Rhythms of Rajasthan
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Rhythms of Rajasthan

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"“India Calling!” at the Hollywood Bowl"

Live World Music: “India Calling!” at the Hollywood Bowl
September 22, 2009 — irom
By Don Heckman
Indian culture has created one of the world’s most sophisticated forms of musical expression. The raga/tala system, with its juxtaposition of ragas (similar to, but far more complex, than Western modes) and talas (rhythmic cycles) is a unique combining of melody, rhythm, composition, improvisation, spirituality and history. Beyond a few similarities in some Middle Eastern musics, there’s nothing quite like it.
The “India Calling!” concert at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday night promised to present the broader outlines of that music via a program nominally reaching from traditional and classical to Bollywood and pop. In doing so, it displayed both the beauty of Indian music as well as the distractions that have been caused by the infusion of international pop styles.

The first half of the program was far and away the most intriguing, despite its virtual absence of any purely classical offerings. A thirty minute piece, composed by the great Indian master Ravi Shankar, (who was in the audience), performed by members of the Ravi Shankar Centre Ensemble and conducted by his daughter Anoushka Shankar, was a splendid example of Shankar’s capacity to marry Indian and Western forms without sacrificing the integrity of either. Although the piece did not rove into the more complex rhythmic areas of Indian classical music, its composed accents inferred those complexities while still remaining accessible to Western ears. The roving melodies, performed superbly by a large group of singers, soloists and instrumentalists, were rich in lyricism and emotional intensity.

The Rhythm of Rajasthan, a six member ensemble consisting of five musicians and a dancer, fused traditional music reaching across Hindu and Muslim cultures in a performance that offered the evening’s most convincing connection with the roots of Indian music. Among the highlights — the remarkable double flute playing of Habib Khan Langa and Sesh Nath and the spinning, dervish-like dancing of Suva Devi.

Anousha Shankar’s set, closing the program’s first half, for the most part concentrated upon the fusion music that has occupied her thinking over the past few years. To her credit, she has found ways to believably synchronize seemingly contradictory musical forms, matching her own skills with equally adept performers from other genres. Even within this blended conceptual package, however, Shankar’s virtuosic sitar playing, combined with her lifelong immersion in the subtleties of Indian classical playing, invested her every note with layers of musical substance. The most memorable moment in her set was a brief passage in which the other players laid out, while Shankar’s sitar and Ravichandra Kulur’s tabla playing engaged in a too-brief exchange in the classic style.
The second half of the program was an animal of an entirely different stripe. The opening entry — a performance by Yogen’s Bollywood Step Dance Troupe — was an entertaining example of the sort of Busby Berkeley-revisited choreography typical of Indian musical films.

Kailash Kher, one of the most popular singers on Indian soundtracks, offered a dynamic set, backed by his group Kailasa (led by his two brothers, Naresh and Paresh). By this point in the program, however, the connection with Indian classical and traditional musics had largely disappeared, despite the presence of some Indian and Middle Eastern percussion and stringed instruments in Kailasa. Kher’s voice, rich with warm timbres, arching across a rumbling, rhythmic undercurrent, affirmed his success as an international pop act.

Punjabi singer Malkit Singh, a star of Bhangra music for more than two decades, closed the show with a collection of the genre’s current rock-infused qualities. Despite his popularity, the music — for the casual Western listener — was filled with endless repetitions of short phrases, a characteristic of the style’s tendency to employ short couplets in the lyrics. A few segments of male Bhangra dancing added some visual interest. But for the most part, the lack of variation in Singh’s set pretty much gave it the character of a one-trick pony.

“India Calling!” was preceded by an extensive set up of Indian craft booths from different parts of the country, as well as areas featuring Indian dancers and musicians. The stage lighting (despite a caustically critical remark from Kailash Kher at the close of his set) was richly atmospheric, showcasing the Bowl itself at one point with an illumination suggesting the sculptures and textures of a Hindu temple.
So give credit to KCRW’s World Festival for having created a rare opportunity to experience many aspects of Indian culture. Too bad that — as KCRW has done with much of its world music coverage — more emphasis was placed upon contemporary pop elements than the vital heritage of a great creative culture.

- International Review of Music


"Live review: Anoushka Shankar at the Hollywood Bowl"

- The daughter of Ravi conducts the orchestra in a program of traditional and modern Indian music. -

Perhaps some credit should go to the Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" for the near-capacity crowd on hand for the India Calling! event Sunday night at the Hollywood Bowl. A grand panoply of traditional and modern music, dance, art and cuisine, the evening highlighted India's seemingly limitless aesthetic varieties.

The Ravi Shankar Centre Ensemble's performance presented the classical and folk elements of India's fertile musical legacy using intriguing hybridized forms. Curated by Shankar and conducted by his daughter Anoushka, the orchestra played works that demonstrated the impressive diversity of instrumentation and vocal styles that the more traditionally based Indian forms can accommodate -- there was graceful and fiery interplay between sitars, tablas, violins and guitars, revealing a wide emotional and textural range.

Anoushka Shankar conducted the ensemble with exuberant precision.

The five-member Rhythm of Rajasthan ensemble whipped up a tough, romping set featuring percussion, strings and reed-like instruments. A resplendently clad dancer twirled while executing a series of tricks: standing on cups while balancing a high stack of bowls on her head, or bending over backward to pick up rings with her eyes.

The Anoushka Shankar Project presented the evening's most genuinely progressive music. The program showcased her virtuosic sitar skills in pieces that incorporated such Western elements as cello and piano and slightly overamplified kit drums alongside the standard tabla drums, the shehnai reed instrument and droning tanpura.

Shankar proved her mastery in breathtaking, complex scale runs through self-composed -- and in one action-packed, jazzy piece, perhaps Bollywood-inspired -- works that adeptly blended raga-related variations with non-Indian sources.

The visually spectacular Yogen's Bollywood Step Dance Troupe, which worked out to the "Slumdog Millionaire" theme in a tribute to that film's composer, A.R. Rahman, preceded Kailash Kher's Kailasa. That act, featuring the diminutive Kher and brothers Naresh and Paresh Kamath, specializes in Sufi-folk rock, a mishmash of traditional sounds and contemporary rock and funk.

Though the group veered a bit too far into an electronic "international house/pop" style (complete with wailing rock-star guitar solos), Kailasa found its stride in tunes stressing a satisfyingly deep-grooving tribal funk.

Punjabi artist Malkit Singh capped the night with a frenzied, almost chaotic tour through his chart toppers, many of which have been featured in films such as "Bend It Like Beckham" and "Monsoon Wedding." The crowd greeted Singh like a conquering hero, and he rewarded it with party-down hits such as "Tutak Tutak Tutiyan," the bestselling Bhangra song of all time. - LA Times


Discography

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNauufXd_So

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6inOc4g2xqg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-VKg0OvEvY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2BHnCQp7xI

Photos

Bio

Rhythm of Rajasthan is composed of a group of musicians and one dancer from the western region of Rajasthan. The group has the mixture of traditional hereditary caste musicians of the Langa and Manganiar community as well as a dancer from Kalbelia community. The Rhythm of Rajasthan is a birth of an idea to create an exciting fusion of Traditional rhythms and melodies of these communities. All the group members have worked with many musicians from the northern region of India and have gained remarkable experience touring the world.
The group recently toured the USA in September 2009 with a remarkable performance on the 20th of September 2009 at Hollywood Bowl, LA, California. In the same tour, the group also performed in the Chicago World Music Festival and the 5th Annual New York Gypsy Festival. The group also performed in cities like Berkeley, San Francisco, Houston, and Buffalo.

In past the group also participated in the 2nd International Sufi Music Festival at Amman, Jordan organized by the Ministry of Culture and Jordan Music Forum. The HRH Prince El Hassan Bin Talal honored the group in the closing ceremony of the Festival.

The members of the Rhythms of Rajasthans are composed of Langas and Manganiars. The music of these two indigenous groups of hereditary professional musicians has been supported by wealthy landlords and aristocrats for generations. Both groups sing in the same dialect but their styles and repertoires differ; shaped by the tastes of their patrons. The Manganiar has the patron from the Rajput community mainly Rathore and Bhati Rajput, and in the other hand the Langa has the patron from the Sindi Sipahi community of Western Rajasthan.
Though both communities are made up of Muslim musicians, many of their songs are in praise of Hindu deities and celebrate Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi. The Manganiar performers traditionally invoke the Hindu God Krishna and seek his blessings before beginning their recital.
Langa literally means 'song giver'. An accomplished group of poets, singers, and musicians from the Barmer district of Rajasthan, the Langas converted from Hinduism to Islam in the 17th century. Traditionally, Sufi influences prevented them from using percussion instruments. In lieu, the Sindhi Sarangi and the Algoza (double flute) were used to accompany and echo the formidable and magical voices. They perform at events like births, and weddings, exclusively for their patrons (Yajman), who are cattle breeders, farmers, and landowners. The Langa musicians are regarded by their patrons as 'kings'.
The 'Sindhi Sarangi' used by the Langas, is made up of four main wires, with more than twenty vibrating sympathetic strings which help to create its distinctive haunting tones.
The Manganiar play the remarkable bowed instrument, the 'kamayacha', with its big, circular resonator, giving out an impressive deep, booming sound. The music of Rajasthan is driven by pulsating rhythms created by an array of percussion instruments, the most popular of them being the 'dholak', a double headed barrel drum, whose repertoire has influenced other Indian drums including the tabla. This recording also features the double flute, 'satara' , and the hypnotic Jewish harp or 'morchang'