Tuesday, March 15, 2011

FOR JAPAN - Watazumi Doso Roshi - Tamuke.

In Japanese language, 'tamuke' means to make offerings to Gods Buddha or the dead, or simply the offered things themselves. This piece was played by komuso, literally as 'tamuke' to the dead. In koten honkyoku there are other types of religious repertoire played in specific ceremonies, "Shokomon", "Zangemon", "Kuyo no kyoku", "Eko" etc., as well as "Tamuke." though it is rather a short piece, it is well organized as a tune, and a formidable masterpiece. The melody, carrying sorrow in its stillness contains love and grief to the dead.

YouTube - Watazumi Doso Roshi - Tamuke.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Poetry of Bulle Shah and Saeen Zahoor's Journey

"Sain Zahoor is unlettered, unable to read or write. But amazingly, he has memorized literally hundreds of Punjabi Sufi Kalams. Its been said that at his first stage performance at the All Pakistan Music Conference in 1989, he sent the crowd into a trance so intense that some people deemed his voice dangerous."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Suvendu Banerjee - Harmonium

More: http://www.youtube.com/user/itsdadam  

The Harmonium Complex

An interesting chapter in East/West music history:

The harmonium complex
We are in the midst of celebrating 60 years of independent India and since we always celebrate with fanfare, there have been the usual concerts, aka Azadi Express, with a turbaned actor-cum-truant-MP Govinda doing his characteristic dance moves, TV clips on almost every channel with a stylized version of the tricolour tacked on to one or the other part of the screen and, of course, cross-border debates and discussions leading nowhere, or more often than not ending in the perhaps-never-to-be- resolved issue of Kashmir. But there have been few, if any, discussions on colonial hangovers that we haven’t been able to rid ourselves of.

Take, for instance, the issue of the use of the harmonium in Hindustani classical music. The harmonium is a keyboard instrument brought to India by missionaries in the second half of the 19th century. Today, virtually every Hindustani classical vocalist specializing in khayal and thumri-dadra is accompanied by the harmonium, despite it being considered inappropriate for Indian music by many, including a certain John Foulds, who headed the Western music section of All India Radio (AIR) in the 1930s.

Foulds stated in an article that the inability of the harmonium to produce microtones or shrutis rendered it inappropriate for Indian music. His opinion led Lionel Fielden, controller of broadcasting for AIR (earlier known as the Indian Broadcasting Company), to ban the harmonium on AIR broadcasts in March 1940. This indictment by the British has continued to shadow the journey of the harmonium in India long after the nation became independent. If this isn’t a classic case of a colonial hangover, what is?

The British declared that the harmonium is unsuitable for Indian music without bothering to consult an expert in Hindustani music. We, like humble and obedient servants of Her Majesty, accepted the ban and continued to declare it unsuitable long after it became a part of mainstream concert performances and music-making.

While the ban on the harmonium was lifted and most broadcasts on AIR feature harmonium accompaniment, harmonium players could never enjoy the same status as other musicians. Till recently, AIR followed an audition system whereby every musician had to submit a recording to an audition committee, which then selected candidates after considering their broadcast worthiness and also assigned a grade to each selected candidate.

Grades ranged in ascending order from B, B High, A, to Top Grade, assigned only to the most exceptional musicians. But when it came to harmonium players, they remained in a special category called “ungraded” and even the most proficient and experienced weren’t assigned even a B grade, which was normally reserved for novices. It is only in the last few years that harmonium players have been auditioned and graded like other musicians. But, even now, broadcasts of harmonium solos remain unheard of.

For decades now, harmonium players have worked tirelessly on both the instrument and playing techniques. As a result, they have been able to overcome many of the problems that were the cause of the harmonium being considered unfit for Hindustani music. While two senior harmonium players, namely Appa Jalgaonkar and Tulsidas Borkar have received the Sangeet Natak Akademi awards in recent years, it was disappointing to note that the harmonium has still not been given its due respect.

In the concerts that followed the presentation of the Akademi awards, Borkar featured only as an accompanist to vocal music and was not invited to present a harmonium solo despite the fact that his gharana is known to have developed and enriched harmonium technique and repertoire immensely.

On the other hand, the electronic keyboard and synthesizer has faced no opposition whatsoever and gained widespread acceptance in Indian music. No one ever questions the use of an electronic keyboard in bhajan performances, garba, or other forms of folk music, ghazal, geet, qawwali or any traditional Indian music.

The electronic keyboard, I guess, was never banned as it came to India after the British had left. And, perhaps, that is why we made an independent choice to accept it so freely as opposed to the harmonium, banned by the British and, therefore, stigmatized even today, long after we are said to have become independent.

SOURCE: http://www.livemint.com/2007/08/27160757/The-harmonium-complex.html?atype=tp

Raga Malkauns

Aside from learning the basics of traditional Ragas, I collect melodies from odd sources here and there to play on the Harmonium. Recently I was in the process of learning this melody from the Tarot sequence of Jodorowsky's THE HOLY MOUNTAIN:

Only to find out that it is essentially Raga Malkauns, that I happened upon coincidentally in learning basic Ragas:




From Wikipedia:

Malkaush (also spelled Malkauns) is a raga in Indian classical music. It is one of the most ancient ragas of Indian classical music.[1] The equivalent raga in Carnatic music is called Hindolam, not to be confused with the Hindustani [Hindol].

The name Malkaush is derived by the combination of Mal and Kaushik, which means he who wears serpents like garlands—the god Shiva. However, the Malav-Kaushik mentioned in classical texts does not appear to be the same as the Malkauns performed today [2]. The raga is believed to have been created by goddess Parvati (the wife of Shiva) to calm Shiva, when the lord Shiva was outraged and was not calming down after Tandav in rage of Sati's sacrifice.

Some other performances of Raga Malkuans:


Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_5uhVdkgMA

Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3mJNhbn21k

Last but not least, how to play Malkauns on a Harmonium or any other keyboard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPc9fuDXHtw

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Audio Transformations « Resonating Bodies

"Meanwhile, continuous audio transformations of pre-recorded masses of honeybees and shō (Japanese mouth-organ) fill the gallery."

Audio Transformations « Resonating Bodies

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sain Zahoor سائیں ظہور

Sain Zahoor is, without a doubt, my favorite new musical discovery. Thanks again to the ineffable Internet.

From Wikipedia:

Saieen Zahoor or Saeen Zahur Ahmad (Urdu: سائیں ظہور) (b. around 1940) is a leading Sufi musician from Pakistan. He spent his life singing in the Sufi shrines, and had not cut a record until 2006, when he was nominated for the BBC World Music awards based on word of mouth.[2] He emerged as the "best BBC voice of the year 2006",[3] an award that had earlier recognized other prominent Sufi singers such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen. Sain is not his first name but a Sindhi honorific title and is also spelt Saeen or Saiyan, and Zahoor may be spelt Zahur. Sain Zahoor known for his "Magical" Voice which is known to put his listeners to trance

Born (1937) in the Okara/[[Sahiwal]punjab] region in the province of Punjab (Pakistan), Zahoor baba was the youngest in a rural peasant family. He is said to have started singing at the age of five,[3] and from that early age, he had dreamt of a hand beckoning him towards a shrine. He left home at the age of thirteen, roaming the Sufi shrines of Sindh, Punjab, and Azad Kashmir [He was born about a decade before the partition of India and Pakistan], making a living through singing. Eventually, Saieen was walking past a small shrine in the south Punjab town of Uch Sharif (known for its Sufi traditions), when "someone waved at me with his hand, inviting me in, and I suddenly realised that it was this hand which I saw in my dream."[4]

For some time, he studied music under Ustad Sain Raunka Ali of Patiala Gharana, whom he met at Baba Bulleh Shah's dargah (shrine), and who became his first ustad for Sufi kalams (verses). Saieen also learned music from Uch Sharif based musicians Ustad Ronaq Ali and Sain Marna.

Saieen cannot read or write but is known for his memory of song lyrics; mostly he sings compositions of the major Sufi poets, Bulleh Shah, Mullah Shah Badakhshi, Muhammad Buksh, and others.

All his life, Saieen Zahoor has performed mainly in dargahs (Sufi tombs/shrines) and festivals, and in the streets. He adopted the folk instrument Ektara (ek= one, tar = string), in its three-stringed version called Tumbi, as his main instrument. Like some traditions of Sufi music, he has a passionate, high-energy style of singing, often dancing in a frenzied style with the tassels on his instrument whirling around him.[5] Dressed in embroidered (kurta), beads, tightly bound turban, as well as ghungroos (anklet-bells worn by dancers), Saieen Zahoor cuts an impressive figure. His voice has an earthy tone, almost cracking at the edges, but capable of a wide vocal and emotional range.

In 1989 he performed on a concert stage for the first time at the All Pakistan Music Conference,[3] which brought him into musical prominence. Subsequently he has emerged as a leading performer in Pakistan, frequently appearing on TV and in concerts. Zahoor has also given concerts in UK, Japan,[6] Ireland[7] and India.[citation needed]

Sufi singing is focused on poetry with themes of devotional love, which shares much with Persian mystic poets like Rumi and with other South Asian traditions such as the Bhakti cult. Sufi traditions highlight a softer, multi-cultural aspect of Islam, and are seen as a countering "the extremism of the mullahs who use the mosques to spread ill-will" against other cultural groups, according to some organizers of Saieen Zahoor's concerts.[2]

In 2006 Saieen had a record out (Awazay, sounds) with Matteela Records.[4] In 2007 he helped produce the soundtrack to the Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye.


Outside Music Blog Mentioned in Local News

Thanks Rick!

Outside music rears its bizarro head
December 3, 2010 12:05 AM In 1965, a young British guitarist discovered a stringed instrument that looked like the love child of a yak yoke and a porcupine -- an instrument whose roots lay in ancient India. He fumbled with it until he was able to conjure a decent melody from the beastie.

Then that musician, George Harrison, took that strange instrument and jammed with his band mate, a chap named John Lennon. The resulting song, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," became the most popular recording ever to feature a sitar, that weird-looking Indian instrument.

This was news to sitar master Ravi Shankar, the Indian musician who was in his mid-40s when the Beatles took over the world.

"I'm sorry to say that I was not aware actually who the Beatles were," Shankar said years later, reflecting on the time Harrison and the Beatles introduced Shankar's venerated instrument to the Western world. "Someone told me they were very, very popular, the most popular group. So, you know, I felt bad that I did not know about them."

No need to apologize, Ravi. We in the West -- we Americans and Brits and others -- can always use a reminder that our cultures, musical and otherwise, are not at the center of the universe.

The Western world has received another reminder just in time for this Christmas shopping season: a three-CD/one-DVD box set titled "Ravi Shankar George Harrison Collaborations." The set includes traditional Indian music composed and-or performed by Shankar and produced by Harrison over a period of 20 years.

I predict that, despite Harrison's sitar explorations on "Norwegian Wood" and several other Beatles songs, "Collaborations" will be the worst-selling box set in the history of the universe.

We Americans just aren't that enthralled by any alien, non-pop soundscapes ... sounds that a friend of mine calls "outside music" -- music outside the mainstream ... sounds that make even avant-garde jazz seem like a "Sesame Street" sing-along.

But I've surprised myself over the last decade as, more and more, Ravi's sitar and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's mystic Sufi chanting and Native American powwow music have bum-rushed by CD player alongside the Beatles, Pearl Jam and Public Enemy.

And I've been surprised -- shocked, really -- to discover more and more bizarro outside music via the Internet, and to discover some local musicians who have shunned guitars and saxes for a musical walk on the esoteric side.

DeLand resident Danny Sorensen plays several metal percussion instruments -- one called a Halo and the other a Hang (those are both brand names). They're shaped like lap-sized UFOs and sound akin to steel drums, but more mellow, more ethereal. (Watch and listen to Sorensen perform online at youtube.com/user/imagineye.)

Jim Sass, the proprietor of Abraxas Books in downtown Daytona Beach, plays shakuhachi (traditional Japanese bamboo flute) and harmonium (a keyboard instrument akin to a reed organ). He's also the guy behind the Outside Music blog, which he's jam-packed with ear-freaking video and sound clips, everything from banshee vocalist Diamanda Galas to Frank Zappa, from Nusrat to the soundtrack of Kenneth Anger's underground occult film "Lucifer Rising," from the John Cage-like explorations of Harry Partch to strange stringed instruments from Indonesia, Cambodia and Japan. (Check out Sass' blog at musicoutside.blogspot.com.)

As for myself, seven years ago I bought a sitar on a lark, with misty visions of George Harrison dancing in my head. For three years that sitar was nothing more than an exotic piece of furniture/art propped up in my living room, until I finally summoned the courage to unravel its mysteries. Now, entranced by the sound of alien cicadas emanating from my sitar, I rarely touch the guitar I've played since high school.

"Frank Zappa is a genius who makes music nobody wants to hear," my younger brother once observed.

I'm realistic enough to realize my brother's assessment of Zappa likely describes how many people, at least in the West, feel about Ravi Shankar or any musician who plays harmonium, Halo, koto, komungo or any instrument not heard on MTV or VH-1.

But for Shankar, the Beatles were outside music.

With apologies to Shakespeare's Hamlet, there are more musics in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010