (as is traditional), but presented an entire ensemble with several instrumentalists. That enabled him to bring interesting variety into every single concert and create new concert tour programmes continuously. That way he managed to win and keep audiences' and organizers' interest and attention in the long run.

Under the name "Music Ensemble of Benares" Günther Paust presented but not only ever newly assembled groups of musicians, but also produced records and worked with various radio stations. Sometimes he also left the context of Indian classical music and organized crossover projects of his own ensemble with jazz stars such as Paul Horn, David Friesen and John Handy. In 1994 he initiated the Kathak-Flamenco project, which explores the common roots of the North Indian Kathak dance and the Andalusian flamenco with Spanish and Indian musicians and dancers - a project that is still running successfully today.

Press release on the award ceremony:
Website of the Music Ensemble of Benares

3. Qualification: Kathak, Ali Akbar College & Online Course
- Scene Info -

From October 28th till November 13th, the annual intensive workshop of the Academy of Kathak Dance, led by Ioanna Srinivasan, will take place in Berlin. During the workshop, six different courses are offered that can be bookedd either separately or in combination. The courses are divided into levels of various difficulty - from beginner's to professional Kathak dancer's. The aim of each course is to develop one choreography in classical North Indian Kathak dance. Subjects of the workshop are dance technique, Abhinaya, Padhant, choreography, playing tabla, Indian singing and theoretical foundations. An important feature, and quite unique in Europe, is the live accompaniment of classes by tabla and vocals. More info at +49-30-6861327, by email to or on the net at

The 26th Annual Seminar of Indian music of the Ali Akbar College of Music will be held in Basel from November 18th till 25th. In addition to the traditional instrumental, vocal and tabla seminars led by Ken Zuckerman (instrumental, Tala), Swapan Chaudhuri (tabla), Daniel Bradley (sitar) and Henry Nagelberg (tabla), which run throughout the period, there will be two shorter special seminars this time as well. From November 18th till 20th there will be an intensive seminar on singing with Indrani Mukherjee. And also from November 18th till 20th there will be an introductory seminar, giving beginners the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the basics of classical North Indian music. Completing the 26th Seminar will be concerts with Indrani Mukherjee November 19th and with Ken Zuckerman and Swapan Chaudhuri on November 25th. The Ali Akbar College of Music is one of the oldest and best schools of Indian music in Europe, and the annual seminar has been an inspiring meeting place for musicians from all over the world for decades, from beginner to professional. More info at +41-61-2728032, or by email to or on the net at

The completely renewed online course "The Music of South India" begins again in October with lots of choices, personal support and updates. It is tailored to the interests of the participants. This e-learning course enables anybody to get involved in practical musical exercises and immersed in the Carnatic music tradition of South India in order to better appreciate, learn, apply, and teach it. The veena player Sreevidhya Chandramouli, the singer Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam and the drummer TR Sundaresan will give close insights into their artistic and educational work. Particular attention is paid to the interdisciplinary work of musicians, composers, visual artists and dancers. The course language is English, with full support in German. The course author Ludwig Pesch was awarded the Rabindranath Tagore Culture Prize and the German Federal Cross of Merit for his outstanding service to the cultural relations between India and Germany. For more information

4. Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar - A Legacy
- Obituary by Amelia Cuni -

Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar, doyen of the Dagarbani (style of dhrupad singing), passed away last July 27 in New Delhi, at the age of 84 after prolonged illness. He was shortly preceded by beenkar Asad Ali Khan, a close friend of his and leading exponent of a unique instrumental tradition in dhrupad music. With their demise, it seems like a major chapter in Hindustani musical history has come to a close. They both belonged to a time when life had a different pace and people were ready, for instance, to spend the entire night in so-called ''music conferences'', listening to great artists well into the morning hours. Both of them had witnessed enormous changes in society: while their own fathers had been court musicians, they had to adapt to the free-lancing artist life of post-independence India. In spite of such major shifts of values and lifestyle, they made it possible for younger people to experience and learn music belonging to another era. Through their uncompromising dedication to the art, they had preserved a treasure which, in this very same shape, is not available to the world anymore.

I first met R. Fahimuddin Dagar in 1982 in Calcutta. when he was teaching at the Rabindra Bharati University while giving also private classes to small groups of students at his home. Every day, he would sit with them for at least two hours, exercising alap and patterns over and over again, giving priority to the quality of akar (vocalizing on the sound of ''aa''), to the purity of intonation and to rhythmic accuracy with an intensity new to me. At once, I found his method fascinating and rewarding and I kept on studying with him for about five years. During this time with him, I have been introduced to the basics of dhrupad music and its philosophy through direct experience according to the traditional guru-shishya-parampara system of transmission. He did not seem to follow a strictly structured method and taught me as if I would be able to spend my next 30 years learning with him (as he himself had done with his own father and guru, A. Rahimuddin Dagar).

After all these years, I feel that R. Fahimuddin Dagar's teachings and practical demonstrations are still working inside me. Again and again I find myself elaborating on some of the principles he was able to transmit in all their self-generative power, possibly because he did not try to adapt them to modern times and needs. While his uncompromising and conscientious nature has not helped him to face the overwhelming social changes taking place during his lifetime, his truthfulness to the tradition has preserved that inherent quality of timelessness, the original sparkle, linking dhrupad to the highest expressions of Indian classical culture. I realize that the aspects connecting dhrupad to the yoga-of-sound (nadayoga) keep on getting clearer to me with practice, continuously unfolding their significance and potential. Thanks to Dagar Sahab's deep understanding of these principles and his adamant belief in their relevance to dhrupad, I am able to gradually absorb them through the memory of his example, even at this later stage. Through his non-sectarian approach to religious belief, I have been able to experience Islam from a very privileged point of view, that one of a Muslim musician offering his singing to Allah and to Shiva in one single breath and honoring the concept of nadabrahman through his own dedication to music as a spiritual path. The awareness of the subtle effects of sound and its metaphysical correspondences made of R.Fahimuddin Dagar's dhrupad singing an art in its noblest acceptation, nourishing the soul and elevating the spirit, a path leading to the higher Self. In his teachings, singing becomes a way to tune oneself to the harmony of the cosmos, rather than expressing emotions or demonstrating one's own achievements. Here, the focus is not on the individual and his / her talents and skills but rather on the process of manifestation of ragas itself, requiring art and surrender both.

I have experienced Dagar Sahab's most brilliant and effective singing during his classes, while searching for the musical translation of a philosophical or poetic thought. Sometime, in a unique and remarkable way, he would demonstrate the extent of human perception by ''conjuring'' svaras (pitches) without actually singing them, just leading the listener's mind to hear them by its sheer power of concentration, as an illusionist with deep understanding of the psyche is able to make his audience see actions which do not actually take place. I attribute this ability of his to the ancient, powerful knowledge of which R.Fahimuddin Dagar considered himself a humble custodian.

More Dhrupad vocal recordings.

5. Shamsuddin Faridi Desai - Troubadour of Allah
- Obituary by Thomas Meisenheimer -

Rudra veena player Shamsuddin Faridi Desai, the last great Sufi Beenkar, passed away in Delhi on August 16th at the age of 75 years. Baba Shamsuddin, as his students called him, was born in 1936 in Bhavnagar (Gujarat). He first learnt sitar from his father, rudra veena player Mohammed Khan Faridi, who came from the centuries-old tradition of Gauharbani Gharana. From 1957 onwards, Baba Shamsuddin regularly regularly sitar concerts for All India Radio, Ahmedabad. In 1959 he joined the National Orchestra of All India Radio in Delhi, where he worked until his retirement in 1997. As a rudra veena player, he was starting to get known from 1980 onwards for his radio concerts. Baba Shamsuddin played without the usual mizrabs (fingerpicks). Characteristic of the Gauharbani Gharana and his personal style were his very long meends (pulling of the string). Outside India his music was recognised by his CD releases with Makar Records in 2002 and with India Archive Music in 2005.

Shamsuddin Baba belonged to the Islamic Qadri Sufism. For him music was a form of prayer. "Allah is hidden in the music," he said. The outer form of classical Dhrupad music was left behind by Baba Shamsuddin after his retirement. His musical language was very unique and not easily accessible. With its impulsiveness and strong expression it could open the door to the mystical world of Sufism, if one was willing to embrace it. Baba Shamsuddin's aim was to bring himself and the listener into a state of annihilation (Arabic: fana) and trance (Arabic: wajd). He especially liked playing at the Sufi shrines in Delhi or at the commemoration of the renowned Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan.

The encounter with Baba Shamsuddin remains memorable to me - his music has deeply touched my heart and made me experience the mystical dimension of the ruda veena in an immediate way. He will live on in the hearts of those who love him. It is to be hoped that his son Zahid Khan Faridi will continue his tradition.

Shamsuddin Faridi Desai Interview:
Audio samples: and Rudra veena recordings are available from India Instruments.


6. Further Short Obituaries
- Scene Info -

Singer Jagdish Prasad died in Calcutta on July 20th from the effects of blood poisoning at the age of 74. Prasad was born in Madhya Pradesh, belonged to the Patiala Gharana, and was a student of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. He was equally at home in the classical Khyal style as in semi-classical genres such as Thumri, Dadra and Tappa. From 1977 till 1984 he taught at the prestigious Sangeet Research Academy in Calcutta and subsequently joined Kairagarh University a lecturer. Samples on

After a long illness, the singer, composer and musicologist Ashok D. Ranade passed away in Mumbai on July 30th at the age of 76. In recent decades, Ranade contributed significantly to bring musicology in India up to international standards through critical reflection and to represent it at conferences. His numerous books in Marathi and English dealt, among other things, with classical North Indian music, theatre and folk music of Maharashtra, musical aesthetics, musical concepts, music history, language in the theater and Hindi film songs. Just this year he was honored with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his lifetime achievements. More info:

Sitarist Chandrakant Sardeshmukh died on August 15th at the age of 56 in a traffic accident near the Indian city of Solapur. As a child he was considered a musical prodigy. Later on he studied with Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi and gave concerts worldwide. In recent years he was particularly interested the healing effects of Indian music. In Europe Chandrakanth Sardeshmukh was well known both as a concert sitarist and as a music therapist. More info:

On August 16th instrument maker Yusuf Mirajkar was also killed in a traffic accident. The accident occurred when he was on his way to the funeral of Chandrakanth Sardeshmukh. Yusuf Mirajkar lived in Pune and was considered one of the best instrument makers for tanpuras, sitars and other stringed instruments. Among his customers were Shahid Parvez, Rais Khan, Usman Khan, Kishori Amonkar and Bhimsen Joshi.


7. New Format for Newsletters
- Company Info -

In recent years we have expanded our free newsletter service continuously. The German-language newsletter appeared monthly eleven times a year, with a break in the summer, and has included more and more extensive texts about Indian music by various authors in addition to information about India Instruments. In 2009 we have also created a regular English-language newsletter. These newsletters an advertising medium for India Instruments, of course. At the same time we want to go beyond mere advertising by contributing to the vitality of Indian music, especially classical raga music, with news and background information.

Unfortunately, producing our newsletters has become so time-consuming that we have to introduce some changes. From now on we will send our newsletter only once every two months. In order to become more up to date, we will bring a list of upcoming concerts at the end of each issue. And in order to make reading more comfortable and enjoyable, we will only send you short introcutions to the various articles with links to the full versions. Thus the complete texts are just one clic away and you don't have to manage huge amounts of text any more in oder to find what interests you.

We are trying hard to keep the contents up to date, interesting and varied. But we also need your contributions, comments and ideas for that. Share your knowledge and insights with thousands of interested readers in Central Europe and around the world! Only if you participate actively, the newsletters can become more interesting and worth reading! We appreciate any feedback - please send an email to!


8. Concert Dates
- Scene Info -

With our concert calendar we want to increase public awareness of live events with music and dance from India with a focus on classical raga music. Therefore you will find the upcoming concert dates for the next two months at the end of our newsletters from now on. If you are an artist or an organiser, please let us know your concert data as muc as possible in advance - we'll be happy to publish it! Detailed information with regular updates is available at

12.10. STUTTGART: Shirshendu Mukherjee - Vocal
12.10. CH-GENEVA: FLUTE ET DE Shahnai BENARES - Rajendra Prasanna & Party
14.10. CH-NEUCHATEL: FLUTE ET DE Shahnai BENARES - Rajendra Prasanna & Party
14.10. KARLSRUHE: Somabanti Basu - Sarod
14.10. CH-GENEVA: Les maitres DE LA VINA
15.10. PADERBORN / Bad Lippspringe: Snatam Kaur
15.10. CH-NEUCHATEL: AJIT SINGH - Vichitra-Vina
15.10. STUTTGART: Monalisa Ghosh - Odissi dance
16.10. STUTTGART: Monalisa Ghosh - Odissi dance
21.10. STUTTGART: Neela Bhagwat - Vocal
22.10. BADEN-BADEN: NADA BRAHMA FESTIVAL - Odissi and Thullal
22.10. CH-BADEN: Vijaya Rao, Sharmila Rao Nateschwara & COMPANY
23.10. CH-BERN: ASHISH Sankrityayan - Dhrupad Vocal
23.10. BERLIN: BOOK PREMIERE "Kolkata - Durga, poets and Demons"
27.10. MUNICH: Shivnath & DEOBRAT MISHRA sitar
31.10. STUTTGART: Rupak Kulkarni - Bansuri

1.11. STUTTGART: Rupak Kulkarni - Bansuri
2.11. HECKENBECK / BAD GANDERSHEIM: Yogendra - Sitar
4.11. GOETTINGEN: Yogendra - Sitar
5.11. COLOGNE: Zakir Hussain - Tabla
5.11. CH-Liestal: SOULFUL SUFI
6.11. SAARBRUCKEN: Yogendra - Sitar
6.11. MUNICH: Anoushka Shankar - Sitar
7.11. HEIDELBERG: Anoushka Shankar - Sitar
12.11. CH Villars-sur-Glane: SOULFUL SUFI
13.11. CH Villars-sur-Glane: SOULFUL SUFI
17.11. BADEN-BADEN: Anoushka Shankar - Sitar

All data without guarantee. .

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