Tag Archives: Indian music

World Music Introduction to Dr. Jyotsna Srikanth

Jyotsna Srikanth – Fusion Dreams

Jyotsna Srikanth – Fusion Dreams (Times Music, 2013)

This is an interesting world music debut by Dr. Jyotsna Srikanth. An accomplished violinist with a number of album releases and movie soundtrack performances, Jyotsna plays violin in eight different styles on this CD.

The London-based doctor showcases her musical skills with tracks in Irish, Arabic, Indian, African and Western themes.

She is accompanied by Praveen Rao on keyboards, Keith Peters on bass and N.S. Prasad on mandolin. Fans of violin would like this album, though purists may find it hard to pin it down to a single niche.

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Artist Profiles: Karsh Kale

Karsh Kale

Tabla Player, Drummer, Producer, Composer, Remix Artist and D.J. Karsh Kale combines the music of ancient India and cutting edge electronica. His solo work is an expedition into the uncharted sound of South Asian America. Being an Indian born in the U.K and brought up in the United States the fundamentals of jazz, rock, hip hop and modern electronica play as much a role in Kale’s style as Indian classical and folk music does.

It is this amalgam of sound that is Kale’s trademark “Classical Science Fiction From India… The Urban Raag”. Numerous artists from all over the world have employed Karsh’s hybridized styles. In a few short years Karsh has worked and performed with artists such as Bill Laswell, Sting, Paula Cole, Hassan Hakmoun, Sussan Deyhim, Gigi, Talvin Singh, Ustad Nishat Khan, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ustad Sultan Khan, Arto Lindsay, Will Calhoun, Rakesh Chaurasia, Ramesh Misra, Clevland Watkiss, Shankar Mahadevan, Jojo Meyer and many others.

Karsh Kale – Photo by Suraj Warrier

Karsh’s Bi-weekly event Futureproof finds him pleasing the New York City underground with his DJ and live electric tabla sets. Indian classical dub drum and bass jungle reggae and ambient influences come together to create the Futureproof aesthetic. The event features a live band led by Kale which has been recognized as one of the leading live drum and bass events in New York.

Karsh has transplanted his sound to other arenas as well. He has produced remixes for artists ranging from Paula Cole to DJ Spooky and can be heard performing on works by Sussan Deyhim, Talvin Singh, Amel Larrouex, DJ Logic and Ming & FS. He has composed scored and performed for film theatre and television including works for Paramount NBC and Seneca Falls. The breadth of Karsh’s performance abilities is wide. In addition to performing on both drum kit and electric tabla in Europe and Canada he has toured the country with DJ Spooky and EBN.

Karsh Kale

Aware of the effect of live music as well as DJing Karsh has performed at many festivals. In 2002 Kale visited Paris performing alongside Iranian vocalist Sussan Deyhim and did a string of dates with the breakbeat jam band Sound Tribe Sector 9.

In 2011 Karsh Kale released Cinema his fifth and most ambitious album to date. Kale’s forays into scoring films for India’s growing Bollywood film industry provided the greatest influence to hisusual palette of progressive electro-rock and Indian classical music. In the two years of writing the album on piano and guitar Karsh challenged himself to write songs with a Western ear, further blurring the boundaries between rock world and electronic music.

Discography:

Realize ( Six Degrees Records, 2001)
Redesign: Realize Remixed ( Six Degrees Records, 2002)
Liberation ( Six Degrees Records, 2003)
Broken English ( Six Degrees Records, 2006)
Breathing Under Water, with Anoushka Shankar ( Manhattan Records, 2007)
Cinema ( Six Degrees Records, 2010)
UP (Six Degrees Records, 2016)

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The Musical Joy of the Gypsies of Rajasthan

Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan – Times of Maharajas (ARC Music

There are some CDs that are remarkable easy to review. These are the ones filled with a musical joy and a mastery that goes beyond just mere proficiency. Times of Maharajas by the Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan out on the ARC Music label is just one of those recordings.

With the 2005 Dhoad Gypsies: From Rajasthan” under their belt, more than a 1000 concerts in more 100 countries in the last 18 years, performances for the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former President of France Francois Holland and gig for The Rolling Stones’s Mick Jagger’s birthday, Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan are again taking us into the rich and colorful musical traditions of the north west Indian state of Rajasthan on Times of Maharajas.

Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan – Times of Maharajas

Overflowing with harmonium, sarangi, kartal, dholak, tabla and some truly extraordinary vocals, Times of Maharajas is extravagantly lush and infectiously joyful. Seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy a recording that has a song entitled “Romantic Peacock?” Musical director and tabla player Rahis Bharti intent on keeping alive the musical and dance traditions of Rajasthan lends his own tabla to Times of Maharajas along with Sanjay Khan, vocalist and harmonium player, sarangi players Ustad Sabri Khan and Ustad Lyikat Ali Khan, singer and kartal player Bilal Khan, dholak player Yakub Khan, singer Moinuddin Khan and tabla players Teepu Khan and Amrat Hussain.

Times of Maharajas is a delight from the opening strains of “Sona ra button banna (The Prince Is Born)” as the courtly life of the maharajas takes on life through each track.

Carefully crafted and intricately worked, Times of the Maharajas expresses a pure musical joyfulness by way of the syncopated vocals against harmonium on the opening before taking shape into “Breathing Under the Water,” and on the happy groove conjured up on “Janwariyo (Romantic Peacock),” or by way of the sweet saranji lines on “Lullaby.”

And the delights just keep coming with “Dhanra Saheba ji (Dream Wedding),” “Nagar bele (Never Let You Go)” and simply fabulous “Royal Dance of Rajasthan Ghoomar.”

Listeners get a real treat by way of a four minute thirty-two second tabla solo with a deliciously threaded harmonium for company on “Tabla Solo” before Times of Maharajas closes with the exotics of “Begha ghara ayo (Maharani Longing for Maharaja).”

Times of Maharajas is a magically rich listen into the times of the maharajas.

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Symphonies of the Taj

Abhishek Ray – Symphonies of the Taj

Abhishek Ray – Symphonies of the Taj (Music Today, 2011)

This album is intended to evoke some of the grandeur and romantic aura of the Taj Mahal, widely regarded as the “Eternal symbol of Love.” The music is symphonic, and blends Indian sounds along with Arabic and other world influences.

Instruments like sarangi, flute and sitar dominate the sound. The 8 tracks stretch to about 50 minutes, and our picks include the two pieces Taj Bazaar and Streets of Agra.

This CD, composed by Abhishek Ray, is one of twelve albums in the Amazing India Series, targeted at the tourist market.

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Freedom and Leela’s Mantra Fusion

Freedom and Leela – Ru

Freedom and Leela – Ru (Times Music, 2011)

This is an album for the more spiritually inclined. The 9 tracks are renditions of sacred Hindu mantras, blended with an acoustic fusion of flute, piano and guitar. Not as electric or percussion-heavy as other fusion artists like Prem Joshua, this CD is decidedly more mellow and meditative.

Our pick is the piece Guru. This album is a good listen early in the morning, particularly for foreign listeners not well versed with Indian devotional music. The artistes named Freedom and Leela have presented their fusion works at performances in a number of countries around the world.

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Grammatical Aspects Of Carnatic Music

Music is universal and is the life line of sublime expression.

Carnatic composer and violinist Dr. L. Subramanian

Carnatic music is basically an application in complete expansion within given restrictions.  An artistic uniqueness is created within a grammatical limits.  Rules of grammar in Carnatic music have not prevented the great writers from producing creative, beautiful works of literature.

A sentence in any language is a collection of words that conveys sense or meaning and is formed according to the logic of grammar.  Similarly, Sruti and Laya are the main grammatical aspects which makes music melodic. Sruti and Laya are like mother and father in Carnatic music.  

Music gets the identity as art form with the imbibing of the highest values of Lakshaya and Lakshana.   Lakshaya and Lakshana of art form are like Sruti and Smriti relationship of sacred Veda, Upanishad, Brahma sutra etc.    Lakshana defines and establishes the form. Abstract nature compelled Lakshana formation for the ease and comfort of practitioners, teachers, students and performers and also for the connoisseurs and discerning listeners.

The Music of India is one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world.  It is said that the origins of this go back to the Vedas. During the Sangam literature, music and dance were the main attraction or entertainment among the mass.  Legend has played significant part in shaping and promoting the role of music in Indian culture. Silappadikaram is the first and foremost a treatise on music. The Puranas were written to elucidate the truths preserved in the Vedas and present them in capsules and modules to the music aspirants.

Ragamala Dance Company – Photo by Hub Wilson

There are 22 Srutis well known in the Carnatic music arena. Creation of raga is made easy with these 22 Srutis and to differentiate one raga from another. Swara is an essential aspect in a Varnam, Kriti, Keertana and other forms of music.  Saptaswara is the universally known syllables in music. Sa and Pa being Achala Swaras, out of 5 remaining Swaras, Ma has two variety and other four i.e. Ri, Ga, Dha and Ni have 3 varieties each. Thus there are 16 Swaras.  Composition in Carnatic music is required to follow prosodic order.  In so far as Tala there are 10 Pranas known as Tala Dasa Pranas. This gives detail characteristics of a Tala structure.                

Music too has diversified into different genres. There are classical Music like Carnatic and Hindustani.  Carnatic music is one of the few musical systems of the world blending a fine technical structure to a profound aesthetic value.  It is a melodic system based on fundamental sounds known as Srutis, which form the basis for the definition of notes, known as Swaras.  Particular sets of Swaras are used to construct melodies known as Ragas. 

Each of the innumerable ragas of Carnatic music is defined by rules of usage of its note called Raga Lakshana including the permissible and forbidden manners of ascent, the Arohanam and descent, the Avarohanam, the aesthetics of transition between notes, the Gamakas and their relative importance.  Shift of tonic is the process by which new Melas can be evolved. 

Mridangam virtuoso Sridhar Parthasarathy

Compositions in Carnatic music possess multiple dimensions.  The aesthetic element refers to the melodic value extended by the raga and its intensive usage with the lyrical aspect. The prosodic dimension describes the technical or grammatical value associated with the poetic meter. The rhythmic element captures the association of the Sahitya and prosody according to the Tala to which a composition is set to. The grammatical aspects in Raga, Tala and compositions are briefly discussed below:

Grammatical aspects of raga alapana:

We are aware that the raga alapana has undergone organized expansion from time to time. However the raga alapana paddhati now in vogue is as per the Matanga’s raga paddhati. There are three main stages of alapana- 1. Akshiptika (introduction) 2. Raga Vardhani (main content of alapana) and 3. Sthayi and 4. Makarini , the concluding part of alapana.

In Akshiptika a succinct form of raga is presented by the musician for making a clear identification of raga by the listeners.

Raga Vardhani which is the second stage of Alapana, has 4 stages – Eduppu (commencement) and Muktayi (conclusion) for every stage i.e. Vidari I-IV.

In the concluding part of Alapana the Arohana Sthayi and Avarohana Sthayi is maintained and Sthayi Sanchara is done with madhyamakala sanchara and in higher octave sanchara and finally concluding with avorohana karma. In some ragas it is concluded in higher octave Sadjam also.

Again while analyzing the aspect of grammar in raga Alapana, the exposition of a raga sung before a kriti is different from the one sung before a Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi.  In both the situation the raga Swarupa has to be shown maintaining the grammatical aspect of raga alapana.  But in for a Pallavi singing the raga Alapana is slightly expanded than singing before a Kriti. This in itself is a full topic for discussion with proper examples. Its quiet amusing that some raga give scope for elaborate exposition whereas some have very little scope. It is observed that the present day artists have made a research even to sing such ragas elaborately giving importance to each swara sancharas within the permitted scope.

Grammar in Tala

The variety of Tala as in Carnatic music is not found in any other musical form. When we discuss about Tala it has 10 pranaas to be followed. Tala is the strength for a composition.  As a hand of clock moves according to a time sequence (rhythm) so also in Tala which has a time frame,  moves around set to the letters. We have variety of Talas like Sapta Tala, 175 Talas, 108 Talas, Navasanthi Tala etc., each has different parts and style of presentation.

Each Tala has angas- Anudrutham, Drutam, Lagu, Guru, Plutham and Kakapadam.  These are taught to the students at the initial stages of learning. Alankaram lessons are very apt to explain these aspects. But all these Angas are not used in a normal Tala. These are more applicable for dance where every small variation can be explained with an Abhinaya.

There are several ways of doing a Tala. Here we count time, and several gestures are involved like joining two hand, counting the fingers, lifting the hands up, turning right and left etc. etc. 

Yathi pattern is adopted in the Kalpana Swaras by musicians which adds beauty to the composition and also the Tala kattu. Similarly different Chaapu Talas have its own attraction and added value to the composition.

Grammar of a composition

A composition has three parts: Padam, Prasam and Yathi.

Padam refer to the sentences in the composition. For e.g. Marukela ra O’Raghava in Jayanthasri Ragam or Sri Saraswathi in Arabhi raga. The compositions are usually set to Adi, Rupaka or chapu Talas.

Prasam – 3 kinds of Prasam – Adiprasam, Anuprasam and Antyaprasam. The pattern of words in the sentences must be uniform. Prasam and Yati both are important.

In Adiprasam the second letter of the first word will be same.

                     e.g. Seethapathe naa manasuna (pallavi)

                            Vaathathmaja dule chenda (Anupallavi)

                               (Kamaas – Tyagaraja)

Anuprasam : the words sound similar in the sentence.

                     e.g. Balakanakamaya chelasujanapari-

                            Balasri Rama Lola vidruta sara

                             (Atana- Tyagaraja)

In Antyaprasa there will be similar sound at the end of the sentence.   

 E.g. Dikshitar kriti in Anandabhairavi –

                   Manasa Guru Guharoopam Bajare –re

                   Mayamaya Hrithithapam    Thyajare- re

Yati denotes the word pattern in a composition. It will be similar to that of Anuprasam in the sentence.

Similarly for a Pallavi, Vilomam, Anulomam and Pratiloman should be maintained.

Thus it is seen that Carnatic music has grammatical rules which needs to be followed.  From the basic lesson (Abhyasagana) to the kriti singing the set pattern of grammar is required to be followed in order to give an esthetic sense and also to add embellishment in rendering.

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Baba Da’s Great Tradition

Adidam Sacred Music Guild – Baba Da’s Great Tradition

Adidam Sacred Music Guild – Baba Da’s Great Tradition (WorldWide Records, 2007)

The acoustic music on this CD was spontaneously improvised by musicians from the Adidam Sacred Music Guild in the presence of “The Avataric Great Sage,” Adi Da Samraj, during his visit to the United States in 2005. The musicians’ backgrounds include Indian classical, Western classical and jazz.

The 10 tracks have no specific names other than Improvisation. The ones which stand out include Improvisation No. 3 with its fine blend of sarod, piano and flute, and Improvisation No. 10 woven around a bhajan.

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The Experimental Side of Sheila Chandra

Sheila Chandra – This Sentence is True

Sheila Chandra – This Sentence is True (EMI/Narada, 2001)

Sheila Chandra, the Anglo-Indian singer who released a number of synth-pop albums in the 1980s, is in a more experimental mood in this album. Her earlier releases include ABoneCroneDrone.

This album is rather intriguingly named, and our picks on this album include the three tracks briefly titled This, Sentence and Is! The sound is ambient, but less sensual and more fragmented. Her vocals are mixed with percussion, piano riffs, guitar riffs and crackling sounds.

The album may come across a bit jarring or even dissonant to some listeners, especially those used to more rhythmic arrangements, and the 7 tracks barely stretch beyond 45 minutes.

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Sheila Chandra Out on Her Own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own (Indipop, 1984, reissued by Narada//EMI in 2000)

This is a slender album by today’s standards, with 10 tracks just stretching over 40 minutes. But it is an important milestone in the musical path of Sheila Chandra, leading UK-based Indian-origin fusion artist from the 1980s.

As the liner notes explain, this was Sheila Chandra’s declaration of independence from pressure from her first label, after scoring a U.K. hit with the group Monsoon and the song, “Ever So Lonely.”


Sheila Chandra – Out on my Own, Narada reissue

Tablas, keyboards, guitar and sitars provide the backing for her strong experimental vocals. Our picks include the title track and the ambient ‘Prema;’ also check out the dreamy ‘From a Whisper.’

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Anoushka Shankar Live, a Dazzling Experience

Anoushka Shankar

Last night, March 21, sitar phenomenon, composer and world music star Anoushka Shankar performed at Fletcher Hall in the Carolina Theater of Durham, North Carolina. Anoushka charmed the audience with a remarkable mix of Indian classical music ragas, contemporary world fusion material rooted in Indian traditions and cinematic music.

The concert started with two spectacular ragas that showcased Anoushka Shankar’s talent as a sitarist and her equally impressive ensemble. Later, she performed material from Traces of You, her remarkable collaboration with Nitin Sawhney. The concert ended with excerpts from her first film score, the soundtrack to a silent epic film called Shiraz from 1928. The music for Shiraz reflected the intrigue and passion that occurs during the film.

Throughout the concert there were abundant examples of virtuosity with enthralling call and response interactions between the sitar, tabla, mrindangam and bamboo flute.

The ensemble included Ojas Adhiya (India) on tabla, Pirashanna Thevarajah (UK) on mridangam, Ravichandra Kulur on flute (India), Danny Keane (UK) on cello and piano, and Kenji Ota (Japan) on tanpura. For this concert, Anoushka invited a young Durham woman to join the ensemble on bass tanpura.

Anoushka Shankar will be performing in Washington DC tomorrow, March 23 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. She will later cross the Atlantic to perform in Dublin on Saturday, April 6 at The National Concert Hall; the Royal Festival Hall in London, United Kingdom on April 9; and she’ll fly back to the USA to perform at Campbell Hall in Santa Bárbara, California on April 17.

Special thanks to Eric Oberstein and King Kenney at Duke Performances for their support.

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