Tag Archives: Indian music

The Diverse Background of Jai Uttal


Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective

Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective (Free Spirit/Triloka, 2000)

Jai Uttal is a veteran musician and singer-songwriter from New York, and this album reflects his diverse background in blues, R&B, and later on Baul and Indian classical (studying sarod under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan).

The instrumentation is superb, and well showcased on the 12 tracks of this 10-year retrospective. Our picks include the dreamy piece Corner, the finger-snapping Footprints, reggae-influenced Hara Shiva Shankara, rock-driven Malkouns, jazzy devotional piece Govinda, and Petition to Ram. Check out this prolific artist’s other albums like Dial M for Mantra, Shiva Station, Pranayama, Music for Yoga, Yoga Chant and Mondo Rama.

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Anita Aysola’s Captivating Wide Range of Influences

Anita Aysola – Beyond Our Dream

Anita Aysola – Beyond Our Dreams (Anita Aysola, 2018)

Singer-songwriter and pianist Anita Aysola, an artist born in India and raised in the USA, bridges contemporary American jazz, blues, R&B and rock with Indian influences on her album
Beyond Our Dream.

Aysola uses English-language vocals in a style similar to Norah Jones as well as fascinating Indian classical vocal forms. The instrumentation and arrangements combine rock instrumentation with beautiful bansuri flute, tabla and Indian-style violin.

The album was produced by Chamrat Chakrabarty. The lineup includes Anita Aysola on vocals, Fender Rhodes and piano; John Clark on guitar and backing vocals; Sameer Gupta on drums, tabla and backing vocals; Arun Ramamurthy on violin; Rashaan Carter on bass; Jay Ghani on bansuri; Chamrat Chakrabarty on keyboards; Konrad Payne on bass; and Shane Allessio on acoustic bass.

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Raga Jazz from Washington DC

Broto Roy Quartet – All Barriers Fall

On All Barriers Fall (Buzkhashi Rercords, 2018), Washington DC-based Broto Roy Quartet plays original melodic pieces and improvisation, where Indian music meets American jazz.

The raga jazz group displays fascinating interplay. It is led by composer and tabla player Broto Roy and features Indro Roy Chowdhury on sitar and drones, Steve Zerlin on electric bass and Bruce Swaim on flute and saxophone.

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Charming Vocal Works by Shirish Korde


Shirish Korde – Ka

“Ka” (Svrasa Records, 2012) is a vocal work for soprano and chamber ensemble. Here, Indian vocal forms intersect western contemporary classical music. Shirish Korde is a United States-based composer who was born in Uganda to Indian parents.

The vocals are provided by neuroscientist and masterful Indian classical vocalist Deepti Navaratna. On two of the pieces, Deepti Navaratna is joined by Boston Music Viva ensemble.  On “Anuswara” we find Deepti interacting with Jan Müller-Szeraws’s versatile cello.

“Ka” has a deeply percussive feel, presenting Deepti on evocative vocals and konakol (Indian vocal percussion). This outstanding piece features Deepti on overdubbed vocals and tabla maestro Amit Kavthekar on konakol and tabla. The konakol interaction between the two musicians is truly fascinating.

“Pilu” is a solo vocal composition with spellbinding vocals overdubs and drone.

The Ka album is deeply satisfying and highly original.

Buy Ka

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Artist Profiles: Amalgama

Karnataka College of Percussion

Amalgama was the amazing result of the collaboration between Spanish Flamenco and Jazz musicians and the renowned Karnataka College of Percussion, from India.

The idea behind the project was to blend two cultures with a common background: Gypsy Flamenco (it is believed that Gypsies originally came from India) and Indian music. Flamenco vocals (which have some similarities with Indian vocals), rhythms (especially the palmas or hand clappings) and guitars were mixed with Indian vocals and percussion.

The musicians involved were: T.A.S. Mani (mridangam), Ramamani (Indian vocals, konakol), Sheshikumar (kanjira), Tunsi Beyer (ghatam, tabil), Xavi Turull (tabla, ghatam, berimbau), Juan Parrilla (flute), Jesús Losada (Flamenco guitar), Antonio Ramos (bass), Pau Martinez (congas) and Charo Manzano (Flamenco vocals).

The group only recorded one album titled Encuentro.

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Deeply Intense Indian Fusion

 “Playing With Fire” (7D Media, 2918) by Deep Energy Orchestra is a great example of electric fusion, where Indian classical, progressive rock and jazz find a common ground. The Deep Energy Orchestra is characterized by the mesmerizing sounds of the Warr guitar, exquisite electric violin and masterful tabla.

The Deep Energy Orchestra lineup includes bassist and composer Jason Everett (Mister E), progressive rock virtuoso Trey Gunn (King Crimson), Indian percussion maestro Selvaganesh (John McLaughlin, Masters of Percussion), 7-string violin wonder Radhika Iyer and a Seattle-based classical string ensemble featuring Rachel Nesvig on violin, Aleida Gehrels on viola and Phil Hirschi on cello.

“Playing With Fire” is cutting edge, forward-thinking fusion at its best.

Buy Playing With Fire

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Nitin Sawhney to Present Brexit – A rational anthem for a national tantrum in London

Nitin Sawhney

The debut of Nitin Sawhney’s ‘Brexit’ – A rational anthem for a national tantrum, is scheduled for Saturday, February 23, 2019 at Barbican in London. Admission is free.

The show reflects the highs and lows of ‘Brexit Britain’, composed and performed by British Indian musician and composer Nitin Sawhney, members of his band, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) and London Community Voices, conducted by Jonathon Heyward. 

In this new commission, Sawhney considers the state of the nation, focusing on its modern-day elements of multiculturalism, diversity and people. Using his findings from a tour of UK towns and cities, Sawhney will showcase a new ‘anthem’ that he has devised to look away from the past and truly reflect our current society – both in its lyrics and music. Sawhney decided that the piece would be brought to life by the teenage musicians of the NYO – who represent those who will shape the society of tomorrow.

The performance will also feature material from Nitin Sawhney’s back catalogue of 11 solo studio albums: Spirit Dance (1994), Migration (1995), Displacing the Priest (1996), Beyond Skin (1999), Prophesy, Human, Philtre (2005), London Undersound (2008), Last Days of Meaning (2011), OneZero (2013), and Dystopian Dream (2015).

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Stunning Scottish Rajasthani Synthesis

Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora – Written in Water (Shoogle Records, 2018)

Written in Water is a fascinating collaboration between Scottish music innovators Shooglenifty and acclaimed Rajasthani ensemble Dhun Dhora. It’s a captivating fusion that brings together the Celtic traditions of Scotland and the music of Rajasthan (India). The album was recorded at the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and in Craigrothie, Scotland.

Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora had been collaborating for a few years and decided it was time to make an album together. The plan was to record at Mehrangarh Fort in 2016. The fort is one of the wonders of the world. It’s the former palace of the Maharaja of Marwar-Jodhpur that includes one of the most important museums in India.

Sadly, a member of each band passed away so plans were postponed. Shooglenifty’s fiddler Angus R Grant died on October 2016 of cancer. Then in February 2017 the band was informed that Dhun Dhora’s dholak player Roshan Khan had died in a traffic accident.

With assistance from Divya Bhatia of Jodhpur Riff, a music festival held in the Fort each year, Shooglenifty got the permits from the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and HH Maharaja Gaj Singhji to record in the Fort.


Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora – Written in Water

Shooglenifty arrived to India in September 2017 with producer Ben Seal and met with their Indian colleagues Dhun Dhora. Both ensembles contributed melodies and songs. They rehearsed and recorded in the 17th century Chokelao Palace, previously the Maharaja’s guest quarters.

The album pays tribute to the two musicians who died before the recording by featuring performances on two tracks recorded earlier.

The lineup on the album includes:

Shooglenifty: Angus R Grant on fiddle (track 1); Ewan MacPherson on mandolin, tenor banjo, jaw harp; Garry Finlayson on acoustic and electric 5-string banjos, EBow; James Mackintosh on drums, percussion, bass; Kaela Rowan on vocals; Malcolm Crosbie on guitars; Quee MacArthur on bass; and Laura Jane Wilkie on fiddle (tracks 2 – 8).

Dhun Dhora: Chanan Khan Manganiyar on dhol, dumbek; Dayam Khan Manganiyar on vocals, harmonium; Ghafoor Khan Manganiyar on khartal; Latif Khan Manganiyar on bhapang, morchang; Pyaru Khan Manganiyar on dhol; Roshan Khan Manganiyar on vocals (track 3); Sardar Khan Langa on sarangi, vocals; Sattar Khan Manganiyar on dhol; and Swaroop Khan Manganiyar on dhol, dholak.

Written in Water is an innovative and refreshing album where the music of two ancient and distant cultures come together with ease.

Buy the CD from beloud.co/shop/en/shooglenifty or the digital version from amazon.

headline photo: left to right: Swaroop Khan (dhol), Kaela Rowan (vocals), Quee MacArthur (bass), Sattar Khan (dhol), James Mackintosh (drums), Sardar Khan (sarangi), Ewan MacPherson (mandolin), Dayam Khan(vocals), Latif Khan (morchang), Ghafoor Khan (khartal), Channan Khan(dhol), Laura Wilkie (fiddle), Malcolm Crosbie (guitar), Pyaaru Khan (dhol).

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Anoushka Shankar to Perform in Miami in March 2019

Anoushka Shankar

Acclaimed Indian music composer and sitarist Anoushka Shankar is set to perform on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center.

Anoushka is the daughter of Ravi Shankar and sister of Norah Jones. Anoushka Shankar studied sitar under her father from a very young age and has gone on to master the instrument and also expand her musical horizons.

She has collaborated with leading classical orchestras and pop artists as diverse as Sting, M.I.A., Herbie Hancock, and her sister Norah Jones.

Anoushka Shankar’s discography includes: Anoushka, Anourag, Rise, Breathing Under Water, Traveller, Traces of You, Home, and Land of Gold.

Accompanied by a stellar quintet for this concert, Anoushka Shankar returns to her roots with a concert of meditative Indian classical ragas.

Doors 6:00 p.m., Show 7:00 p.m.
Tickets

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Bharathi Yaar – Musical Bio Play on the life of Mahakavi Bharathiyar by SB Creations

Mahakavi Bharathiyar

Tamil literature before Bharathi, and then there is Tamil literature after Bharathi,”  proclaims Appaduari, Subramania Bharathi’s  doting brother in law in one moving scene in the play. Never was a truer word spoken.

Mahakavi Bharathiyar, as he came to be known in his later life (alas, a rather short one, for he died when he was just 39), Bharathiyar is undoubtedly the Tamil equivalent of Shakespeare, a true watershed in Tamil literature.

His prolific writings spanned the entire gamut of literary forms. He introduced the Prose-Poetry form of expression, which to this day has not been bettered by any other writer. His passion for various social causes – women’s emancipation, equality of all religions, classes and castes, oneness of India’s peoples, and especially his love for freedom for the motherland, has inspired generations of Indians, across all sections of society, and all corners of the country.

Early in his career, he decided to wear the turban as a mark of respect for Sikhs whose indomitable spirit he greatly admired. His remarkably astute similes, his spontaneous lyrics, and his tenderness of approach to sensitive issues are legendary.

Few writers in any language can come close to his compositions extolling the love of a father for his daughter (Chinnachiru kiliye kannamma). Likewise, his poem about a naughty Lord Krishna epitomizes the love of a family for its mischievous, yet lovable son.

His song “ paayum oli nee enakku” is incomparable as a tribute to the “made for each other” philosophy. And all this in impeccable metre, each time and every time, without any contrived lyrics! This was not just genius – this was Muse in human avatar, although a cruelly short one. The mind shudders at the thought of what he would have achieved had he lived to be 70 or 80; and the heart goes heavy at this irreparable loss. But he himself would have spurned such thoughts – a man who lived life by his own rules till the end, defying the cruel English who battered him to death politically and economically, but whom he defeated with every word he wrote, every song he sang, every motivating speech he gave. In a most inspiring song (“Aaduvome, palli, paduvome”)  he declared many years before his death that India had gained independence, such was his conviction and belief.

 

Mahakavi Bharathiyar

 

As one among the millions of fans of Bharathiyar, I could go on and on about him and his contribution to literature and society, but I started this note as a review of the bio-play “Bharathi Yaar” (“Who Was Bharathiyaar”) by SB Creations in association with Thirukkural Pasarai of Muscat, staged yesterday (20/09/2018) to a packed hall at Al Falaj Hotel in Muscat, Oman. The organisers announced at the start that the play was 2 hours long, and that there would be no interval. They promised the audience wouldn’t notice the 2 hours passing.

When the show ended, the promise was more than delivered – no one left even afterwards for a long time, such was the wholesome experience everyone was treated to. The skillful combination of theater, film backdrops, music and dances was a clever move by the producers – it certainly held the audience’s attention better than a gripping storyline alone could have.  But then, the producers SBS Raman and Bharadwaj Raman, are son and grandson of the great Veena S Balachandar, a perfectionist in everything he did in his life, and those traits shine brightly through in the way the father-son duo have handled their production.

Scenes from Bharathiyar’s life have been strung together craftily, with background score made easy by the abundance of the protagonist’s own creations. The dialogues, written by Isaikkavi Ramanan, are outstanding, even when considering that Bharathiyar had made the task easy with his writings! What was even more impressive was Ramanan’s portrayal of Bharathiyar. His stature and bearing have an uncanny resemblance to the memory of Bharathiyar that generations of Tamilians carry (credit equally belongs to the make up artiste). He was ably supported by Dharma Raman playing Bharathiyar’s wife, and the famous classical musician Vijay Siva with his role as the self-appointed help of the family.

While the regular cast were totally at ease with their lines and histrionics, the many local artistes who chipped in with small but significant roles did remarkably well for themselves. Notable among these were Venkatramani, Savithri,  Sundaresan, and Govindarajan, Muscat’s own regulars in plays and musicals. Of the original cast, special mention needs to be made of the young girl who played Yadugiri, Bharathiyar’s adopted daughter. Her portrayal of Darupadi in the “Panchali Sabadam” scene, enhanced by some intuitive lighting, gave me goosebumps.

 

Mahakavi Bharathiyar

 

The abundant talent of the visitors from Chennai was clear in the concise introductions, the genuine thanksgiving by SBS Raman, and the unique tribute to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos by Ramanan. Oman’s proud expats make it a point to express their gratitude to the country’s  ruler at each and every function, something they do out of true love and admiration for perhaps the world’s  greatest and most benevolent ruler today; but Ramanan raised the bar very high with his honey sweet Tamil, and with his allusion to Bharathiyar’s love for Arabic language and Islam –  an aspect of the Mahakavi’s life I learnt yesterday.

I only wish the producers had enough finances to make better sets, better and less intrusive microphones for the artistes, and a stricter sense of discipline backstage. But for these very passable flaws, this was one unforgettable experience.  I emerged from the hall somewhat of an emotional wreck, and I bet I was not the only one to have felt so happily drained. This is a bio-play not to be missed by any patriotic Indian. And if you love Tamil, this is a feast nonparallel. Full marks to dear Sundar Kaleewaran for his single-minded devotion in bringing this epic play to Muscat.

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