Geetha Navale travels to France to celebrate Pietro della Valle

India – Veena virtuoso
, has been invited to France in Janury 2006 for a recording
project retracing the footprints of the European music traveler, Pietro della
Valle, who about 500 years first carried this magical ancient instrument back
home from India. She will record with the XVIII-21 Musique des Lumières baroque
ensemble led by Jean Christophe Frisch during the last week of January 2006.

The ensemble plans to do a multi city tour of India later this year. The
Director Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, Eric Rousseau has been instrumental in
bringing together the musicians for this interesting inter cultural musical
endeavor. About 500 years ago, a musician and traveler, Pietro della Valle (1586-1652) set
off from the shores of Italy where Claudio Monteverdi was setting a new style,
now called “Baroque” for a long journey to far away Goa. He stopped en route in
Istanbul, Cairo, Alep, Damas, Isfahan, Ormuz, before arriving in Goa.

He observed local customs, and, obviously, their music. He
learnt their languages and acquired a good knowledge of his hosts. He lived
three years in India, traveling to Calicut where he was fascinated by the veena
and the sacred singing, which he describes minutely in the letters he sent to a
friend in Roma who subsequently published them. Incidentally he was one of the
first musicians from Europe to introduce the violin into India. The violin is
now an inseparable part of any classical Karnatic ensemble.

Pietro della Valle« Il Pellegrino » wrote musical works, where he tried to
synthesize his discoveries on Asian music, and traditional Italian music of his
time. From these travels, he moved quite ahead of his times in his era, and his
music stands out like one of an innovator and a genius, very expressive and new.

The delicate veena for the first time traveled back with Pietro over the
Himalayas to the shores of the Mediterranean and now this same journey is to be
undertaken in these modern times by the aspiring ambassador for Karnatic music
Veena Vidushi
who will work with the renowned arranger and conductor Jean
Christophe Frisch and the XVIII-21 Musique des Lumières baroque ensemble to
recreate the music of Pietro Della Valle and his times.

For the program, let us imagine Della Valle recently arrived in Goa: he
speaks about Roma and his way of writing music, about his travel in Istanbul or
Isfahan. In exchange, someone presents some works from the Portuguese composers
in Goa, and some examples of Indian music: veena, and songs. Won over to this
musical world, Pietro della Valle tries to play with his hosts. This concert
will be a musical journey through Europe and Asia on the early seventeen

XVIII-21 Musique des Lumières,
“The nomad baroque,” aims at finding other kinds of music: music that is exotic
or different; music that is listened to in other ways, by other kinds of people.
This pursuit sometimes involves violence, restrictions or confrontation. But it
also makes way for an encounter, a fundamental, liberating passion. Beginning
years ago in the Italy of Tiepolo and Caravaggio, they followed Marcello in the
discovery of Jewish music; Scarlatti in the conquest of Spain; Pedrini in China,
and Esteves in Brazil. In 2006, they are setting sail with Pietro della Valle,
who will take them to India.

, the Karnatic veena player is known for her very ‘tasty’ sound and
the ability to draw divine melodies spontaneously from the ancient strings of
the veena. Her playing has gladdened the hearts of the devout in many a small
temple in Malleswaram while leaving audiences dizzy in ‘over the edge’ jazz
clubs in Manhattan.

Her skilful playing comes from a deep study of the traditions and idioms of
Karnatic Music. She has had the privilege of learning the ancient art of playing
the veena from the renowned traditional Gurus Sri. J. Anjaneyalu and Sri. R. K.
Suryanarayana. She is the founder member of the cross-cultural music project
‘esperanto’ with her songwriter guitarist husband Gopal K. Navale. The sound of
the veena has remained relatively unknown internationally and Vidushi Geetha
Navale who has been playing the instrument for over two decades on various
platforms around the world has made it her life’s mission to showcase the veena
to the world.

The veena or south Indian lute is known as the mother of all instruments, It is
the very instrument played by the Indian goddess of Music, Saraswathi and has
developed in India since pre vedic times (4000 BC) . Extremely versatile – it
has a tonal range of 4 octaves and a set of rhythm strings to enable playing of
a rhythmic accompaniment to the fluid melodies from its deep-set brass frets
where a note can be pulled to six semitones! –

This musical encounter has been brought about by the culturally proactive
Director of the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore Eric Rousseau who has brought
the artistes together.

The Artists:
Cyrille Gerstenhaber and Johanne Cassar, sopranos
Sébastien Obrecht and Vincent Lièvre-Picard, tenors
Christophe Laporte, countertenor
Marco Horvat, baryton, theorb, lirone, Indian music
Geetha Navale, veena
Emmanuelle Guigues, viola and Persian kamanche
Rémi Cassaigne, theorb and Persian setar
Jean-Luc Ho, harpsichord
Pierre Rigopoulos, Oriental and Indian percussions
JC Frisch, traverso, organ, flute

[Photos: 1 –
, 2 – Pietro della Valle, 3 –