The Carnatic violin: sliding strings of South India

Though the South Indian violin looks pretty much identical to its Western counterpart, their playing philosophies are worlds apart. For one thing, Carnatic classical violinists improvise most of their music on the spot, with no score or sheet music in sight. For another, they take a different approach to elaborating the notes themselves, focusing onContinue reading “The Carnatic violin: sliding strings of South India”

The bansuri: Lord Krishna’s divine flute

Some say the bansuri has divine origins. Hindu myth holds that it was invented by Lord Krishna, the god of love and tenderness, who used it to (among other things) gain favour with fellow deities and seduce the milkmaids of Braj. It has long been considered a symbol of both Krishna’s beauty and his pride,Continue reading “The bansuri: Lord Krishna’s divine flute”

What happens at a tabla solo recital

You need not know anything in advance to enjoy a classical tabla recital. After all, rhythm is a primal, physical satisfaction, derived from our basic need to appreciate sequence and regularity in the world around us. But listening out for a few core features is only likely to enhance your experience. So, how do youContinue reading “What happens at a tabla solo recital”

What should I expect from seeing a Carnatic singer?

Melody is king in Carnatic music – in South India, the singers reign supreme. Their fluid, instantly recognisable approach is now finding millions of new listeners through YouTube and Bollywood, but the home of the music remains the traditional kutcheri (concert). So if you go along to a vocal performance then what might you find there? CarnaticContinue reading “What should I expect from seeing a Carnatic singer?”

Profile: Pandit Anokhelal Mishra’s total tabla dedication

Tabla mythology venerates those who cannot be separated from their instrument. It is said that Pandit Samta Prasad practiced so hard that his neighbours could see streams of sweat seeping from beneath his door, and that Pandit Pratap Mishra once played for nine days straight, summoning enough spiritual energy to transform a statue in front ofContinue reading “Profile: Pandit Anokhelal Mishra’s total tabla dedication”

Profile: D.R. ‘Veena Baba’ Parvatikar, musical monk of the Himalayas

Dattatreya Rama Rao Parvatikar (1916-1990), though not one to care much for worldly recognition, left a lasting impression on this earthly plane. Living for years as a monk at the remote Himalayan Badrinath Temple, his music was far removed from the concert stages of the cities, and the urban tempos and trappings that came withContinue reading “Profile: D.R. ‘Veena Baba’ Parvatikar, musical monk of the Himalayas”

Profile: Pandit Ram Sahai, fountainhead of the Benares tabla gharana

Pandit Ram Sahai (1780-1826) earned his place in rhythmic history as the foundational master of the now-famous Benares tabla gharana. When he was a young disciple of Ustad Modhu Khan, leader of the Lucknow tradition, the region’s Nawab (ruler) asked the guru if his seventeen-year-old prodigy would play a recital for the royal court. Khan agreed, onContinue reading “Profile: Pandit Ram Sahai, fountainhead of the Benares tabla gharana”

Profile: Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra and the ‘curious veena’

To me, Dr. Gopal Shankar Mishra (1957-1999) is one of the most underappreciated Indian artists of the last century. He mastered many modes of music in his short life, absorbing an open-minded creative outlook from his father Dr. Lalmani Misra – a musical prodigy who was reportedly appointed as the Assistant Music Director of Calcutta’s Shehanshahi RecordingContinue reading “Profile: Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra and the ‘curious veena’”

Profile: Pandit Lacchu Maharaj, unheralded rhythmic genius of Benares

Many superb Indian classical musicians were largely overlooked by the lottery of the recording industry, and thus have rarely been heard in full solo flight save by a few local devotees and eagle-eared connoisseurs. It’s tempting to place the late tabla master Pandit Lacchu Maharaj in this category – but while his extraordinary rhythmic accomplishmentsContinue reading “Profile: Pandit Lacchu Maharaj, unheralded rhythmic genius of Benares”

The music of the Siddis: African folk rhythms in India

Indian ‘traditional’ music, spanning classical, folk, and plenty in between, comes in many flavours. Its influences and stylistic forebears are notoriously eclectic, mixing Vedic temple chants and Hindu metaphysics with Islamic devotional poetry and the sounds of nature. Among countless oddities, Irish and Scottish folk tunes were being used as the basis for South Indian classical compositionsContinue reading “The music of the Siddis: African folk rhythms in India”