Tag Archives: Indian classical

Artist Profiles: Abhijit Pohankar

Abhijit Pohankar
Abhijit Pohankar

Abhijit Pohankar was born June 29, 1975 in Mumbai, India. He bridges Indian classical music with chillout lounge electronic grooves, building a remarkably cross-generational and international fan base. The son of Indian music legend Maestro P.T Ajay, whose voice can be heard on Abhijt’s break-out album Piya Bavri he is a prolific composer in his own right with over 20 albums to date.

Abhijit is distinguished as a rare musician who can play Indian classical music on a keyboard. His fusion approach is backed by strong fundamentals, having studied music as a young man with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. His song “Piya Bawari” was chosen for the Buddha Bar compilation, one of the world’s best-known series of global groove recordings and a springboard for countless artists to worldwide notoriety. He has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Cape Town Festival; with shows in leading concert halls and venues worldwide.

Discography:

Deeper Zone (Ninaad Music, 1998)
Syntileting Synthesizer (Neelam Audio, 1999)
Dharohar (Times Music, 2000)
Shanti (Times Music, 2001)
Tranquility (Sona Rupa, 2000)
Ekanth (Times Music, 2001)
Piya Bavari (Times Music, 2002)
Sajanwa (Music Today, 2004)
Kamasutra (Freespirit Eecords, 2004)
Koyaliya (Universal Music, 2004)
Piya Bavari Again (Times Music, 2006)
Urban Ragas (HMV, 2007)
Navkaar Mantra (HMV, 2007)
Thumri Funk (EMI, 2012)
Masters of Fusion: A definitive collection (EMI, 2012)

Official Web Site: www.abhijitpohankar.com

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Artist Profiles: Aashish Khan Debsharma

Aashish Khan
Aashish Khan

Aashish Khan Debsharma was born on December 5, 1939 in Maihar, India. He gave his first public performance at the age of 13, with his grandfather, the legendary Acharya Allauddin Khan on the All India Radio National Program”, New Delhi. That same year, he performed with his father Swara Samrat Ali Akbar Khan and grandfather at the “Tansen Music Conference”, Calcutta. Since then, he has performed throughout India and the world not only with his father, but as a soloist in his own right.

Besides his virtuosity as a traditional sarodist, Aashish pioneered in the establishment of the “world music” genre. He was a founder of the Indo-American musical group “Shanti” in 1969/70 and the fusion group The Third Eye for which he was the first to write a sarod concerto in the “raga” form.

Aashish has collaborated with such diverse Western musicians as John Barham, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Charles Lloyd, John Handy, Alice Coltrane, Emil Richards, Dallas Smith, John Pope, Jorge Strunz, Ardeshir Farah, and the Philadelphia String Quartet.

Discography:

Sarod: Sound of Mughal Court (1996)
Jugalbandi: Sarod & Sarangi Duet, with Ustad Sultan Khan (Chhanda Dhara, 2000)
Golden String of the Sarode, with Ustad Zakir Hussain (Moment Records, 2005)
Live in Los Angeles, with Ustad Alla Rakha (2007)
Inner Voyage, with Alan Scott Bachman and George Grant (Desert Wind Music, 2010)
Jugalbandi II, with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (Times Music)

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Smt. Kalyani Varadarajan – Outstanding Carnatic Music Woman Composer of the Century

Kalyani Varadarajan
Kalyani Varadarajan

Smt. Kalyani (1926-2003), daughter of Sriman Nadadoor Ammal Narasimhachariar and Srimati Singarammal, has been one of the very few modern woman composers of Camatic music of 20th Century. She has the distinction of composing in all the 72 melakarta ragas and also in very rare/Apoorva ragas. Her father Sriman Narasimhachariar who was a teacher, Head Master and then Inspector of schools, was a distinguished poet in Telugu and Sanskrit in Andhra Region.

She had an in-born quality to compose lyrics and set them into music herself from an early age. Being brought up in family of scholars in Telugu and Sanskrit, Smt. Kalyani started her initiation in Camatic music in Veena and vocal at a very early age under her mother and sister and also under able gurus. Thereafter she learnt Violin in Madras. She started composing songs at a very early age on Lord Yoga Narasimha of Gatikakshetrarn – Solangipuram- Tamil Nadu, who was her Ishta Daivata. Her first debut in Veena concert was in AIR Madras at the age of 16.

After her marriage with Sri Varadarajan, who was then working in the Indian Army and then in Indian Railways, Smt. Kalyani shifted to Mumbai and settled there. In the year 1956 she performed in the Maharashtra Sangeeta Sammelan where she was honored with gold medal by the then Chief Minister Sri Morarji Desai. That was the time when she joined All India Radio, Mumbai by invitation in the Camatic music department (perhaps one of the first in that department). During her tenure in AIR, for about 30 years, she has accompanied a number of artists on Violin and has participated in orchestra (s).

Her quest for composing kritis in Camatic classical music in Telugu, Sanskrit and Tamil was ever growing with her. She could compose with ease number of kritis in different rare ragas. Due to her rich study and knowledge in Hindustani Music and her acquaintance with great musicians like Pt. Gajaanan Rao Joshi, VV Jog and others. She was able to sing/play Hindustani ragas effortlessly. This she applied in her kritis also. She has composed a number of kritis in Hindustani ragas like Bahar, Dundubi, Bagasri, Jayajayawanti (Dwijavanti) Gowda Malhar, Jonpuri, Gurjari Todi, Madhukauns, and Chandrakauns.

Smt. Kalyani’s compositions are on different God/Goddess/Godheads in different language. Her Kaanada composition on Lord Venkateswara – ‘Saptagirisam sada Bhajeham’ is a popular kriti sung by many veteran artists of Camatic music. She has composed kriits in rare ragas like Bhavapriya, Bhavani, Yagapriya, Vijayanagari etc. She has composed on Lord Venkateshwara (Saptha Girisham in Kaanada, Maha Venkateswara in Raga Bahudari), Ranganatha of Srirangam temple (Vainatheya Vaahanam in raga Mohanam).

It is understood that she composed songs when ever and where ever she visited a temple. That was her way of admiring and expression of feelings. For instance when she had visited Yadagiri district, Jwala Narasimhan temple, she composed a kriit in the raga Kanada. Similarly when she visited Chamundeshwari temple she composed ‘Chandikeshwareem Asrayamyaham’ in the raga Abhogi. Apart from this she has composed two vamams – one tana vamam in raga Subhapanthuvarali (Pahimam Payorasi Putri) and One pada vamam in the raga Vachaspathi on Raja-rajeswari- This is a Pada vamam is more apt for the dance concert. She has composed a Thillana in the raga Bhushavali and a raga malika in rupaka tala. Her compositions are well appreciated and rendered by many musicians all over. Her works were popularized and propagated by various senior performing musicians like (late) Prof. Sh. T.R. Subramaniam, Tanjore S. Kalyanaraman, Madurai Somasundaram (Somu), S. Rajam etc.

Her compositions carry Chittaswaras, madyamakala sahitya and a careful application of grammatical aspects of Camatic music like Yati, Prasam, Samasam, Vibhakti etc. Perhaps she has followed the footsteps of Muthuswami Dikshitar in her compositions. The words incorporated in the sahitya are of very high order with appropriate usage. She used the Svanama Mudra ‘Kalyani’ or ‘Kalyani Varada’as her signature in the compositions. The mudra blends with the sahitya, as it appears.

Smt. Kalyani Varadarajan had the rare distinction of being a performing musician in three different genres and graded in Vocal, Violin and Veena and has given concerts on the AIR (All India Radio) and also on the stage. She has toured to USA and Japan etc. for concerts during the days when global travel was not all that common like the present day.

Smt. Kalyani passed away on 28th October 2003, and her memories are cherished through her compositions.

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Toronto to Host the 14th Annual Asian Music Series in April and May

Small World Music has announced the lineup for the 14th Annual Asian Music Series, a set of concerts that celebrates Asian and South Asian Heritage Month. The series will take place from April 2nd to May 29th, 2016 at several of the finest venues in Toronto.

Highpoints this year include a strong female presence, with two of the most significant artists in South Asian music, Anoushka Shankar and Abida Parveen. Other performers include Indo-Canadian star Kiran Ahluwalia, pipa maestra Wu Man and singer Ramneek Singh, among many others.

Also scheduled is the new Small World Music Explorers Program, a cross-promotional initiative for purchasing tickets in the city.
Asian Music Series Program:

Wednesday, April 6
Anoushka Shankar (India)
Koerner Hall

Thursday, April 7
Tsumugu (Japan)
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre

Saturday, April 9
Wu Man & Shanghai Quartet (China)
Markham Theatre

Thursday, April 28
Kiran Ahluwalia (India / Canada)
Markham Theatre

Friday, April 29
Shuujat Khan / Ramneek Singh (India / Canada)
Aga Khan Museum

Saturday, May 7
Globtrotter – Adham Shaikh (Canada)
Round

Friday, May 13
Tabla Workshop TBA (India)
Small World Music Centre

Sunday, May 15
Abida Parveen (Pakistan)
Roy Thomson Hall

Friday, May 20
Avatar (Canada /India)
Small World Music Centre

Saturday, May 28
Telematic Asia (Canada / China)
Small World Music Centre

Sunday, May 29
Mekaal & Haniya (Pakistan / Canada)
Lula Lounge

More information at www.smallworldmusic.com.

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Sitar Wonder Anoushka Shankar to Perform at CAP UCLA in April 2016

Anoushka Shankar
Anoushka Shankar

Sitar master and composer Anoushka Shankar is set to perform on Wednesday, April 13 at Royce Hall at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. Anoushka will appear with supporting musicians Manu Delago, the Austrian percussionist and frequent collaborator of Björk, on Hang drum; Tom Farmer on acoustic bass and keyboards/piano. Multi-instrumentalist Sanjeev Shankar, who plays the shehnai (double reed oboe) along with live electronics, completes the lineup.

Profoundly rooted in the Indian Classical music tradition, Anoushka studied exclusively from the age of nine under her father and guru, the late Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut as a classical sitarist at the age of thirteen. By the age of 20, she had made three classical recordings for EMI/Angel and received her first Grammy nomination, thus becoming the first Indian female and youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category. In 2005, Anoushka released her self-produced breakthrough album Rise.

In 2011 Anoushka signed to Deutsche Grammophon, releasing Traveller (produced by Spanish musician Javier Limon). This was followed by Traces of You (produced by Nitin Sawhney and featuring Anoushka’s half-sister Norah Jones on vocals), and Home, a purely Indian Classical album where she returned to the Ragas her father had taught her.

Her new album Land of Gold, Shankar’s response to the humanitarian trauma of displaced people fleeing conflict and poverty, will be released in the US on Deutsche Grammophon on April 1st.

General tickets are available at cap.ucla.edu, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 310.825.2101 or in person at the UCLA Central Ticket Office on campus.

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Magnificent Indian Blues

Michael Messer’s Mitra – Call of the Blues (Knife Edge Records, 2016)

Two great music traditions come together on ‘Call of the Blues’: American blues and Indian classical music. It’s a combination in the skilled hands of Michael Messer’s Mitra. The trio includes British blues modernizer, vocalist and slide guitarist, Michael Messer; Hindustani mohan veena (slide guitar) master Manish Pingle (Mumbai, India), and London-based tabla player, Gurdain Singh Rayatt.

‘Call of the Blues’ combines traditional form rural blues songs with Indian ragas and opportunities for improvisation, showcasing the talent of the musicians. It’s fascinating combination of slide guitar styles from different parts of the globe that flows very nicely.

Michael Messer met Manish Pingle during a trip to Mumbai in 2013. They ended up jamming on two mohan veena’s at Pingle’s home. The two musicians enjoyed the experience and vowed to work together again. Six months later, Manish traveled to London where he played a concert with Messer. They invited tabla maestro Gurdain Rayatt to join them on stage and the trio was formed.

In 2015, Michael Messer’s Mitra toured the UK and recorded their first album, ‘Call of the Blues’.

Call of the Blues is a remarkable fusion of country blues with Hindustani music showcasing the splendor of the slide guitar and the talent of three extraordinary musicians.

Buy Call of the Blues in North America

Buy Call of the Blues in Europe

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Don’t Nix the Mix

Seems like a clear majority of releases coming my way nowadays are some kind of fusion music. It hasn’t been easy tearing myself away from specific genres I know and love, but this thing we call World Music is getting ever more, well, worldly, and being along for the sonic global ride can result in finding music that excites listeners as much as breathtaking sights thrill literal travelers.

You’d expect an album with a title like Planetary Coalition (Skol Productions, 2015) to be pretty far-reaching, and it is. Under the guidance of guitarist Alex Skolnick, a versatile axe man known mainly for dual identities as a thrash metal and jazz player, this sizable, ArtistShare-sponsored coalition shines on 75 minutes of sounds from many a corner of the world.

Skolnick’s string finesse trades off gracefully with the santoor of Max ZT on several tracks, matches the deft fire of Rodrigo y Gabriela on another, makes the textures of Yacouba Sissoko’s kora that much more heavenly, underpins Kiran Ahluwalia’s ghazal-influenced vocals with the proper mysticism and adds electricity to the tart tones of Adnan Joubran’s oud. And that’s barely marring the surface. There are Argentinian, Eastern European, Far Eastern and Latin Jazz ingredients here as well, and notable guest players aplenty. Yet this mainly instrumental set doesn’t overreach. It’s an ear feast that satisfyingly blends the familiar and the unexpected.

 

Idan Raichel - At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016)
Idan Raichel – At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016)

 

For the time being he’s put aside the Idan Raichel Project name and recording simply as Idan Raichel on At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016). An Israeli keyboardist, composer, producer and arranger, Raichel has (apart from his acoustic albums with Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure) long blended Jewish, Arabic and African sounds with a worldly dance music sensibility. His new one finds him more introspective, starting off with a pair of chamber-like pieces that primarily showcase Raichel on piano.

Programmed rhythms fuel the tracks that follow but the feel stays rather whispery. The tracks are short and many have a lulling quality to them, reflective of Raichel’s recent identity as the father of two small children. Sparse instrumentation in the form of things like accordion, cello, saxophone and baglama stays on the supportive outer edges of the songs, which are delicate in their construction but have their own quiet strength. While not as groundbreaking as Raichel’s earlier material, his latest nevertheless gets to the heart of its matter by being touchingly low-key.

 

Karim Nagi - Detour Guide
Karim Nagi – Detour Guide

 

Karim Nagi has got a thing or two to say about Arabic culture and Detour Guide (Self-released, 2015) says it with percussion, spoken words, rap-like cadences and beat backdrops. Born in Egypt and presently based in Boston, Nagi is out to dispel myths, question stereotypes, recount history, impart truths and make both humorous and serious points about what it is to be of Arabic ethnicity nowadays.

He seamlessly mixes the cheeky with the sincere on titles like “What Arabs Do For Fun,” “Oriental Magic Carpet,” “Heart Full of Cairo” and “If I Were Hummus,” bringing so many observations to the table that you’ll have to listen to this disc multiple times to digest it all. It’s a kind of aural performance art that’s impossible to describe in any significant detail, but a rewarding listening and learning experience just the same.

 

Black Masala - I Love You Madly
Black Masala – I Love You Madly

 

A mashup of Balkan brass, stomping funk, Gypsy zest, punkish energy and Afrobeat syncopation, I Love You Madly by Washington DC’s Black Masala is a rousing fun burst of energy and true musical chops that’ll get you smiling and busting dance moves you didn’t think you had in you. While the music changes gears quite a bit, it does so rightly and tightly, such that the resulting songs are full of infectious instrumental and vocal passion rather than just one hot mess after another. Great stuff.

 

 David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon - Andalucian Love Song

David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon – Andalucian Love Song

 

The musical connections between Moorish Spain, North Africa and the Middle East have been explored before, but seldom as grandly as the work of David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon on Andalusian Love Song (Magenta, 2015). One of Israel’s most respected singer/songwriters, Broza here has a number of his tunes arranged for a 35-piece ensemble of strings (bowed, plucked and strummed), reeds, brass and percussion.

Improvised interludes set the mood between the songs, which range in feel from aching to celebratory (much like the ups and downs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that often figures into Broza’s work). The vocals are richly emotive and the music, under the direction of conductor and arranger Tom Cohen, is unfailingly superb.

 

Avataar - Petal
Avataar – Petal

Avataar, a band led by Toronto-based saxophonist/flautist Sundar Viswanathan, achieves a crackling good mixture of Indian classical music, jazz and ambient frameworks on Petal (InSound Records, 2015).

Viswanathan’s reeds put forth the same sonic sweetness as Felicity Williams’ largely wordless vocals, and the expert support of Michael Occhipinti (guitars), Justin Gray (bass, mandolin), Ravi Naimpally (tabla, percussion) and Giampaolo Scatozza (drums) provides serpentine grooves, nimble melodies and unending pleasure. The music is intricate without being overbearing or showy, and the result is blissful.

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A Middle Eastern Star in the Making

The Ragam Tanam Pallavi was in full flow. Nodding my head contentedly, I happened to see the artiste’s parents sitting a little away from me. And it occurred to me that Tiruvalluvar might have been inspired by a similar sight to write his famous couplet about what makes a parent most happy: undisputed evidence of their offspring’s accomplishments. And Archana Murali did just that for her parents on 5th February at the Krishna temple in Muscat. A chance attendee would have found it difficult to believe that this was her first ever solo performance. He or she would have thought yet another star of Carnatic music had come visiting the city.

As the curtains went up, one could see a young, somewhat nervously smiling girl, barely in her teens. But all that was forgotten by the time she finished her opening varnam in Vasantha ragm and launched into Papanasam Sivan’s “ganapathiye” in karaharapriya.

The chittaswarams were crisp and brisk, setting the mood of the concert. “Palimpa” in aarabhi followed, followed by “Muruga” (Periyasami Tooran) in Saveri where she gave ample evidence of her ability to handle a tisranadai talam. She had the attention of the audience fully by now.

When she took up a partimadhyama melakarta Dharmavati for alapana next, I was impressed by her choice. The alapana was elaborate, yet free of any shades of Madhuvanti. Udupi S. Srijith who accompanied on the violin gave a masterful and melodious reply. She went on to sing the popular “bhajana seya rada O Ramuni” of Mysore Vasudevachar.

After a brisk “Maakelara” in Ravichandrika, Archana launched into her main piece of the day, “ Koluvamare” in Todi. In the alapana she revealed her understanding of the wide range offered by Todi. Perhaps because the stage was very warm due to the bright lights, she found her throat going dry when she explored the lower octaves.

The kriti was handled like an expert, and she gave generous opportunities to her senior colleague on the violin, like a seasoned expert! The Tani avartanam that followed, with Muscat’s own Nandagopal on the mridangam and Trivandrum Rajesh on the ghatam, was impeccable, and added glory to the concert, which, by now, had the audience totally engrossed.

Nandagopal, a mentor of sorts for young Archana, produced yet another brilliant exposition on the mridangam, reinforcing this reviewer’s opinion that he belongs in the prime time slots in Chennai’s major sabhas. Rajesh was very impressive with his laya suddham, on his incredibly melodious instrument. This Tani will be remembered for a long time by all those who witnessed it.

For a first timer, wrapping up the concert with a few tukkadas would have been more than acceptable. But Archana had no intensions of being a mere beginner. She went on to prove her mettle by singing a short “bantu reethi” in Hamsanadham which she cleverly chose to start at the anupallavi, and followed it up by a surprisingly elaborate RTP in Kapi.

In both the alapana and tanam, she and Srijith regaled the audience with phrases soaked in bhava. The pallavi itself was not remarkable in its phraseology, but Archana scored again in the ragamalika, exploring charukesi, Misra Sivaranjani and Kalyani to her credit. By now, the concert had gone on for about two and a half hours. Archana has a wonderful voice, and it held steady to the very end, which came after another thirty minutes or so of soulful singing: Papanasam Siva’s “nambi kettavar evarayya” in Hindolam, the popular Maand piece “Muralidhara”, and the Purandara Dasa kriti “ Innu day barade” in Kalyana Vasantham.

She wrapped up her concert with Lalgudi Jayaraman’s lilting thillana in Karnaranajni to a standing ovation by the much impressed, and very discerning Muscat audience.

To have the fortune of being born to parents who are both excellent musicians is one thing, but to have the commitment and application to score so well in her maiden concert, deserved the accolade she got.

Well done Archana! Here is another Middle Eastern Star ready to light up the Chennai sky in the annual seasons to come!

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