Tuesday, May 29, 2007

new land / new blog


After spending almost six months in India -- and staying afar from blogging -- I've launched a new blog.

The gentle reader's attention is herewith directed to:

Bhairo in the Morning

Bhairo (or Bhairava) is a name of Siva in a certain phase of his myth, and is likewise the name of the morning raaga evoking this.

Due to some complications involving user identity, email address & whatnot, I've not been able to link the new blog into my prior virtual self (in Blogger). No matter. I remain

yours truly,

Monday, December 25, 2006

merry xmas / world music

Much enjoyed, last night, a midnight mass at the newly restored Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore ("America's First Cathedral" -- or more fully, and per Wikipedia, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), officiated by a friend-of-friends, Bishop Denis James Madden. A good 80% (or so) of the choir's music was drawn from Handel's Messaih -- a treat. Madden's well-wraught sermon musings were likewise most enjoyable. What could have been merely ritualistic and dry, was rendered thoughtful, heartfelt and fresh.

/ / / /

Another treat: clips of diverse world musics -- from one Robert Garfius, spanning performances from 1966-1982 -- including a lot of Korean music, and also notably featuring (under rubric of Indian music) Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's Rudra bin, and T. Brinda's Saraswati vina. (Needs Real Player to view.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

prolixity           [couplet into rubai]

What frenzy has of late possessed the brain
though few can write   yet fewer can refrain
as we sink   into the basin of prolixity
the sound you hear is us   gone down the drain


The first two lines are borrowed from Samuel Garth (1661-1719). (I suppose I felt his showoffy snobbery required more nuanced embelishment.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Marathi proverb           [gyan]

Do not look for the source of a river
nor the ancestry of a rishi

per: Water and Womanhood ... Maharashtra (1995)

Day to day           [rubai]

From moment to moment and day to day   my mood keeps changing
whatever it is that comprises me   keeps rearranging
at times the sense of love prevails   at times it dwindles
are we designed for ardency?   or built for estranging?

whatever I'd hoped to learn   I have not yet discovered
whatever I'd feared would burn   I have not yet recovered
the simplest fact of being alive   has fiction bested
except perhaps when we discern   how truth is covered

we initially felt an ambition for film
                                    but somehow it faltered
we originally sought for to sail the brine whelm
                                    but somehow it altered
we primoridally dreamed how we'd live in a palace
                                    and drink cherry tea
we once were disposed to explore the wide road
                                    we somehow got sheltered


That history deals with real events and literature with imagined ones may now be seen as a difference in degree rather than in kind.
(Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, in her essay "'Breast-giver': for author, reader, teacher, subaltern, historian," in Mahasweta Devi, Breast Stories (1997))

The interest of this fine formulation transcends, for me, the particular context of its original presentation. It seems to have diverse, ubiquitous, and perhaps one may say endless applications.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dakshineswar Kali Temple     [pilgrimage info / notes]

Pilgrimage to Sri Ramakrishna 2002 has useful information and a bunch of photos (plus a map of the temple grounds). Among other things, the chap writes:
Travel to Dakshineswar is easy by taxi or by Metro to Dum Dum then cycle-rickshaw (neither avoids the noise and pollution but the latter does minimise it). The best way by far is boat to/from Belur ghat but you still have to take a taxi to/from Belur. And finally, on the basis of harsh experience, never go anywhere without a supply of toilet paper.
I definitely like the boat idea! He also notes that there is
no guide book for visitors to the Ramakrishna sites although the book 'Sri Ramakrishna's Dakshineswar' by the Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, Delhi, is extremely useful.

(Paramahamsa Ramakrishna's room)


Meanwhile, a woman in my office remarked, "I hear you're heading for greener pastures."

"I plan to take a year's sabbatical from my American life," I explained.

"What do you plan to do?"

"I'll mainly be in India, studying music . . . "

She instantly fished out the current issue of Red Herring, pointing to an article --
Many 20-something Europeans are heading to India to give their careers a kick start. “Eastward-Bound” tells why U.S. and Asian expats may soon follow.
-- but the article's not available online right now (sans rigamarole). Perhaps I'll have to fend for meself, lacking cutting-edge rumor. :-)

Mehera-Meher     [books / Meher Baba]

This just in: David Fenster, painstaking scholar-author of the significant dual-biography Mehera-Meher (chronicling the linked lives of Mehera J. Irani and Merwan Sheriar Irani a.k.a. Meher Baba) has launched a website:

Mehera-Meher: A Divine Romance

A special feature on the website is a little selection of audio recordings of Mehera telling stories -- her voice colorful, distinctive, vivid.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ali Akbar Khan     [music documentary video]

There's a likeable little documentary video (streaming, 8min 43sec) about Ustad Ali Akbar Khan as music teacher, here. Evidently it was created for a public television program in San Francisco. The level of info is basic; but it's nice to have a glimpse of Khansaheb. His young son, Alam (whom one finds humble and likeable), is hintingly introduced as the face of the future in Khansaheb's teaching lineage. Khansaheb's wife Mary also figures in the footage. Overall, it's a good snapshot of the music teacher. He could spend his whole life concertizing, if so disposed. Instead, he tours for a couple months of the year in the winter (some of that time, teaching at the music school in Basel, Switzerland), spending the rest of his time indefatigably teaching students (of all levels) in San Rafael, California.

Born in 1922, the maestro is now in his mid-80s. May he live long, may we enjoy his music more.


Relatedly, see my earlier posts about Mehfil Tube and Gauhar Jan.

Pacific Ackworth Friends School       [recollections]

Googling can be general, cultural, personal. Somehow I finally got around to googling Pacific Ackworth Friends School (Temple City, California) -- the small, well-loved educational institution that (I can say without irony) nurtured me from the age of 5 through 14. There's surprisingly little info about the school online. It's not yet included (for instance) in the Wikipedia roster of Friends Schools.

This overview history of Quaker educational activities includes a brief sketch of PA's origins (under section "Quaker Educational Experiments"):
The first educational venture of Western unprogrammed Friends was Pacific Ackworth School. This alternative school was founded in 1942 because Friends felt that children in the public schools were being pressured to support the war. John and Alice Way , along with several other Orange Grove Meeting families, purchased five acres of property in Temple City, California (not far from Pasadena). The Ways moved a house to the property and settled there in early 1942. [etc.]
Those five acres were the world for us, for a stretch of years.

I'll expand on these reflections a bit, later.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Meher Baba on couch       [image + rubai]

a rare photo (found on Tribe). My speculation is, it may have been around 1952 or so? (obviously in India -- but where exactly?)

You might call this a parlor game
(at least we know the sitter's name)
we might not know the where and when --
to know not who would be a shame

Success and its discontents   [gnomic rubai]

He seeks the chair of nothingness and nothing less
allowing as his happiness is nothingness
there's nothing stopping someone from attaining that
except perhaps a hint of wanting something yes?


Responsive to Kirby Olson's evidently ironic rumination on the topic of success (for a poet), in a comment on Silliman's blog, viz.:
I think success would be to have a large independent income and do nothing at all. Not even stare at one's feet. Just sit in a bathtub all day pretending to be dead with eyes closed and ears plugged, and the water at skin tem,perature so you can't even feel it.

Given that that is next to impossible, the closest thing to it would be an ideal academic job: a chair of nothingness at nothing state university in nothingsville.

Now that would be something!

Google Book Search

rather cool, it is

For example: I submitted a line from Tagore ("Who stole sleep from Baby's eyes?") and presto! here's the source for your full perusal:

The Crescent Moon (page 13, but this link shows the full book).

Learned about it via article in Slate (Dead Plagiarists Society)

passage to India cont'd     [travel research]

(picking up from my earlier post of misc. research notes)

This wiki-based page at MaxTravelz.com -- re: Bangalore-by-plane -- has a good rundown of airlines (and origin cities) with Bangalore destination.

As I'm trying to work out an affordable route to Bangalore (from DC) via Beijing, this point seems of poss. interest:
From Jan 2006, the low cost airline JetStarAsia will fly between Bangalore and Singapore five times a week.
Indeed, on dates that there are flights, one finds a "JetSaver" rate circa $179 (1-way) from Singapore to Bangalore (nonrefundable; $30 charge if changing date of flight). At the moment, I find these dates & rates:
Jan. 1 (Mon. $168): 01:25 Singapore / 02:55 Bangalore
Jan. 3 (Wed. $179): 01:25 Singapore / 02:55 Bangalore
Jan. 6 (Sat. $168): 01:25 Singapore / 02:55 Bangalore
Jan. 8 (Mon. $189) . . .
So, perhaps it's just Monday/Wednesday/Saturday
(The "JetFlux" rate is about double the JetSaver rate, but has less restrictions.)

Via CheapoAir.com, I find 1-way flights DC/Singapore as low as around $560 (United)

Maybe best for me is DC / Beijing / Singapore / Bangalore.

Yes, via CheapoAir, I find a United flight 1-way (DC/Beijing) for $465 (Jan.9).
Via CheapoAir, I find a Garuda flight 1-way (Beijing/Singapore) for $211 -- but not right date. Garuda Airlines seems maybe the airline to look for though.
(Their website does show some Beijing/Singapore flights, but doesn't give rates; one has to check via contacting their representatives.)

(Poss. also notable is the AirGorilla.com/Asia site.)


Regarding Bangalore, note:
Byramangala, Abbanakuppe Village, Ittamadu Post,
Bidadi Hobli, Ramangaram Taluk,
Bangalore 560109 Karnataka.
(Mr.V.Deva Rao - 080-27202160, +919880311569)
Monthly Program, Every Second Sunday - 10.30 AM to 12.30 PM1.
(per this list)
Ah, this site seems to have the clearest info (and an email address).
Which is the "2nd Sunday"? -- if it's once per month, it must literally be the 2nd Sunday, viz. January 14. (This, now confirmed by email.)

So: Sunday, Jan.14 can be departure day from Bangalore for Bhopal (via rajdhani express, Train No. 2429, as noted earlier):
Days of service M,W,Th,Su
Bangalore (Dep) 18.35
Secunderabad (Dep) 06.55
Nagpur (Dep) 15.10
Bhopal (Dep) 20.50
(ergo, arriving Bhopal evening of Monday, January 15th -- presumably by around 8pm)


Also of note in Bangalore --
The Samadhi of Sadguru Shri Narayan Maharaj is at Bangalore at the following address / location which you may like to visit to take the Darshan:

Sri Bet Narayan Maharaj ashram and Brindavan
No 70, Gavi gangadhareshwara circle
Gavipura, Kempe gowda nagar
Bangalore - 19 (Karnataka) India

(It is opposite to Gavigangadhareshwara cave temple (1 kms from Bull temple) and near a lake called Kempambudhi tank.)
-- per detailed webpage about Narayan Maharaj.

Of course during his life, Narayan Maharaj was based at Kedgaon, which is near Ahmednagar (Maharashtra). His bio-note mentions his having travelled to Bangalore just prior to completing his life; evidently this is why his Samadhi is in Bangalore.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Jigar Muradabadi's Aadmi Aadmi-se milta hai   [Urdu verse translation]

When one man another man   merely meets
the heart within the other man   he rarely meets

the ways she injures me   I keep on overlooking
with round simplicity   my soul she squarely meets

the weirdest thing!   the exact color of those flowers
today in the arbor of your smile   one clearly meets

O she's the sort you'll meet   but can never meet
till mere survival   the broken heart   barely meets


My rendering of Jigar's poem is based on a literal translation provided by Max Babi. The original Urdu poem is transliterated thus:
Aadmi Aadmi-se milta hai
Dil magar kam kisi-se milta hai
Bhool jaataa hun mein sitam uske
Voh kuchh iss saadgi-se milta hai
Aaj kyaa baat hai ki phoolon ka
Rang teri hansi se milta hai
Mil ke bhi joh kabhi nahin miltaa
Toot kar il us-hi-se miltaa hai

Maryam Gazala: "These moments"   [ghazal translation]

Lacking clear cause   I'm assaulted   by these moments
when I'm minded to move   I'm halted   by these moments

say I'm settling to sit?   these moments push me along
do they peddle mirages? yes   I'm exalted   by these moments

they have levied from me   the habit of regular sleep
a midnight knock   my door has defaulted   from these moments

on some days   they raid my larder of every morsel!
other days my begging bowl's filled and salted   by these moments

O when I make a try for the path of being simple
with what riddles and puzzles   I get pelted   by these moments!

day and night   I keep on piling up more errors
like a soothing friend   I'm lulled and lilted   by these moments

the entire world is disclosed as a vast museum
when into its labyrinth   I've been tilted   by these moments

what I most cherish is my desire for the murmur of roses
but here on the stairwell   thorns are belted   by these moments

oh what courteous physicians   they can prove to be!
when you wound me   I'm gauzed and felted   by these moments

why now falsify your newsbrief   darling Gazala?
when they choose to leave   you'll be jilted   by these moments


Rendering of a Gujarati ghazal ("Amthi amthi mujhne aklaave kshano") by Maryam Gazala Radhanpuri -- following from Max Babi's literal translation.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"20-sec shoeshine"       [ghazal]

a short line you seek?
no deep wine you seek?

begone long horizon!
a nano-eglantine you seek

no sprawl of the tall pole-vault
a quill of porcupine you seek

no gambol of the giraffe now
a 20-sec shoeshine you seek

no thousand-page doorstop
a neon's flash-sign you seek

no endless lace of digression
a tie of terse twine you seek

who'd guess Max favors mini?
a micron engine you seek

the diety of fire is
"Ardeo" in Greek

while in Latin "to love" is
a nom-de-plume (mine) you seek

Ardeo's but tuning the strings
when jhala in double-time seek?


Regarding my light ghazal, Search Engine, Max Babi wrote:
This one reads well, d.i.

One small nitpick though -can you rephrase the whole ghazal with slightly shorter lines please?

The lyricism of ghazal shines out like a nova, when it is compact, for instance some of the tersely worded ghazals by Jigar Muradabadi, or even Ghalib at times.

The import does get diluted with longer lines. The profusion of words, distracts the wisdom seeker, as it were.

Pray enlighten this moron with genesis of Ardeo, a nom de plume you have used since long.
The above poem is by way of reply to those remarks.

Search Engine       [ghazal]

I'm burrowing into the net   with a search engine
but what has my seeking soul met   with a search engine?

abandoning the world   and abiding in virtual limbo
you'll discover a land of regret   with a search engine

though born in one city   growing up in another   & dying in a third
can you reach past your micro-hamlet   with a search engine?

if I start with one word   it will sire an ocean of words!
all these fishes my loaf can beget   with a search engine

you could google for God   but Sunyata is absent from Ebay
still you'll nab each wine-dark epithet   with a search engine

is the library outmoded?   will the papersome book be abandoned?
is it turned (like a rock) to a pet   with a search engine?

when you live incognito   none guess at the ruse for a spell
all bewildered   they look for you yet   with a search engine

When Ardeo reached out for the moon   in her arc through the night
did he round out his peripatet   with a search engine?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shambhu Das: Guinness World Record (sitar)   [music oddities]

He played sitar for 24 hours nonstop [to win a place in the Guinness Book of World Records -- and raise money for Bangladesh] . . . details here. shambhu Das, a student of Ravi Shankar's (and noted as long-ago instructor of the late George Harrison), evidently lives in Toronto.

Maryam Gazala: "Slumbering deep"   [ghazal translation]

Slumbering deep   the morning bringing   please don't be
let me abide in dream!   rude-wakening   please don't be

go and inscribe my name with care   on a plinth of marble
don't scrawl it in sand   and forever erasing   please don't be!

I've come back   out of the river Ganges   after centuries!
my vacuous moments   freshly reviving   please don't be

amid these worlds   far stars keep twinkling   firefly-like
forever along my path   lamp-lighting   please don't be

my eyes aren't actually eyes!   no   these are darkling mirrors
mine own visage   yet again revealing   please don't be

but what after all is life?   merely the play of breathing
leave it victorious   back from losing   please don't be

in the mirror-hall of my heart   how many scenarios blossom!
with shyly lowered gaze   herein stealing   please don't be!

shading your peepers with phony glamour   of darksome glasses
at the starkly real   monotonously gazing   please don't be

unheeding of the unscattered shadows   in your own dwelling
in blazing day   a dozen torches kindling   please don't be

if Gazala's tears don't look so appealing   in your opinion
with vapid dewdrops   decorating   please don't be


From an Urdu ghazal ("Neend Gehri Hai") by Maryam Gazala Radhanpuri -- following from Max Babi's literal translation.

Maryam Gazala [ars poetica]   [rubai & translation]

Hunar khilta sada hai sadgi se
Gazal ka rabt hai deevangise
panapte hain kawal dal dal me yaaro
Guhar chupte nahin hai aadmi se

Genius blossoms clearly through simplicity
the ghazal is entangled with insanity
don't lotuses develop in the mud my friend?
it's deeply human to reveal one's misery


When I posted a note to Maryam Gazala's Ryze guest book mentioning a recent attempt to translate her ghazal ("On a surface of fog"), she replied with a pleasing surprise of the above (extemporized, it seems) Urdu rubai (quatrain). The latter -- with help (in form of a literal translation) offered by Max Babi -- I forthwith rendered into English, as seen above.

The verse somewhat calls to mind a couplet by Huang Jingren (黄景仁, 1749-1783):

perhaps it is   for poetry-books   that grief turns into sight
birds in spring   bugs in autumn   naturally make their sounds

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sivakami Vellangiri's poetry reading       [media coverage]

a poet-friend in Chennai gets some notice . . .

Sunday, November 12, 2006

dhrupad etc.    [Indian classical music notes]

A scholar, Deepak Raja Suvarnalata Rao, published an essay found here: Perspectives on Dhrupad (from Journal of the Indian Musicological Society, 1999). The approach he takes to the topic seems both interesting and somewhat dubious; its gist is suggested by this summary paragraph at the article's conclusion:
At the present juncture in Dhrupad's history, it is not cynical, but realistic, to analyze Dhrupad primarily as a response to a "market". The genre will merit examination afresh when, and if, it attains the stage of delivering an abundant supply of quality musicianship.
At any rate, I found these paragraphs interesting:
From a contemporary perspective, the feasibility of a Dhrupad revival owes a great deal to the towering duo, Ustad Nasir Ameenuddin and Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar. They demonstrated the value of what Indian music was about to lose, perhaps irretrievably. But for their legacy, Indian society might not have mustered the will and the resources to initiate revivalist movements.

Their recordings remain, to this day, the most powerful testimony available to the maturity and sophistication of the genre. Their formidable musicianship remains a durable challenge for all vocalists -- Dhrupadiyas as well as Khayaliyas. Their music also earned for them the admiration of serious musicologists in Europe, who helped to create an international constituency not only for Dhrupad, but for all of Hindustani music.

The departure of the Elder Dagar Brothers from the concert platform created the conditions for Dhrupad enthusiasts to clamor for revivalist initiatives. Two significant initiatives, each qualitatively different from the other, are noteworthy. Both of them have attempted to extend the boundaries of musicianship in Dhrupad beyond heredity.

The Bhopal initiative was spearheaded and funded by a state government, with pedagogical and stylistic inputs from one of the streams of the Dagar tradition. In contrast, the Brindaban movement was initiated and funded by the hereditary clergy of a Vaishnava denomination, and functions under the guidance of another reputed Dhrupad lineage, the Mallik family from Darbhanga in Bihar.

The Bhopal initiative has attracted good talent, and so far trained about twenty Dhrupad musicians, of whom a handful are now established concert performers. In terms of its sustainability, this initiative faces two major uncertainties -- the uncertainties associated with all government supported cultural projects, and the scarcity of competent and dedicated Gurus.

The Brindaban movement's contribution to musicianship has been comparatively modest. However, it has utilized the growing interest in the culture of the Vraja region and its Vaishnava cults, to promote the hitherto lesser known Darbhanga gharana.of Dhrupad. The movement claims significance also on account of having restored Dhrupad's link with its original home in the Vaishnava temples. From available evidence, this link appears tenuous, and its long-term value to either Haveli Sangeet or to classical Dhrupad is debatable.

Neither of these establishments has been around long enough to bring Dhrupad to a state of self-generating growth. Dhrupad requires superior momentum to reach such a stage. This will probably come from the future role of the alumni of these establishments as teachers and performers, and the continued growth in Dhrupad's popularity with audiences.
The website presenting this essay is called Ragascape -- including a musical archive as well as this section of essays (including, for instance, Deepak Raja's good essay, More about the Surbahar).

/ / / / / / / / /

One can hear Shubha Sankaran's surbahar [excerpts from the "Resurrecting a Raga" CD (2005)] via the CD Baby website. Also, from her Seven Ragas in Seven Talas.

The Prakriti Foundation (in Chennai) held a dhrupad festival last February; their site has good bio-notes about several performers.

The MusicalNirvana site has a couple of good clips of the Gundecha Brothers singing -- especially nice is the 2nd (Komal Rishabh Asavari, 5 min excerpt).

Lost and Found   [reply poem]

for John Matthew

As with reincarnation
begin again with a new one!

admittedly it won't remember
all those old phone numbers

yet won't it bring the very same
beloved voices to your waiting ear?

and might it suggest the selfsame
cellphone disguised in fresh garb?


Responsive to the poem Sonnet for a Stolen Mobile Phone

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Maryam Gazala: "On a surface of fog"   [ghazal translation]

On a surface of fog to seek   this face to find
what's the purpose of such a peek   this face to find?

Why return yet again   with your platter of empty hunger?
day and night   of the watchman's pique   this face you find

The seductive allure of the beautiful world   gets sundered
when in flowery bowers   an oblique dry face   you find

Is it not a lost heartbroke vagabond   whom you glimpse
on his hill brought low   till no cheek-of-face   you find?

With no hesitant thought   you'd let Gazala jump right in
if yourself   a well right deep   aface   you find


A transliteration of the original, his literal translation, and his own transcreated version of this Urdu ghazal (composed by contemporary poet Maryam Gazala Radhanpuri) are all presented by Max Babi here. The poem was drawn from Gazala's volume of ghazals, Kshitij ki Dehliz Par (On The First Rung of The Horizon).

See also another (version-of-a-)ghazal of hers, blogged earlier: "It's delicatesse"

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

vichitra vina     [Indian classical music notes]

Further google-notes on the Vichitra Vina.

The Nad Sadhana [Jaipur, Rajasthan-based] site includes these notes:
In general appearance and structure, the vichitra veena is very similar to the northern bin or veena. For an instrument so young, it is fairly widespread. The main difference between the northern veena and the vichitra veena is that the former is a fretted instrument with a bamboo stem while the vichitra veena has a much broader and stronger wooden stem without frets which can accommodate the large number of main and sympathetic strings. This hollow stem, about three feet long and about six inches wide, with a flattop and a rounded bottom, is placed on two large gourds about a foot and a half in diameter. An ivory bridge covering the entire width of the stem is placed at one end. Six main strings made of brass and steel run the whole length of the stem and are fastened to wooden pegs fixed to the other end.

The vichitra veena has about twelve sympathetic strings of varying lengths which run parallel to and under the main strings. They are usually tuned to reproduce the scale of the raga which is being played.

The vichitra veena is played by means of wire plectums (mizrabs) worn on the fingers of the right hand which pluck the strings near the bridge. The notes are stopped with a piece of rounded glass, rather like a paper weight. The musician slides the glass piece from one note to another over the strings by holding it in his left hand. It is rather difficult to play fast passages on the vichitra veena but slow passages emerge on this instrument with a beauty and richness of tone which few other instruments possess.

The obvious disadvantage of this instrument is that a paper weight can never do what human fingers can. And so, some of the delicate graces and embellishments in very fast passages have to be sacrificed. The vichitra veena has these advantages in common with the gottuvadyam of the south.

It is said that the Vichitra veena was introduced by the late Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan who was a court musician at Indore. In fashioning the instrument, Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan, during his musical contacts with the south, probably took his ideas from the southern gottuvadyam which was already popular.
Mustafa Raza's vichitravina.com site may also be noted. He is said to play "khayal gayaki style." His father was Ustad Ahmed Raza (who was a student of Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan). Some interesting remarks about the instrument found there include:
Vichiter Veena's ancient name is Shiv Veena. It is also known previously in different names -- Shutri Veena, Tantra Veena, Batta Veena etc. But today it is known as Vichiter Veena. Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan of Patiala family has given a new life to this instrument. Vichiter Veena is believed to be a divine instrument and the music produced through it always devoted to the absolute. The Veena has the distinction of being the only plucked instrument that is considered to be the purest musical sound and by legend is the foundation of all art.

The Vichiter Veena has four main strings three front side supporting strings and along with two chikaris, 15th Tarabs (resonance strings) having a range of three and half octaves. Resonance strings confine a player to "pure" or "perfect" note as they themselves are tuned on "perfect"....
Dr. Raza is also amusingly quoted in one press clipping: "You can learn the sitar in a year or two, you make more money with it too so why should any one spend six years learning the Vichitra Veena?"

/ / / / /

The Sadarang Archive website says it is dedicated to "Safeguarding the classical music traditions of Pakistan."

Lakshmi Tewari's website includes a nicely detailed bio-note about the late vichitra vinakar, Lalmani Misra (1924-1979). Leaving aside here his interesting childhood, this portion has many points of note:
From 1944, he began to be influenced by the Batta Bin of Ustad Abdul Aziz Khan of Patiala. Around 1946, he came to the realization that the Veena is primarily a Hindu devotional instrument. The responsibility of preserving its tradition lay primarily with Hindu artists. If the Hindu tradition that had survived due to the efforts of Muslim musicians now disappeared, the responsibility for its demise would lie with Hindu artists. Therefore, he learned to play Veena in the traditional manner from Abdul Aziz Khan and began his practice in secret.

In 1950, on the invitation of Dr. Ratanjankar to the Bhatkhande Jayanti in Lakhnau’s Morris College, he performed on the Vichitra Veena for the first time. Encouraged by the response of the artists and connoisseurs in the audience, he made the Vichitra Veena his primary instrument.

In 1946, Lalmani Misra established the Kanpur Orchestral Society, and created many compositions. He composed music for plays, as well as directed several of them. In 1947, together with close associates he founded the Bharatiya Sangeet Parishad in Kanpur; under its auspices the Gandhi Sangeet Mahavidyalaya was established on August 16, 1947. He resigned from Kanyakubja College to dedicate his full attention to the new institution.

In 1951, the world renowned dance maestro Uday Shankar appointed him the music director of his troupe. Lalmani Misra was just 27. In 1951 and 1954, with Uday Shankar’s troupe, he toured countries like Sri Lanka, England, France, Belgium, America, and Canada, to very favorable reviews of his music direction and Veena concerts. A Hollywood film company invited him to help make an Indian film. Not used to the atmosphere in the West, he turned the offer down. After returning to India, he was asked to compose music for Hindi films. But his interest in music scholarship and teaching pulled him back to Kanpur. In the course of his world travels, he came to realize that musicians require higher education as well. He went on to receive a Sahitya Ratna, an M.A. from Agra University, and a Ph.D. from Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya.

In 1955, in his capacity as the first Registrar of the Akhil Bharatiya Vandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal, he organized the work of the institution. But the growing demands of the job took him away from his music practice, and he gave up his duties at the Mandal. At the urging of friends, he became Principal of Gandhi Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in 1957. Sangeet Martand Omkarnath Thakur wanted him to join the Music Department at Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya. After much persuasion, he agreed to leave Kanpur for Varanasi, and joined the Instrumental Department as Reader in 1958, believing that it was not the title but the work that brought greatness to an artist.

He made many major advances in the field of music instruction at Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya. After intense effort, he created a Veena on which all the exercises in Bharat’s Sarana Chatushtadi could be played, and the 22 shrutis recorded by Bharat could be heard and played. After hearing these shrutis on his Veena, Indian and Western scholars alike praised his achievement.

He studied both academically and empirically Indian instruments of the ancient, medieval, and modern eras, and proved that Amir Khusro had nothing to do with the evolution of the Sitar and the Tabla. The sitar evolved naturally from the ancient Tritantriya Veena, and Tabla from the Pushkar Vadya. The modern Sarod and medieval Sursingar and Rabab are evolved forms of the ancient Chitra Veena. His research findings in the field of music created a sensation, and debunked many commonly accepted myths.

Lalmani Misra helped create and reform the syllabi of prominent educational institutions and universities. Having created many instruments, he demonstrated them to the public. After the publication of material for smaller classes, he started work on books on Vedic music and the Sitar, but could not complete them due to poor health.

Lalmani Misra is one of those seminal artists of the music world who excelled as a performer, critic, and scholar. According to him, India has two types of scholars: academic and empirical. The empirical scholar is the one that tests ancient principles on the platform of contemporary music, and puts his faith in its growth and evolution. On the other hand, the academic scholar worships tradition at the cost of new currents in art, and wants the artist to retreat in the past rather than look forward.

Lalmani Misra was working on specific research, such as Vedic music, the rebirth of dhruvapad-dhamar, and the promotion of instrumental music, when he suddenly took ill. At the age of 55, on July 17, 1979, he left the music world and ended his tenure on earth prematurely.
My question include: what is that Batta Vina of Abdul Aziz Khan? And what is this about Lalmani Misra "creat[ing] a Veena on which all the exercises in Bharat’s Sarana Chatushtadi could be played, and the 22 shrutis recorded by Bharat could be heard and played"? Does this suggest that he MODIFIED the Vichitra Vina? If that's the meaning, then one should wish to know about those who may build instruments on his model.

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Lalmani Misra's son Gopal Sankar Misra also played vichitra vina (and recorded one LP with Real World records in UK -- I've not yet heard it); he passed away in 1999. His sister, Ragini Trivedi (of Indore), plays sitar. (She could be a good source for info about her father's vina.)

More about Ragini Trivedi: here's her very interestingly written review of a sitar album (viz., Chandrakant Sardeshmukh's Pure Joy [Darshanam, 1998]).

Another, longer article of Ragini Trivedi's: "If Music be the Soul...." (from ArtScape) -- she writes knowledgeably and interestingly.

Ragini's interestingly appreciative yet critically equivocal review of Shahid Parvez's performance (at a music festival in Indore in 1999) is worth quoting:
The second half of the evening carried the audience into realm of further abstraction. Shahid Parvez, on the verge of being a legend, revealed all on his magical Sitar. Bageshri was the vehicle for demonstration of his skill, this evening. During the Alaap itself, he fascinated one and all with his Meend work. Enticing and amazing, while it succeeded in riveting the attention of the audience, the deft display did little to maintain the mood of the Raga. The slow and rapid compositions were both in Teen Taal and the medium paced composition was in Ek Taal. He brought the evening to a reluctant close with a rendering of a Bhairavi Gat composed in Addha Taal. Even though the compositions were different, the style could easily be discerned as that of his mentor and uncle, Ustaad Vilayat Khan. With a perfect accompaniment on Tabla by Mukesh Jadhav, Shahid could well involve the audience and transport them; he could also break the charm and make them evaluate his effortless mastery over the instrument without any undue influence. Such a practice might bode ill for ancient aesthetics, but it certainly goes a long way in garnering support for Indian Classical Music in its own fashion.
-- from her review in ArtScape.

Indore is the largest city in Madhya Pradesh (186 km from Bhopal -- due west, looks like).

Note: This is one of the very best listings of professional musicians' contact info in India -- Art India Net. Astonishingly good in fact.

/ / / / /

Note: there's a Pt. Lalmani Misra Music Festival held annually in Bhopal, in August, organized by Madhukali (the organization named after a raaga created by Lalmani Misra).

Also note (per Wikipedia bio for Allauddin Khan): the Bhopal-based, state [Madhya Pradesh]-run Allauddin Khan Sangeet Academy has an annual festival, in Maihar, in February or early March. (Allauddin Khan had been court musician for Maihar maharajas.)

Distance between Bhopal and Maihar: 359 km.

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I've seen two or three websites that offer vichitra vinas for sale.
Offhand, this is the only one where the photos impress me -- as presenting a nice-looking instrument. (Some I've seen seem to overdue the inlaid ivory. This has some, but not excessive.) The company in fact is based in Germany; they import their instruments from various manufacturers; so one doesn't (from this site) know who the builders are. The price however (1290 EUR = $1645) is also lower than other vichitra vinas I've seen online.

The Ali Akbar College of Music offers a vichitra vina (for $3,000), noting it's built by Mangla Prasad Sharma. Their guarantee is worth noting (as is likewise a similar one from the German folks at Tarana).

Another purveyor (are they actually builders?) of vichitra vinas is the new outfit called Madhubani (in Delhi).

Also note the Bina Musical Stores website (Delhi-based).

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This article (in The Hindu, by Leela Venkataraman) reports on a conference in Delhi regarding the culture of instrument-making, and mentions the Calcutta instrument-builder Murari Mohan Adhikari as having "fashioned "over 100" Rudra vinas -- "which starts with an elaborate prelude of ritual and prayer before selecting the right wood, seasoning it and then sizing and fashioning it to the exact torso and neck measurements of the individual musician!" The article also amusingly quotes the late Gopal Krishan, regarding his practice of vichitra vina: "When I settled down in the Padmasana, with the baby I was asked to look after ('or else no food,' was the threat held out) on my lap, and practiced for hours, the little one just slept through."

The article also mentions (and critiques) a newer instrument:
For the today's musician, in Damascus today, in New York a couple of days later, travelling with large instruments with two resonators like the veena can be a nightmare. Vainika Suma Sudhindra of Karnataka has invented a new instrument named Tarangini — one that is compact, light, weather resistant and travels well. Sruti stability, ensured by guitar keys, does away with the pegs of the veena. The acoustic resonator of the conventional veena is replaced by a magnetic pickup and the hind resonator made of fibreglass can be unscrewed and packed away separately! But its music sounds more like the electric guitar. Some instruments, it would seem, will not be easily substituted.
Yet another interesting point made is this:
Teak forests are no longer plentiful and other types of wood have to be used for making musical instruments. Raw material like bone and ivory are no longer easily available and substitutes are being experimented with. Ravi Kiran, the chitra veena expert recounting his experience with the instrument, said that after trying out many metals for the slide bar called gottu used to glide on the strings, he now uses a Teflon side bar, which is smooth and easy to wield.
The article concludes with this anecdotal flourish:
Gopal Krishnan [sic; Krishan], the vichitra veena maestro, was jailed during the British Raj. He mesmerised the hardened criminals in his cell with music played on ektara, the only instrument he was allowed to take with him. He played it like a veena and his live demonstration during the symposium floored all with its undiluted sweetness.
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A certain Concise Dictionary of Hindustani Music, by Ashok Da Ranade (2006), lists a section on the Batta Been.

Ah! here is why it is called the Batta Been! (and note, too, the important point about variations in numbers of strings) --
The vichitra veena has nine to eleven main strings and eleven to fifteen sympathetic strings. The number of strings (main as well as sympathetic), their tuning system and their gauge vary from artist to artist.
The vichitra veena is played with the help of a small egg- shaped glass, called batta, which looks like a paper weight (although it is bigger than a paper weight), held in the left hand and made to slide upon the strings. In the right hand, the artist wears sitar-like plectrums on the index and middle fingers. Some artists wear a small plectrum on the small finger as well to facilitate playing the drone strings.
The author then follows that up with an interesting but mildly absurd remark --
Because of various reasons the instrument is now losing its popularity among the younger generation of artists. The introduction of the slide guitar, a popular western instrument, to Hindustani classical music is one of the principal reasons for its decline.
(Evidently these notes, generally good, are drawn from a certain Suneera Kasliwal, Classical Musical Instruments, Delhi (2001))

/ / / / /

Curiously, the flowery prose in the opening paragraph of an essay (Nestling Among Honey-Buds) by Dr. Rajiv Trivedi [presumably related to Ragini Trivedi?] hints at vichitra vina conceived not as modern invention, but as a revived ancient instrument:
If it was Rosebud that haunted Citizen Kane all his life, it was nectar of honey-buds, which sweetened the notes of that ancient instrument, whenever the maestro caressed it. Vedic Bana, called Brahmaveena, Ghoshvati or Ektantri Veena in ninth century AD is known today as Vichitra Veena. When one comes to learn that Madhukali [sliver of honey?] is an organisation dedicated to the memory of internationally renowned Vichitra-veena player Sangeetendu Dr. Lalmani Misra, he ceases to wonder why such great masters as Pt. Ravishankar, Pt. Hariprasad Chourasia, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Zia Fariddudin Dagar, Dr. N. Rajam, Pt. Rajan & Sajan Mishra have accorded their patronage and unreserved support to it. Named after one of the Raga-s this avid scholar created, Madhukali is also the name of the choral group that in the past fifteen years has established the joy and power of group-singing. Madhukali Vrind performed with probably the largest group ever, which included almost 5,000 children in 1986. By picking up choicest poetry of traditional and modern poets, Madhukali Vrind has created awareness in the young generation for the form of Vrindagana, as well as good poetry throughout Madhya Pradesh.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Poetry-Makers   [nonce form]

The poetry-makers dined on figs and seseme sticks
they stayed at the office late Friday   well into Saturday
they'd browse the internet vacantly   observing the flux
of thought and language the way it flows   in their latter day
  that day   late in the game of loss and breaking
  that forms   the code and norm of poetry-making

The poetry-makers would study languages   fleetingly
they'd moil for hours when translating   a line or two
they weren't concerned about publishing   repeating the
old adage "publish or perish" twisted   resigning to
  the joy of fading   into the slumbrous baking
  obscurity's oven   complicit in poetry-making

At Nam Viet Pho 79: dining alone, I browse the paper   [boomerang]

An international group of ecologists and economists warned yesterday that the world will run out of seafood by 2048 if steep declines in marine species continue at current rates, based on a four-year study of catch data and the effects of fisheries collapses....

  -- World's Fish Supply Running Out, Researchers Warn (front page, Washington Post, November 3, 2006)

As a special treat   I've ordered Pho Seafood tonight
awaiting my bowl   I glance at the newspaper headlines
if marine biologists   really have got things right
the bowl of the ocean   is facing a treacherous deadline
the sea after all   is source of an ancient breadline
the fisherman stands at its window   beaming and bright
every day for a million years   on these loaves he's fed fine
as a special treat   I've ordered Pho Seafood tonight

Friday, November 03, 2006

passage to India     [travel research]

Googling the puzzle of affordable air travel, this site (Make My Trip) helps.

Points (per Bhopal Travel Guide) about Bhopal:
Regular flights connect Bhopal with Delhi, Gwalior, Indore and Mumbai.
Bhopal is an important railway station, as it is on the main Delhi-Madras route.
Maps of India

Rail Transport in India (Wikipedia)

Indian railway timetables and maps.

Indian Railway -- reservation site

The Rajdhani Express (recommended for Bangalore-to-Bhopal). The Chennai Rajdhani is noteworthy:
The Chennai Rajdhani covers a distance of 2194 kilometers in just over 28 hours. It is one of the fastest trains in India. It departs from Delhi at 1530 and arrives in Chennai at 2000 the next day. From Chennai it departs at 0620 and arrives in Delhi at 1100 the next day. It is an important train and is a wonderful and fast substitute to the overbooked GT and TN expresses.

NOTE: the route of the Chennai Rajdhani is "Hazrat Nizamuddin [station in Delhi] to Chennai via Bhopal."

Ah, and here are specific "abstract timetables" -- including:
Train No. 2429: Bangalore - Nizamuddin [Table No. 9a = pdf]
Days of service M,W,Th,Su
Bangalore (Dep) 18.35
Secunderabad (Dep) 06.55
Nagpur (Dep) 15.10
Bhopal (Dep) 20.50
Nizamuddin (Arr) 05.15
So this is the Bangalore Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express. Via this route, the distance from Bangalore to Bhopal is 1760 km (1,094 miles).
[current online schedule seems to show departure at 20:00 hours, arrival next day at 20:50 hours = basically a 25-hour trip, Bangalore to Bhopal]

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Thumbnail notes about Madhya Pradesh -- Gwalior, Bhojpur, Ujjain, Khajuraho, Sanchi.

(Picture imagining the poet Kalidasa -- per online gallery from the Kalidasa Academy, Ujjain.)

Tansen Music Festival -- in Gwalior (city where his tomb is), also known as the Tansen Sangeet Samelan or Tansen Utsav. Said to happen in December. (But, alas, evidently early in the month.)

Other festivals.

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The Alauddin Khan Samaroh, Maihar (16 to 17 February - 2006, per a Madhya Pradesh site; exactly when in 2007?) may be worth catching.

The other festival I may be able to catch is in Kolkata -- the Dover Lane Music Conference, running approx. January 20-25. (Or this site says, Jan. 22-26. Not yet seen exact dates for 2007.)

It seems worthwhile to catch one or both of these -- to immerse myself in hearing the maestros in all-out day-after-day mode.

Also note: the Khajuraho Dance Festival (one week, sometime in Feb. or March). That could prove a superb occasion to visit Khajuraho.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

François Balthazar Solvyns: etchings of India     [art]

Worth a look --
The complete Solvyns etchings--250 from the Calcutta edition; 60 plates from the pirated Orme edition; and 292 etchings from Les Hindoûs--are here reproduced online following the organization of Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr., A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns & the European Image of India 1760-1824 (Oxford University Press and Mapin Publishing, 2004).
-- from The Etchings Online

Night Journey     [terza rima]

(by way of PROLOGUE)

In the midst of life   suppose I lost my way?
if I jot as one   sitting fast beside the road
unstymied words   inscribing sans dismay

albeit the fall of evening   could forebode
a land of chill   unfazed were I by fear
befuddlement serves as wine   withal my load

what satchel of thought I carry   held as dear
were light to bear   nor needs untoward exertion
but whither proceed?   direction’s far from clear

then what if I strum my zither?   (heart’s assertion
proposes)   mightn’t the scene’s dark disarray
gleam lucent   amid minstrelsy’s devotion?

and supposing here   one settled a spell to stay?
beside the way   where a pool could play as ocean
one voyages   where shadowing branches sway


A few months back, I wrote AN INLAND JOURNEY -- a narrative poem (in five Parts plus an Epilogue). I had tersely described it thus:
Written July 5-10, 2006, this narrative cycle (a fabulistic ballad), divided into 16 sections, is comprised of 64 quatrains in all.
The above little poem (in terza rima) will now serve as the poem-cycle's Prologue. This, then, fully completes the cycle.


The gentle Reader may understand that the stanzas of the PROLOGUE propose a scene wherein the overall POEM will, then, unfold -- as (that is) a Ballad sung by the Poet whom we hear in the prologue.

The portions are as follows:



PROLOGUE:   Night Journey   (in terza rima, above)

PART ONE:   At World's End
PART TWO:   An Evening's Tale
PART THREE:   Voices in Fugue
PART FOUR:   Late Beyond Matins
PART FIVE:   Figments of Figure


Saturday, October 21, 2006

more stray strands of research     [Indian classical music notes]

Sitar Factory (a blog)

débloque-notes -- which is source of the astonishing chart of Indian classical musicians.

From A to Z, the chart appears to have 2,068 entries. The following are the musicians listed as vichitra vina players --

Also to note:

The website of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy (Kolkata) includes a good and extensive audio archive, called Raga Online.

Also note:

The DoveSong.com MP3 Library lists a bunch of Indian classical music (though so far I've not succeeded in hearing any of it).

(Similarly), I'd like to hear the audio clips peppering pandit Parrikar's expositions, but so far haven't managed to do so.

A lot of Sikh singers here:
The Gurmat Sangeet Project. These, anyway, I'm succeeding in hearing (streaming audio).

Ah, now the DoveSong audio is working. Recommended: Elder Dagar Brothers' Darbari Kanada -- see the Kanada Ragas page.

/ / / / /

Also -- good news! in the Karnatic [or if you wish, Carnatic] music sphere: Carnatic Kritis Online. When I discovered the Anahata blog recently, I figured it might prove a trove of good things. So it's proving -- as for instance that Karnatic music link, thanks to a good discussion of Dikshitar's Kamalambam Navavarna krithis.

"Midnight's memorandum"     [boomerang triptych]

The best the poets could say   was "I cannot say"
yet they strove anyway   to define the precise unsayable
so they faded into a gloam   as does the day
ah isn't the dusk   a thing that's quite undayable?
should fringe of the afternoon   remain unfrayable
won't silhouettes of the trees   incline to sway?
what if midnight's memorandum   seems okayable?
the best the poets can say   is "I cannot say"

The best the poets could say   was "I cannot say"
the miasma of the morning   proved alayable
when we wandered into the foyer   what was the play?
why assume the wisest sayings   always are nayable?
for every joust or feint   that's half replayable
there's a babble rabbling   prepared to shout "touché!"
but maugre its waves   the main remains long-stayable
the best the poets can say   is "I cannot say"

The best the poets could say   was "I cannot say"
the bill   albeit exorbitant   became playable
if the jungle's fierce predations   prod the prey
was the Voyage of the Beagle   not pureeable?
well be as that may   the grins are often "hey-hey!"able?
did the grimace portend   a grouse that wanted to stay?
when at last the awning-with-owls   was twilight-arrayable
the best the poets could say   was "I cannot say"


This expands on the original (more modest) quatrain, Puriya Kalyan

Sanskrit et cetera     [Bhopal research]

The curious fact is that, in terms of internet research on various topics, a handy place to park the results is here on my blog. (Accessible, searchable, not lost on some or other storage device I might or might not have at hand . . .) Following this logic of handiness, here is some preliminary research into institutions of language instruction in Bhopal. As I'm contemplating making that city my basecamp -- perhaps for extended periods -- and as I'm eager to dive into study of several Indian languages (first being Sanskrit and Hindi, followed by Urdu and perhaps others), getting the possible lay of the academic land seems useful (though possible routes for such studies hardly need be restricted to academies per se, but it's one place to start). So --

Thumbnail sketch of Madhya Pradesh (various basic facts and statistics) here.

Main cities: Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Raipur [though the latter is technically no longer classed under M.P., being now a province all its own].

Ujjain (where the Gundecha Bros. were born) is of special interest due to its association with Kalidasa.

A Bhopal Tourism blurb.

This chart shows distances of various cities from Bhopal:
Indore -- 108 miles
Nagpur -- 183 miles
Jaipur -- 268 miles
Agra -- 268 miles
Lucknow -- 326 miles
Varanasi -- 376 miles
Pune -- 400 miles
Hyderabad -- 412 miles
Mumbai -- 420 miles
Delhi -- 370 miles
Kolkata -- 700 miles
Bangalore -- 700 miles
Chennai -- 726 miles
Kunming -- 1595 miles
Another, bigger distance chart (but in km units only).

And here's a more comprehensive (Indian cities) distance chart. It lists Ujjain as 188 km from Bhopal (~4 hours)

There was a Sanskrit Festival in Bhopal, Jan. 29-31 2005.

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This site lists several Madhya Pradesh academies (plus governmental cultural departments).
Among them, the Madhya Pradesh Sanskrit Academy is in Bhopal.

This site lists myriads of colleges in M.P.

Search tool for language schools, teachers, tutors in Bhopal (but with nothing relevant at present).

(Actually, my conclusion from this attempted research is -- internet research isn't very effective here. Direct local inquiry is what's needed.)

Ah, but the Wikipedia entry for Bhopal does have a decenet listing of colleges and universities.

\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \

More Madhya Pradesh cultural stuff -- including Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal. (Museum & performing arts.)

\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \

The Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan has a Bhopal Campus. The library in Bhopal is said to have 10,000 books. Their campuses evidently also offer study of Sanskrit via extension courses.

This institution also offers a correspondence course (application due by end of December, for course beginning in January) employing written materials plus CDs (40 15-min lessons per term).

\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \

Stumbled on in passing: the future of traditional Sanskrit learning (considered in a Western academic context) -- pdf document.

Also, unrelatedly (this about English rather than Sanskrit) -- How the Past Affects the Future: The Story of the Apostrophe (pdf document).

A tanpura program download.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Puriya Kalyan     [gnomic epigram]

The best the poets could say   was "I cannot say"
yet they strove anyway   to define the precise unsayable
so they faded into a gloam   as does the day
ah isn't the dusk   a thing that's quite undayable?

ragamala paintings     [music / art]

Raga Lalita
"The Kangra Miniatures of the Pahari School made a mark in the 18th century. Though influenced by the Mughals, the Kangra School retained its distinctiveness. The paintings were naturalistic and employed cool, fresh colors. The colors were extracted from minerals, vegetables and possessed enamel-like luster. Verdant greenery of the landscape, brooks, springs were the recurrent images on the miniatures. Texts of the Gita Govinda, Bhiari's Satsai, and the Baramasa of Keshavdas provided endless themes to the painters. Krishna and Radha as eternal lovers were portrayed rejoicing the moments of love. The Kangra miniatures are also noted for portraying the famine charm with a natural grace. The paintings based on Ragmalas (musical modes) also found patronage in Kangra."

Ragini Vasanti
"Here, celebration of spring is shown amidst the yellow and white blossoms of trees while a pair of belle charmed by the nature’s beauty are plucking flowers and rejoicing the season. The painting is based on Raga Vasanti. Ragini Vasanti represents advent of spring marked by new leaves, blossoming of flowers and songs of birds."

Raga Kalinga

"The painting personifies Raga Kalinga, one of the sons of Raga Dipaka. In the painting Raga Kalinga is visualized as Krishna resting on a lotus flower cushion spread on a serpent. The crown decorates the head while kundals (the rings) adorn the ears. His flute is potent enough to enchant the universe. His beautiful eyes, arched eyebrows and a garland of flowers around his neck enthrall the heart.
"Between 14th-16th centuries a wave of Krishna worship swept India. Hindu devotees could easily relate to Krishna who was one of like them. He was a loving god who moved among them and shared their pastoral and agricultural pursuits. Krishna worship inspired a cycle of poetry in the 16th century succeeded by a cycle of painting."

source of paintings and texts: Crafts in India

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My name is Gauhar Jan     [Indian classical music notes]

Of historical interest . . .

My name is Gauhar Jan

Ah, but a bit of GR [google research] reveals the author of the article about Gauhar Jan to be one Suresh Chandvankar. It earlier appeared here (in an online publication called The South Asian, Oct. 2003) and also here (in Musical Traditions).
Another article, by Pran Nevile (Sunday Tribune, 2002) is here: The importance of being Gauhar Jan. The two articles overlap somewhat, but each includes many details not mentioned by the other.

A fascinating, more scholarly article about the ganewalis ["singing ladies"] was written by Saleem Kidwai: "The singing ladies find a voice"
It includes a number of observations about Gauhar Jan. This little anecdote may serve to suggest the high regard she commanded from the musical cognoscenti:
<< She sang Tagore’s songs, with his permission, but set to her own tunes, a privilege not allowed to others till the recent ending of the copyright covering the Tagore compositions. >>


Here's her discography (or the beginning of one; a note indicates her full discography of known recordings runs to some 160 items), -- with three MP3 "excerpts" (1 min 5 sec each), including:
Bhairavi thumri
Khamaj jogia


More music of Gauhar Jan online!

This remarkable page -- on Patrick Moutal's blog -- features some 272 items of Indian classical music (as MP3 files), including the following:

1. Gauhar JAN, Desh (02:40) 2,4MB
2. Gauhar JAN, Gandhari (02:21) 420KB (24kbps)
3. Gauhar JAN, Gara thumri (02:26) 575KB
4. Gauhar JAN, Jogiya (Jo Piya Aaye Mose...) (02:39) 0,459MB (24kbps)*
5. Gauhar JAN, Pahari Jhinjhoti (Manwa Lubhao...) (03:29) 0,615MB (24kbps)*
6. Gauhar JAN, Sindh Kafi (Naino Se Naina Mila) (03:03) 0,540MB (24kbps)*
7. Gauhar JAN, Bhairavi (Rasili Matwaliyon...) (03:16) 0,576MB (24kbps)*
8. Gauhar JAN, Piloo (Savariyan Man Bayo...) (02:38) 0,465MB (24kbps)

Those are (moreover) evidently the full recordings (ranging from 2min 21sec to 3min 16sec), rather than 1-min excerpts.

= = = = = = = =

Also, a short recording of the legendary Allauddin Khan (sarod) playing Zila Kafi.

I was just yesterday watching his California grandson -- Alam Khan -- on YouTube; or, I mean, on Mehfil Tube. Allauddin Khan emerged from the 19th century; Alam Khan is moving into the 21st.

= = = = = = = =

Relatedly (vis-a-vis Gauhar Jan) and from the same source (I mean, the French blog linked-to at top of this item), see also:

Indian Gramophone Records

Also of note:

Raagabase and the Raaga Finder

Also of note:

Musical Articles Archive (from South Asian Women's Forum)
Our features on the ragas of Hindustani music are written by Rajan P. Parrikar. They contain his insightful analysis and commentary, fortified by around 2000 carefully prepared audio clips that illustrate and illuminate the nuances of raga structure. A large number of these adduced recordings are rare and hitherto unpublished. Rajan, as many of you know, has a penchant to understand not only the music of the masters, but their hearts and minds too.

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But every concert should end with Bhairavi.

So let me complete this little series with a 9-min Bhairavi by the late Lalmani Misra (vichitra vina).
Patrick Moutal's page (source of these various recordings) includes several other selections (some longer) by this notable artist, -- some of them (including this one)
from an old radio broadcast.

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Speaking of vichitra vina (and radio broadcasts), this morning I belatedly learned that Pandit Shiv Dayal Batish (originally from Lahore, where he was an All India Radio artist) and living in Santa Cruz, California for many decades) passed away in July of this year. He was one of the very few accomplished vichitra vina players this world has seen.
The instrument dates from the early 20th century, so far as I'm aware. S.D. Batish's son Ashwin (with whom I chatted on phone this morning) mentioned that his father had studied vichitra vina from a student of the originator of the instrument (whose name, alas, I failed to jot down). One little pop claim to fame of S.D. Batish's was his playing vichitra vina in the Beatles' film HELP. But as a singer-musician, composer, musicologist, and all-around scholar, his somewhat hidden legacy is likely
to continue sending late waves into the world. Ashwin anyway is minded to promulgate writings and recordings of his father in years to come . . .

Born in 1914, S.D. Batish lived into 90s.
I have happy recollections of meeting him in Santa Cruz about 20 years ago.

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Ashwin Batish's website includes a notable Indian classical music teachers list ("The Guru Shishya Database").

Alaka Nandy, exponent of Dagarbani Dhrupad and Damar (and having also a background in Rabindra Sangeet from VisvaBharati/Santaniketan), associated with the Ustad Nasir Moinuddin Dagar Dhrupad Sangeet Ashram in Calcutta, gives instruction on pakhawaj. But possibly it's a girls-only ashram?

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Music India Online has a lot of audio files.

For instance:

Rashid Khan's Mian ki Todi (brief alap / khayal)
Budhaditya Mukherjee's Mian ki Todi (sitar). He was born in 1956, like me.

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Also: some info on several annual classical music festivals in India.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Circular Fable     [blank verse]

The Cirque du Soleil has moved in next door!
                        who would believe it?
"My window overlooks the circus" said Ulrike
                        when I'd asked her location
so I could drop off the biochemical diagram
                        I'd constructed in chemdraw
is this how the cosmos is ushering me away
                        from my present position?
the circus is in residence for a month   and on Monday
                        I plan to submit
to human resources (before exiting stage left)
                        my letter of resignation

this reminds of the evening Bill Clinton paid a visit
                        to our building in the old days
we'd only just arrived in this fancy 12-story
                        a month or two earlier
it must have been summer   next door at the erstwhile
                        convention center (now parking lot)
the Prez (new-elected) was doing a big fundraiser
                        Whitney Houston was singing
while down in our inner courtyard the Saxophone Club
                        was fronted by Kenny G
"I taught him everything he knows" quipped William
                        in innocent comedy

just moments ago I was watching Alam Khan
                        on YouTube expounding
the rudiments of playing the sarod   Alam Khan!
                        the scion of Ali Akbar
I remember this lad as a 5-year-old tyke
                        his mother after all
went to high school together with my sister in Spokane
                        back in the '70s
time's flying in this Circus of the Sun   Lord knows
                        high time I repaired me
to India to study the melodious trapeze
                        for the circus has snared me

meanwhile today comes news Ravi Shankar's
                        in a San Diego hospital
the twentieth century is arriving at its close
                        at last   in this autumn
"those who are alone now will remain alone"
                        quoth Rilke rose-shadowed
I listen and listen to what's probably a thumri
                        a friend it sent by email
I recall neither the singer nor the raag   but the saranghi
                        and the bandish win me over
I'd regale you with the history of everything were I able
                        it's a circular fable


In case the physical lay of the land (alluded to in the first two stanzas) is unclear: the old Washington Convention Center was, a couple years ago, torn down and replaced by a (perhaps temporary) parking lot. On this parking lot (in the middle of downtown DC), the circus has now made its month-long camp. The President (in the anecdote of stanza 2) bopped between the larger gathering (at the Convention Center) and a smaller gathering (in the inner lobby of our office building); the latter was hosted by a group styling themselves the Saxophone Club, comprised of yuppies eager to support Clinton's bid for a second term. This saxophone theme (or schtick) was bolstered by the presence of the light-jazz/new-agey Kenny G. A big video monitor was also installed -- hence we listened to Whitney Houston (next door) while continuing to ply our trade as word processors (with a view of the inner courtyard from the word processing center).

Regarding Pandit Ravi Shankar, an NDTV.com report indicates his condition is stable.

"In the physical world"     [ghazal]

To walk down the highway in actual fact   is different
the verbal abode   from the road of the act   is different

the gestures of thought are like filligree traced in the air
when carving in marble   the total impact   is different

both living and dying are staged   in the physical world
a realm of ideas   from a city that's sacked   is different

the fruit of the vine is mundane   the vine is its servant
this sacrifice is   from a social contract   how different?

couldn't concepts suffice?   to act on them bristles with hazard!
but the measure of earth that this recipe lacked   was different

point A to point B   our trajectories need locomation!
a theory of movement when put into practice proves different

in pure speculation the journey is noiseless and dustless
in train and at station   the click and the clack   are different

although there was no one so eager for life as Ardeo
it's mordantly clear that his knapsack was packed   a bit different

when Ardeo popped out   he presumed he could loll in the clouds
but the stars that he saw   when a wall had been smacked   were different

"The felines in Zanzibar"     [gnomic rubai]

I was counting the felines in Zanzibar   in lieu of counting sheep
now that isn't to say I was struggling   to join the realm of sleep
like an elephant that isn't in the room   I sought for 5 blind men
like a rhino who's looking for Wittgenstein   I said "the road is steep"


responsive to Stephen Schroeder's "reconciling texts" -- including the epigraph from Thoreau ("It is not worthwhile to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar").
The final line's rhinoceros allusion is handily explicated by a blogger here.

Mehfil Tube     [music note]

Check it out   (seemingly a division of You Tube):

Mehfil Tube


Ram Narayan (sranghi), playing raag Mishra Piloo

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (excerpts -- evidently from an old film -- with raag Todi / thumri Bhairavi / thumri Pahadi / raag Yaman Kalyan / raag Marwa . . . )

Ustad Ahmed Jan Thirakwa ("the Mount Everest of tabla") -- from a Films Division documentary, filmed when the maestro was 90 years old, but mighty quick still. (Clip ends abruptly after 10 minutes; -- hard to know how long the original runs.) A black & white film, made when?

raag Darbari, sung by Salamat and Sharafat Ali Khan

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Hariprasad Chaurasia (bansuri) -- several brief "bootleg video" clips from a concert (the stage vaguely reminds me of Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley -- wonder if that's where it it?) The clips are too short to offer a sustained musical infusion; but this gives a glimpse and reminder of Hariprasad's playing. I think these must be rather recent (even with fuzzy videography, the guy looks older than I recall from gone years).

Zakir Hussein (tabla) -- The Speaking Hand (an excerpt from the documentary film by Sumantra Ghosal).

clips of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee (sitar -- from a nicely-done film).

Partha Bose (sitar) -- a newer sitarist; this is the first I've heard from him, a nice sound and obviously good hand. Objection: clips too short. Note mentions his being "of the Maihar gharana." Who's his music-guru I wonder? In clips with Samir Chatterjee (tabla), the video-guy (perhaps a tabla student) is focused just on the tabla.

Pandit Atmaram Sharma (sitar -- from Hyderabad); another unknown to me. A half-hour clip; gat begins about 16 minuntes into the raag. Too bad the clip ends abruptly (when the chap is just some ways into the vilambit gat).

Ustad Tejendra Narayan Majumdar (sarod) -- "of the Maihar gharana accompanied by Yogesh Samsi on tabla. Raag Jaijaivanti, gat in jhaptaal" (less than 3 min. clip, a brief glimpse)

Mustafa Bhagat (sitar), playing raag Charukeshi. ("This is a recital at a house concert in New Jersey USA. Mustafa Bhagat is a disciple of Prasanna of USA and Pandit Manilal Nag of India.") I like his playing (seems that of a promising student).

Prasad Bhandarkar (bansuri) playing raag Shivaranjani. I wasn't aware of this flautist, but he's quite good.

Among many clips of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, this (from 1989) is quite good

the Maihar Band (this one via Google video -- presumably You Tube competitor) -- an ensemble evidently playing a composition of Baba Allauddin Khan's.

Aziz Mian sings a Mira bhajan in Qawwali style. [one line: "Look, I've turnred both my eyes into burning lamps of worship for my love"]

A younger-generation Kolkata artist -- Rajrupa Sen [born 1982] (sarod) playing raag Malkauns. Also (a direct YouTube link), her raag Bageshree. Her website's here.

Speaking of youngsters, dig this: Alam Khan (son of Ali Akbar Khan) on sarod. I remember this kid when he was like 5 years old . . . -- time flies. (The lad talks and plays in this 2-min. clip.)

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A song by Ghulam Ali (ni chambe diye band kaliye teinuun) -- light classical.

Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi (a cute old b&w filmsong, orchestrated) -- more interesting thanks to the visuals. Influenced by Busbee Berkeley?

Another dreamy Bollywood number, Saat suron ke tar of sangeet (by Madhuri Dixit) -- 6 min. (color) -- meta-framed as daydream.

and lots more . . .

Asian literary prize unveiled     [book notes]

October 18, 2006
New Prize for Asian Writers
By Lawrence Van Gelder
New York Times
The investment house that sponsors the Booker Prize has begun a new award intended to recognize Asian authors living in the region and writing in their own language, Agence France-Presse reported. The prize, an annual award of $10,000 to be known as the Man Asian Literary Prize, was announced yesterday in Hong Kong and is to be given next autumn for the first time by Man Investments. Robb Corrigan, a spokesman for the company, said, "There is a specific goal to bring Asian voices to the global stage." Peter Gordon, director of the Hong Kong Literary Festival, which took part in the announcement, said the prize would be open to writers in 24 countries in a "triangle defined by Japan, Indonesia and Afghanistan."

Here's the text of the official press release (13 March 2006)
Major New Literary Prize Established in Asia
Man Asian Literary Prize Will Recognise New Works By Regional Authors
HONG KONG - A major new literary prize was launched today to recognise the work of Asian writers and to bring them to the attention of the world literary community. The prize is a joint project of Man Group plc and the Hong Kong Literary Festival Ltd, which together announced the prize’s creation.
Called the Man Asian Literary Prize, the award will seek entries from Asian writers for works that are yet to be published in English. Entries will be submitted in English, and the prize is intended to provide a broader platform for the cream of new Asian literature to be brought to the attention of English-reading audiences around the world.
The Hong Kong International Literary Festival, sponsored by Man Investments, is the region’s most recognised festival highlighting the achievements of authors throughout greater Asia. Man Group plc (the parent company of Man Investments) is a leading London-based global provider of alternative investment products and solutions as well as one of the world’s largest futures brokers.
Matt Dillon, Regional Managing Director of Man Investments, Asia Pacific announced its establishment at the conclusion of the 2006 Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival. The first annual prize will be awarded in Autumn 2007.
“Through this new prize we aim to foster the publication of new Asian voices in English and to help make those voices more widely heard”, Mr Dillon said. “One of the most important tasks facing our world in recent times has been for the English-speaking peoples to have a better understanding of Asian society and culture. We very much hope this prize will encourage that activity”.
Peter Gordon, Director of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, said Asian writers were becoming increasingly significant on the world literary scene.
“Asia is becoming an important source for new writing for major international publishers and this award will help facilitate publishing and translating of Asian literature into English”, Mr Gordon said.
“Since the purpose of this prize is to facilitate publication and translation rather than to merely reward existing publication activity, the Prize will focus on ’new’ works, as yet unpublished in English”, he said.
The Man Asian Literary Prize will be administered by a new and independent not-for-profit entity. It is anticipated that the judging panel will be drawn from international literary and academic communities.
The Man Asian Literary Prize has a unique combination of features. It is explicitly focused on Asia, as distinct from, for example, the Asia-Pacific/Pacific Rim. It is based in Asia and it will be for currently unpublished works with the explicit objective of encouraging the publication of more works by Asian writers.
Further details including application procedures, eligibility and prize money will be finalised over the coming months and will be announced in Autumn 2006.
Man Group plc is also the sponsor of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker International Prize, two of the world’s premier literary prizes.

There was an advance article about this in The Standard (Hong Kong) way back in May. An article in Time Asia likewise made mention of it in May.