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Indian lifestyle
Kala Ramnath

3 Shades of Raga

Indian lifestyle
Kala Ramnath

Lovers of Indian Classical Music will be treated to a festival of Indian Classical Music, titled Three Shades of Raga, in February 2010. The festival is headlined by the doyen of Indian Classical vocal, Pandit Jasraj,  and also features ace violinist Kala Ramnath, tabla maestro Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, and Swiss based sarodist Ken Zuckerman. BBC presenter, musicologist and author Jameela Siddiqi will present a pre-concert talk.

Blessed with a soulful and sonorous voice, which traverses masterfully over all three and a half octaves, Pandit Jasraj’s vocals is characterized by a harmonious blend of the classic and the opulent elements projecting traditional music as an intense spiritual expression, at once chaste and yet densely coloured. This gives his music a unique and sublime emotional quality, reaching out to the very soul of the listener. Pandit Jasraj celebrates his 80th birthday in January, and Three Shades of Raga is part of his global birthday celebrations.

Perfect diction, clarity in sur (musical notes), and gayaki (creative musical progression), command in all aspects of laya and rhythm, depth of composition and an unmistakable interplay between notes and words to evoke the desired mood and emotion, are the hallmark of his music. This sensitivity, added to the pure classical approach, has given his singing a lyrical quality, which is the quintessence of the Mewati tradition of singing.

As a mentor and guru, Jasraj has already presented to the world an impressive number of illustrious disciples whom he has nurtured and trained in accordance with India’s rich tradition of the Guru-Shisya Parampara (the ideal teacher-student relationship). Today, his frontrunner disciples too are zealously carrying the flag of Indian music to every corner of the world.

Although Pandit Jasraj will never claim himself to be greater than his music, witnesses often discuss legendary incidents that have taken the power of his music to utterly incredible levels. His ardent rendition of Raga Dhulia Malhar has brought unseasonal showers upon drought-hit soil…his Ragini Todi has entranced a deer who came bounding amid a stunned audience at Varanasi…His devotional singing in turbulent times has instantly transformed a hostile Sikh into an admirer…His musical fusion of Om and Allah has brought audiences to their feet in Pakistan …and in keeping with his Guru’s ideal, he has been humble enough to have personally visited a hospital, just to sing to a cancer-stricken young boy on his deathbed, thereby giving him an extended lease of life! He has always spread love, peace and harmony through his music.

The University of Toronto has instituted the Pandit Jasraj Scholarship in his name for young Canadians wishing to train in music. Also the first Distinguished Visitor Award was specially created in 1999 for the first time in 200 years in honour of Pandit Jasraj by the same university. New York too has a auditorium named after Pandit Jasraj. The title “Kalavati” was conferred on him at the Harvard University and needless to say Pandit Jasraj is a familiar voice that has carried Indian music to many international music festivals.

Maestro Kala Ramnath, the contemporary torch bearer of the Mewati Gharana, stands today amongst the most outstanding instrumental musicians in the North Indian classical genre. Born into a family of prodigious musical talent, which has given Indian music such violin legends as Prof. T.N. Krishnan and Dr. N. Rajam, Kala’s genius with the violin manifested itself from childhood. She began playing the violin at the tender age of three under the strict tutelage of her grandfather. Kala’s violin playing is characterized by an immaculate bowing and fingering technique, command over all aspects of laya, richness and clarity in sur. All this innate artistry and technical brilliance combined with a rare and exquisite emotional quality are the hallmarks of the style. She has completely revolutionized the technique of playing the violin by taking this instrument so close to vocal music that today her violin is called “THE SINGING VIOLIN”. Kala Ramnath is also a founder member of RAGA AFRIKA, the world’s first musical collaboration between South Africa and India, fusing the styles of Afro Jazz and Indian Classical Music. RAGA AFRIKA debuted to tremendous acclaim at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town in 2004.

As Jazzwise Review (09/2004) notes, “If Mozart had been transported to the South Asian subcontinent this is what he and improvised Western classical music might have sounded like. The comparison is not thrown in to befuddle or impress. Kala Ramnath is a musician of giant – like qualities”.

Ken Zuckerman, internationally acclaimed as one of the finest sarod virtuosos performing today, has also been called “…one of the world’s most eclectic masters of improvisation.” He has completed thirty-five years of training under the rigorous discipline of India’s legendary sarod master the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and has performed with Maestro Khan in numerous concerts in Europe, India, and the United States.

In addition to performing classical Indian music with some of India’s finest tabla virtuosos (Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee), Ken has been at the vanguard of numerous cultural “crossover” projects. These include the Grammy nominated CD “Diaspora Sefardi” (Hesperion XXI), “India Meets Persia”, with Tar virtuoso Hossein Alizadeh, Modal Tapestry I & II”, Zuckerman compositions for an ensemble of 14 musicians from diverse traditions, and “Meeting Two Worlds of Modal Music”, with the medieval singer, Dominique Vellard.

In addition to his extensive performance schedule, Ken Zuckerman is the principal of the Ali Akbar College of Music in Switzerland in Basel and is also a teacher at the Music Conservatory of Basel where he conducts courses in both North Indian classical music and the music of the Middle Ages.

Three Shades of Raga is produced by Inner Circle Entertainment, the premier producer of Indian Classical music concerts in South Africa. Its previous productions include Raga on 200 Strings (featuring the santoor legend Shivkumar Sharma  with Grammy award winner Bhawani Shankar and Rahul Sharma), Jagjit Singh Live in South Africa, Raga Afrika (the world’s first musical collaboration between South Africa and India), and more recently Two Shades of Raga (with sitar genius Ustad Shahid Parvez and flautist Rupak Kulkarni).

Three Shades of Raga is brought you in association with South African Airways, Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council, Mail & Guardian, SABC 2’s Eastern Mosaic, and tabla.co.za

The performance dates are:

Durban – Wednesday 10th February 2010, City Hall

Cape Town – Friday 12th February 2010, Artscape Opera House

Johannesburg – Sunday 14th February 2010, Lyric Theatre, Gold Reef City

Free pre – concert talk by BBC presenter, musicologist, and author Jameela Siddiqi.

Tickets available from Computicket outlets, online or call centre 083 915 8000.