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Rabindranath Tagore Prize for Günther Paust

Felicitation by Yogendra
(September 2011)

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 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.