Newsletter September 2021 – Janaury 2022

Content

1. Innovative Instruments: Vegan Dholak, Semi-acoustic Saraswati Veena & Recon Shrutibox
2. Corona Consequences: Logistics Chaos & Price Hikes
3. Reflektor Anoushka Shankar: Festival at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
4. Music Documentaries Online: Raga, Strings of Melody, That Which Colors The Mind, Dhrupad
5. Brief News: Laughing Buddha, Network Konnakol, Interviews
6. How to Make (Indian) Music? (27) - Tonality and Symmetry as Principles of Nature
7. Workshops & Concerts - Prospects for 2022



1. Innovative Instruments: Vegan Dholak, Semi-acoustic Saraswati Veena & Recon Shrutibox
- New in our Assortment -


- S.R.I. Dholak Karunya – 319 €

S.R.I Dholak KarunyaThe dholak is a popular barrel drum for accompanying kirtans and bhajans. The smaller side has a high metallic sound and the large side a bass. However, traditional dholaks react very strongly to fluctuating temperature and humidity and therefore need to be adjusted constantly. The skins also wear out during playing and therefore have to be changed again and again. And vegans and vegetarians criticise the fact that animals are killed to make the skins. The new S.R.I. (Synthetic Indian Rhythm) Dholak from Karunya solves all these problems. In terms of sound, it provides more sustain and a more powerful bass than traditional dholaks made of wood. Thanks to synthetic skins and body and a sophisticated tensioning mechanism, the S.R.I. Dholak Karunya is robust, durable, vegan and stays perfectly in tune most of the times. The synthetic skins are so water-repellent that you can even wipe them with a damp cloth for cleaning. The easy-to-use tensioning mechanism allows for very precise and very durable tuning. And if a head gets damaged or worn out after many years of playing, it can be replaced quickly and easily.

More info, pictures & sound sample.

- Sunadavinodini: Semi-acoustic Saraswati Veena - 789 €

Radel Saraswati Vina SunodavinodiniA new interpretation of old tradition comes from Radel, the pioneer of electronic Indian musical instruments from Bangalore: the Sunadavinodini is a contemporary semi-acoustic version of the time-honoured classical South Indian Saraswati Veena. The stringing, frets, fingerboard and bridges allow for uncompromisingly classical playing technique, feel and timbre. Instead of the heavy wooden body at the bottom, however, the Sunadavinodini has a detachable plastic body with built-in electronics and speaker. In addition, a pickup is built in under the strings. This system increases the dynamic range enormously, extends the sustain, and allows finer nuances even with very soft notes. The frets are movable and can be adjusted to the intonation of different ragas. Tuning is done with cogwheel tuners instead of wooden pegs. The main bridge is divided into four adjustable segments so that each string can be set separately for perfect intonation. The electronic equipment also includes a tanpura machine. Thanks to detachable resonators, the Sunadavinodini is much easier to transport than traditional veenas. Moreover it is vegan. Conclusion: An all-round successful innovation that leaves nothing to be desired!

More info, pictures & sound sample.

- Paloma Shrutibox large Recon - 399 €

Shrutibox Paloma groß ReconTeak was easy and cheap to get in best quality in India during the British colonial rule - it came from neighbouring Burma. The widespread use of teak in Indian instrument making probably dates from that time. Today, however, Burma is economically isolated and teak is consumed in huge quantities by the furniture industry worldwide. This has made it extremely difficult for Indian instrument makers to obtain high quality teak at affordable prices. A sensible solution to this problem is now offered by our long-standing partner Paloma from Mumbai: Shrutiboxes made of Recon. Recon is industrially produced by moulding bamboo fibres. It retains the characteristics of natural wood. Sound and stability are completely equal. The look and feel are also convincing. Thus, the use of Recon helps to keep prices and quality stable and to avoid production bottlenecks. And the environment also benefits from not using teak.

More info, pictures & sound sample.


2. Corona Consequences: Logistics Chaos & Price Hikes
- Company News -


DockThe Corona pandemic is not only causing deaths, serious illnesses and massive restrictions on fundamental rights - it is also shaking up global logistics. In Germany, the media mainly reported on container shipping. At one end of the world, empty containers were standing about, while at the other end, finished goods were piling up and could not be shipped due to a lack of containers. Delivery bottlenecks, congestion and empty containers led to explosively rising sea freight costs.

DHL Flieger Urgent deliveries were shifted to air freight, which in turn overloaded their capacities. This also led to sometimes weeks-long traffic jams for air freight and rapidly rising prices. At Frankfurt Airport, the largest transhipment point for air freight in Germany, there was chaos for several weeks because a software change at customs massively delayed the release of incoming shipments. Hundreds of tons of airfreight goods piled up, additional halls and other storage areas had to be procured, and no one gave the consignees information about the whereabouts of the expected shipments. Shortages of raw materials and problems in the supply chains led to significantly higher costs for producers and trade in many areas, and thus also to rising consumer prices.

India Instruments is affected by all this, too. Our partners in India have increased the prices for their instruments, in some cases significantly. And transport to Germany has become enormously more expensive. This is particularly noticeable for instruments with large size. It is therefore with a heavy heart that we have decided to raise the prices for most of the instruments in our range significantly as of as of January 1st, 2022 - for the first time since 2017. This is the only way we can cover our costs for purchasing and ongoing operations and continue to provide high quality instruments, accessories, advice and service for all those who are as enthusiastic about Indian instruments as we are. We ask for your understanding.


3. Reflektor Anoushka Shankar: Festival at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
- Report by Yogendra -


Elbphilharmonie‚I have never seen the Elbphilharmonie so beautifully decorated.‘ That's what I hear from visitors in the bar foyer in front of the Small Hall on the very first evening. Of course, typically Indian, I think, with statues and colourful lights, scarves and garlands. Only later, in other rooms, do I really notice the contrast to the otherwise completely uncoloured sobriety of the Elphi (as they fondly call the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg). And it becomes clear to me: Reflektor Anoushka Shankar deliberately wants to set new accents. Not only in terms of content and artists, but also in presentation. For four days, from November 4th till 7th, Anoushka Shankar played the Elphi with a festival curated by her alone in her very own way. The original planning for autumn 2020 had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. But a year later, the festival went ahead after all, with minor changes - just in time before cultural life was severely curtailed again due to the next wave of covid infections. I was able to attend five performances and a workshop on two of the four days.

Those expecting sitar sounds and classical Indian music from a festival called Reflektor Anoushka Shankar are only a little bit right. Anoushka Shankar deliberately avoids well-trodden paths and clichés. Instead of presenting timeless classical art, she wants to put Indian music and Indian dance in a new light and show them as dazzlingly vibrant contemporary phenomena in a global context. In doing so, she draws primarily on the well-connected South Asian diaspora in her adopted home of London. The result is a programme that is very young and very female - 9 out of 13 events feature a woman soloist and most of the artists were born after 1980. The spectrum ranges from classical raga concerts to fusion jazz, film music, world music, live electronics, dance and singer-songwriter to music against climate change and a pop-up performance in a stairwell. I am joyfully excited.

Anoushka Shankar

My festival experience starts with the 60-minute workshop 'South India's Rhythm Language Konnakol' with German drummer and rhythm teacher Magnus Dauner on Saturday. He covers a wonderful range from simple hands-on exercises with clapping and speaking to the analysis of complex rhythmic sequences of pieces from the festival programme. All this perfectly underpinned with projected graphics and presented with infectious enthusiasm. Wow. Why do so few people attend?

Next is the dance piece 'She's Auspicious' by Mythili Prakash, accompanied live by three female musicians in the classical South Indian line-up of vocals, saraswati veena and mridangam. The piece is about the discrepancy between the worship of female deities on the one hand and the oppression and marginalisation of women in Indian culture on the other, danced with the movement vocabulary of the classical South Indian dance style Bharatanatyam. This is heavy stuff, and I too feel heavier and heavier as the piece progresses. Especially as I don't understand much of the content. Should the audience have a perfect command of the dance sign language of Bharatanatyam? Or is it just about conveying a feeling of dull hopelessness? That would be successful, but it seems to me to be a rather poor artistic intention.

My Sunday starts in the afternoon with Nabihah Iqbal. The young singer seems a bit lost on stage, supported only by an electric guitar around her neck, a harmonium next to her (borrowed from India Instruments) and various foot pedals for loops and effects. She presents new songs of her own, some of them performed in public for the first time. Some things are still wobbly, the technology is not working properly, the loops don't always fit neatly on top of each other. But Nabihah Iqbal shows her excitement, makes herself touchable as a human being and thus outweighs a lot. I can immerse myself in the shimmering sound spaces that she builds up layer by layer with her guitar and voice loops.

Tanz

After a short break, Aakash Odedra dances on the same stage to recorded music. Nritta is the name of his first piece, 'pure dance' in Sanskrit. He uses the classical North Indian dance style Kathak as his movement vocabulary - full of virtuoso rhythmic footwork, elegantly flowing gestures and swirling turns. I have seen a lot of Kathak in my life and accompanied it live as a sitarist - but what Aakash Odedra shows here takes my breath away. Dynamics, elegance, creativity and precision in a perfection that goes beyond anything ever experienced in Kathak into a higher sphere. The dancer becomes a dancing god. And yet he remains completely human when, at the end of a sequence, he pauses briefly on the one of the rhythm cycle. The end of Nritta should be the end of the world. What else can come after such energy? The greatest possible contrast: 'Constellation' by star choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. An ethereal, weightless meditation in poetic play with light and shadow, movement and space. I am speechless with happiness. Aakash Odedra is my festival highlight. It was worth the trip to Hamburg just to see him dance in these two pieces.

On the way from the Small Hall to the Large Hall for Anoushka Shankar's closing concert, a surprise: there is an inconspicuous young woman standing at the edge of the mezzanine, relaxedly tapping away on a small device with colourful keys, producing such incredibly cool and groovy beats that I can't help but swing along. That's Gnarly, the finger drummer, with Maschine+ from the Berlin company Native Instruments. Next to her, a tall young woman at an imposing console, declaiming English-language poems about Indian goddesses to the beats, celebrating the power and self-confidence of femininity. This is the lyricist Nikita Gill, who wrote the lyrics to Anoushka Shankar's piece Sister Suzannah, among others. And while the two put on an inspiring performance, people stream past them up the stairs. When someone stops to look and listen, a diligent steward rushes over and shoos them away so that they don't breech the rules about safety distances. How absurd. I finally find a place against the wall where I can stand, hear and see and enjoy every remaining minute of Gnarly and Nikita Gill. In the end, I have to hurry to get to Anoushka Shankar in time.

Anoushka Shankar credit Anushka Menon

In the impressive Great Hall of the Elphi, Anoushka Shankar plays with singers Alev Lenz and Nicki Wells, Nina Harris on double bass, Danny Keane on cello and piano and Pirashanna Thevarajah on South Indian percussion. The focus is on pieces from the current album Love Letters, which Anoushka Shankar wrote together with Alev Lenz. In song structures with sparse arrangements, it tells of very personal experiences of pain and loss, but also of hope and finally healing through female energy. The programme is complemented by older pieces, especially from the previous album Land of Gold, in which the band's instrumental virtuosity and rousing dynamics come into their own. The band is well-rehearsed, confident and enjoys playing; the band leader is charismatic and charming; the programme is varied and cleverly structured. The audience is enthusiastic and thanks the musicians with great applause. Anoushka Shankar, in turn, expresses her gratitude for the entire festival with joyful, heartfelt words. I rejoice with her, but am only slightly touched myself. Was the attraction of novelty missing because I already knew most of the pieces? Had my potential for enthusiasm for this day already been used up beforehand?

Reflektor Anoushka Shankar was a courageous festival. It was younger, more female, more western, more urban, more diverse and more modern than any other festival of Indian music I have witnessed in the past 35 years. The focus on the Elbphilharmonie as the only venue, Anoushkar Shankar‘s double role as curator and performer, who probably connected all the participating artists through her personal relationships, and perhaps also the loving Indian decoration, created a dense, appreciative and warm atmosphere. This was particularly precious in times of pandemic, social division and paralysis of cultural life.

Did Reflektor Anoushka Shankar point the way for the development of Indian music in the 21st century? There has also been a trend towards more women on stage at the annual London Darbar Festival in recent years. In India, on the other hand, male dominance in the music scene still seems very pronounced. Are we seeing an emancipation of the diaspora from the motherland here? Is Indian music in North America and Europe slowly going different ways than in India, shaped by powerful discourses on gender justice and diversity? Does it cling to raga and tala as fundamental concepts and thus preserve a tangible Indian identity? Does it get lost in a global hodgepodge where everything can and nothing must? And how is the scene in India developing? The world is changing - and Indian music with it.

Website Reflektor Anoushka Shankar with further text and video links.
Programme of Reflektor Anoushka Shankar (German)


4. Music Documentaries Online: Raga, Strings of Melody, That Which Colors The Mind, Dhrupad
- Film Tips by Yogendra -


Pandemic-related restrictions keep cultural life in a permanent stranglehold. And the cold, dark winter season rarely invites outdoor activities. More than usual, the screen is not only a work medium but also a leisure activity for many people. A good time to (re)discover great historical documentaries on classical (North) Indian music! Here are a few tips.

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Ravi Shankar

Raga – A Film Journey to the Soul of India

When the film hit the cinemas in the USA in 1971, sitarist Ravi Shankar was at the peak of his fame. He was a world star, had played at the legendary Woodstock Festival, and was revered by the rebellious flower power youth as well as by jazz greats (John Coltrane), classical virtuosos (Yehudi Menuhin) and pop stars (George Harrison) with whom he had worked and been friends. In the film, just as in his autobiographical book My Music, My Life from 1968, Ravi Shankar shows a critical distance to the superficial appropriation of Indian music by pot-smoking hippies and the hype surrounding his person. Instead, he emphasises the spiritual roots and artistic complexity of raga music. Even today, this makes the film a successful introduction to Indian music, an atmospherically dense contemporary document of the encounter between Indian and Western culture at the end of the 1960s, and finally also a very personal insight into Ravi Shankar's life and thinking.

Raga – A Film Journey to the Soul of India.


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Strings of Melody - Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

Ali Akbar KhanSon of the legendary Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, along with his sister Annapurna and his later brother-in-law Ravi Shankar, underwent his father's rigorous training in the 1930s and 40s, then served as court musician to the Maharaja of Jodhpur and quickly made a name for himself nationwide after Indian independence. On his first tour of the USA in 1955, the inviting Yehudi Menuhin praised him as the greatest musician in the world and compared him to Johann Sebastian Bach. After success with film music, concerts and his own music school in Kolkata, Ali Akbar settled in California in 1967 and devoted himself mainly to teaching at his Ali Akbar College of Music. Along with his more eloquent Gurubhai Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan was probably the most important pioneer of Indian classical music in the West, both as a performer and as a teacher. The 2011 Indian documentary Strings of Melody is a multi-voiced posthumous tribute to this towering figure of recent music history.

Strings of Melody - Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.


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That Which Colors The Mind – The Life and Music of Nikhil Banerjee

Nikhil Banerjee

Nikhil Banerjee was, in my eyes, the most artistically significant sitarist of the 20th century. In his playing he created a consummate combination of elements that others had developed before him. Majestic austerity of the Dhrupad-Alap, virtuoso Khyal-Tanas, Thumri-Romanticism, the vocal Gayaki-Ang of a Vilayat Khan, the meditative depth of an Ali Akbar Khan, complex rhythmic patterns of the Tantrakari-Ang, the great form of the Maihar-Gharana - carried and animated by deep spirituality and a brilliant mind, all this found a unique harmonious unity in Nikhil Banerjee's music. However, due to his reserved manner, his exclusive focus on classical raga music and his early death, his fame remained largely limited to insider circles. The film narrates Nikhil Banerjee's life and pays tribute to his genius with archive footage and voices of companions, students, contemporary witnesses and those born after him. It is the unfinished work of documentary filmmaker Steven Baigel and was only accessible in parts until recently. A wonderful opportunity to (re-)discover Nikhil Banerjee.

That Which Colors The Mind – The Life and Music of Nikhil Banerjee.


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Dhrupad

Dhrupad

The Dagar family of musicians has cultivated the classical Indian musical style of dhrupad for 20 generations. From the 16th to the 18th century, Dhrupad dominated musical life in northern India, but was displaced by the Khyal style in the 19th century and threatened to die out in the 20th century. Thanks in part to the Dagars, however, dhrupad has been experiencing a small renaissance again since the 1960s. Director Mani Kaul's film, released in 1982, is as taciturn as its title. The focus is on the interplay of Zia Mohiuddin Dagar on the rudra vina with the singing of his brother Zia Fariduddin Dagar, filmed puristically in abandoned palaces against vast, empty landscapes in Jaipur and Fatehpur Sikri. On the one hand, the film is a fascinating, slow, elegiac journey into a seemingly lost world. On the other hand, it also gives brief insights into the transmission of knowledge and skills and into historical and formal issues, thus showing dhrupad as an art form that is still very much alive.

Dhrupad.


5. Brief News: Laughing Buddha, Network Konnakol, Interviews
- Scene Info -


ShubhankarLaughing Buddha – Tabla Virtouso Subhankar Banerjee Passes Away

A few days after his 55th birthday, the great tabla virtuoso Subhankar Banerjee passed away in Kolkata on 25 August. Despite being fully vaccinated, he had contracted Covid-19 in June. At the beginning of July, he was admitted to a special hospital with lung failure and was given artificial respiration. After weeks of intensive medical treatment, he finally died of post-covid complications and kidney failure. Subhankar played with many greats of North Indian classical music - from old masters like Ravi Shankar, Birju Maharaj, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma and Amjad Ali Khan to present-day stars like Rashid Khan, Tejendra Naryan Majumdar, Ronu Majumdar, Kushal Das, Niladri Kumar and Purbayan Chatterjee. He also composed, sang and gave solo concerts. Subhankar learnt tabla as a child first from Manik Das of the Benaras Gharana and later from Swapan Shiva of the Farukhabad Gharana. He found his way to the top and to his own style without prominent support, solely through diligence, talent and a spirit of research. His infectiously cheerful disposition earned him the nickname Laughing Buddha. Sensitivity, versatility and creativity made him popular with fellow musicians and audiences alike. As a young up-and-coming musician, he toured extensively in Central Europe in the 1990s. Subhankar Banerjee will be remembered as one of the most important tabla masters of his generation.

Tablasolo Subhankar Banerjee.


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Konnakol

Network Konnakol - Research and Teaching on South Indian Rhythmics

Since 2018, a growing team of South Indian and German artists has been teaching and researching advanced techniques of counting musical time structures ('Konnakol' / 'carnatic rhythm'). Among other things, the Konnakol network has developed a course module system that responds to the needs of Western musicians, composers, conductors, dancers and music educators. It offers courses for students and professionals as well as step-by-step courses for beginners. The traditional use of structures can also be learned in the "Carnatic Module". In addition, the Konnakol network deals with time relations between body, mind and software. Moreover a symposium is planned for March 2022 in Essen, Germany.

Website Network Konnakol.


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Interviews with Yogendra - Life Story and Current Developments

YogendraYogendra, sitarist and founder of India Instruments, was invited twice last autumn for longer interviews. Both times, the initial topic was how a German teenager discovered the sitar for himself in the 1980s. In the interview by tabla player Nitin Kashkedikar from the Brawo Marathi Mandal association, which was conducted in English, the focus was on learning and practising classical Indian music and his very personal life as a performing sitarist. The interview with yoga teacher and Vastu blogger Elisabeth Hastrup-Kiil, on the other hand, dealt more generally with an understanding of Indian classical music and current developments, including a critical assessment of today's digitally shaped and ubiquitous products of the music industry.

Indian Classical Music - Musical DNA With Its Own Essence. Interview in German by Elisabeth Hastrup-Kiil.
Sitariya Yogendra Eckert. Interview in English by Nitin Ajay Kashkedikar.


6. How to Make (Indian) Music? (27) - Tonality and Symmetry as Principles of Nature
- Quote by Leonard Bernstein -


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

Leonard Bernstein by Jack MitchellI believe that from Earth emerges musical poetry, which is by the nature of its sources tonal. I believe that these sources cause to exist a phonology of music, which evolves from the universal know as the harmonic series. And that there is an exally universal syntax, which can be codified and structured in terms of symmetry and repetition. [...] I believe that our deepest affective responses to these particular language are innate ones, but do not preclude additional responses which are conditioned or learned."

Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) was an American composer, conductor, pianist and music educator. His most successful work was the musical West Side Story. Quote from: The unanswered question. Six talks at Harvard. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1976, p. 424


7. Workshops & Concerts - Prospects for 2022
- Scene-Info -


Despite the general availability of vaccines and ever-improving treatment options, the Corona pandemic continues to keep Europe on tenterhooks. Once again, public life is restricted in many places in many ways. And no one knows what will happen next. Cultural life has been hit particularly hard by planning uncertainty, restrictions and bans. Concerts and workshops have to be cancelled. And reliable planning of new offers is impossible for the time being. We have therefore not updated our concert and workshop calendars for the last three months. They now only show the status of some longer-term planning for 2022. Let's hope that the envisaged tours, concerts and workshops can actually take place!

More detailed information in our concert calendar and our workshop calendar.

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