Shastra is a community of artists dedicated to creating meaningful, cross-cultural music that connects great musical traditions of India and the West. Through festivals, recordings, educational events, and commissioning initiatives, we are a nexus for musicians to share their artistry and bring this music to the world.
Aditya Kalyanpur, recently named by the Hindustan Times as one of Mumbai’s Fifty Young Stars (to be specific – he was number 3!) is a hugely versatile performer. He has performed often with Hindustani legends like flutist Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and santoor player Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, but he also works with musicians from other traditions.
In the video below, Kalyanpur performs with Max ZT, who has been lauded by NPR as the “Jimi Hendrix of the Hammered Dulcimer”. Max ZT comes from an Irish-based training, but has augmented his palette to include Senegalese and Hindustani training as well. ZT actually studied under santoor maestro Pt. Shivkumar Sharma in Mumbai as well! (note that the hammer dulcimer and the santoor are essentially the same instrument — but of course the music and techniques vary considerably between traditions)
Also joining them onstage are percussionist Matt Pert, and Saili Oak Kalyanpur, a master vocalist and disciple of renowned vocalist Ashwini Bhide Deshpande.
Check out this wonderful short documentary about two of the world’s leading talents coming together to make wonderful music. There is some great behind-the-scenes footage of them working out songs and creating new material.
Father Velangini Thumma, a Catholic priest from south India recently released Divine Melody, an album that Angelus called, “a unique fusion of classical indian and American music” — which may be the broadest way to describe it. In Thumma’s songs, a diverse range of styles are juxtaposed at close intervals — from contemporary Christian music to old Hindi film songs, from Hindustani classical to rock.
In his interview with Angelus (available in full here), Thumma reveals that he is a fourth-generation ecclesiastical musician. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all organists at the church in his hometown of Guntur, in Andra Pradesh, India.
Divine Melody is available through his website, or on iTunes.
This past spring, composer Shirish Korde released Ka, a new album of some of his finest Indian/Western collaborative works. Korde’s unique musical language weaves Indian melodic and rhythmic elements into tautly wrought Western-style lines. A staple of each piece on Ka is his long time collaboration with Carnatic singer Deepti Navaratna, who is featured in each of the five works, with different combinations of accompanying instruments.
Matthey Forss, of Inside World Music writes: “The concept of Ka pertains to a unifying, musical cycle that brings together dualities–namely, Eastern and Western musics. Shirish succeeds with an astounding release of musical arrangements that are both thought-provoking and haunting. At any rate, the musical addition of chamber-like orchestrations and Deepti’s mesmerizing voice, creates an unforgettable album that will span the recording devices of Western and Eastern listeners everywhere.”
Listen to an excerpt of Ka below:
Korde’s full album is released on Svarasa Records, and is available here.
Mr. L.S. Ramesh has come up with a cool way to see how the Carnatic (South Indian) scales line up with a Western keyboard. Go HERE to see his invention. If you decide to buy one keep in mind that some of the proceeds go to help underprivileged children through the “Faces” organization
Kala Ramesh explores the connections between the succinct Japanese poetic form of haiku and her own training as a Hindustani classical musician:
We all know that in the silences between notes, between words, between lines, the emotions that arise are rasa — the aesthetic essence — which gives poetry, music or dance, a much greater sense of depth and resonance… What Rasa does to Indian aesthetics is exactly what the Japanese concept of MA does to Renku – a collaborative linked verse tradition. It is found in haiku between the verses and the juxtaposition of two images.” – Kala Ramesh
Read more about her observations, as well as some of her original poetry here.
Rohan Krishnamurthy recently premiered Payton MacDonald’s unique Rohan for solo mridangam and percussion quartet. A review of the concert in The Hindu notes:
“To achieve the mission of globalisation and reach as diverse as an audience as possible, cross cultural initiatives are called for. The new mridangam concerto with percussion quartet that premiered this month to a well attended audience at one of America’s most celebrated venues, New York City’s Juilliard School of Music, was one such successful initiative.”
Krishnamurthy is confident of the concerto’s potential for many future performances with a variety of ensembles:
According to Rohan, since the piece uses traditional Western staff notation and newer hybrid systems of notation for the mridangam, it can easily be performed in other venues involving other artists. “Notation can be a huge musical bridge and will be a great tool when performing the concerto with other ensembles around the world.”