Stephan Mikes
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Stephan Mikes

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF
Band World Jam


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"Sitar Player Fuses East and West in Music"

From the Charlotte Sun newspaper

"Sitar Player fuses East and West in music"

by Sandy Copperman

One of the perks of a music writer is the opportunity to find new genres of music, especially when one least expects it.

Last Saturday, when I visited the Sullivan Street Spring Craft Festival in Punta Gorda, I saw and heard a sitar player sitting in a booth a block from Retta Esplanade.

He was sitting cross-legged with his feet tucked under him, and he was rocking to and fro in rhythm to the Indian music he was playing. The sound of the sitar combined with the background provided by the synthesizer was beguiling, yet relaxing, so I stopped and listened to this intriguing and unique music.

As I listened, fascinated, I read a poster, set up front, which announced this artist's name, Stephan Mikés, and the many favorable critical reviews he's received. He performs, composes and records his own compositions. His many CDs were displayed on the front rack for sale.

After he'd completed playing the song, I introduced myself and asked him some questions, which he answered cordially.

I asked him how he became interested in music, especially the sitar.

"I started as a rock musician in the '60s," he said. "In the '80s, I studied sitar under the instruction of a student of Ravi Shankar, Roop Verma. After six years of rigorous training, I began to blend the classical Indian music that I'd learned with many ethnic music influences into my own personal style. Part of this is a fusion of Afro-Cuban jazz with Indian music."

"There are different types of sitar playing," Mikes continued. For example, the lively vs. the mellow. Ravi Shankar espoused the lively style, while my teacher, his student, developed his own mellow style, just as I am doing."

Mikes said he was about to leave on a tour of 13 U.S. cities.

Listening to two more selections of this pleasant music while sipping hot coffee, I heard first a jazzy piece called "Shiva's Bolero." I could feel a sinuous, sensuous energy that permeated the music and relaxed one's soul.

The next selection, called "Blue Largo," was lethargic in mood. Like a tropical breeze, the rhythm's swaying and the melody's swinging felt calming to the mind and uplifting.

While I listened, I read the flier that had Mikes' biography. A native of Chicago, his family moved to Pennsylvania, where he attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania, majoring in philosophy and anthropology.

The flier said he combines his knowledge of Eastern music with the influences of Latin, Middle Eastern, Afro-Cuban and Caribbean music.

"My music is a kind of microcosm of the different cultures in Miami rolled into one," he said. "I took all of their rhythmic and melodic influences, combined it with my classical Indian training, and that's how the music came together."

"(My music teacher) taught me one of the most basic tenets: What is your intention when you create your music? Whatever your intention is behind your music, that's what people are going to get, no matter what kind of music it is."

Besides many nominations for Florida music awards, Mikes has been featured on various commercial and public television programs. He has composed for a ballet company, a TV soundtrack and for studio recording projects.

His performance credits include playing for President Clinton's 50th birthday celebration in 1996 from the Biltmore in Coral Gables. He also performed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and in Boston at the Wang Center for the Performing Arts.

He has performed at many of Ivana Trump's black tie events, and he has played for prestigious gatherings at upscale art centers, museums and art festivals. He has also performed at most of the major jazz and rock clubs in South Florida.

There is a satisfaction in discovery of a unique artist. Original music is never created in the music factories of large record companies, on network TV or in major movie studios. As with artists in general, true musical creativity can only happen with independent artists like Stephan Mikes. - Charlotte Sun

"New Times Best of Miami "Best Acoustic Performer" Stephan Mikés"

Plenty of unplugged soloists fill rooms with auditory delights . . . but this acoustician stands (actually he sits, in the lotus position, when playing) a world apart from the standard electricity-free dude or chick. After decades of study, training, practice, and performance, Stephan Mikés plays sitar at the master level, placing a karmic chapter in the book of cosmic music. Barefoot and ponytailed, gentle but worldly, taught by the best on the planet, Mikés first enters another realm with his giant, stringed gourd-stick instrument across his lap. Then he begins to play tunes from one of his CDs and takes the listener to outer space and beyond. Musical Valium one moment, fire ants in your eyes another, his is both tranquil and stirring music, complex yet smoothly engaging. Playing sitar is extremely challenging. Playing one as well as he does is as rare as a rabbi in the Himalaya mountains. - Miami New Times

"Short Quotes"

Before You See, the first album from Stephan Mikes received a good deal of critical acclaim, including . . .

"For fans of psychedelic world music, this one's a must . . ."

-- Dennis Walkling, JAM Magazine, 5-star (highest) rating

"The sitar is back. And one of its new, contemporary masters is Stephan Mikes . . .
(He) has created a compelling East-meets-West musical fusion using the sitar and other Eastern instrments along with pedal steel guitar and synthesizers. The sounds may be foreign but the compositional structures are familiar and include pop-like melodic hooks you can hang your head and heart on."
-- Scott Benarde, Critics' Choice, The Palm Beach Post

". . . The result is a collection of accessible originals, featuring simple, appealing melodies and rhythms, which
at turns produce meditative or uplifting feelings."

-- Laura Wilansky, Cafe Society, XS Magazine

And, on The Good, the Bad and the Karmic:

"By playing an instrument that developed well outside the melodic boundaries of Western music, Mikes may be the ultimate crossover artist. For proof, look no further than his third and most recent release, The Good, the Bad and the Karmic, on which Mikes successfully fuses the sitar's distinctive sound and winding Eastern melodies with a wide range of musical styles."

-- Jim Murphy, New Times

?With a slew of Eastern-style instruments, Mikes combines the best of all worlds and creates a masterpiece -- highlighted, of course, by the sitar. Soothing, spiritual and somewhat transcendental, The Good, the Bad and the Karmic
was created to take you away and it will.?

-- DJ Justice, JAM Magazine

"If you picture a film in which Tom Cruise molds the use of Eastern powers for romantic purposes -- 'Zen and
the Art of Finding a Chick,' if you will -- this could be the soundtrack."

-- Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Also, about Dakini Beach :

"A master at blending cool Indian inspired ragas with upbeat instrumental world jazz, Mikes is at his best on Dakini Beach, his latest album . . ."

-- Robert Silverstein, 20th Century Guitar
And most recently:

" 'Secret Songs' continues Mikes blend of the sitar with Western sounds and genres --
stringlike keyboards and lap steel guitars make appearances -- to build contemplative melodies that retain the mystery and exoticism of Indian music while also dabbling in jazz, blues and trip-hop."
-- Rene Alvarez, Street magazine

"A great chill-out album filled with world beat sitar sounds and subtle yet effective percussion and electronica, 'Secret Songs' is like an audio travelogue filled with magical, mystical sounds."
-- 20th Century Guitar - Various Sources


Before You See; The Good, the Bad and the Karmic; Dakini Beach; Secret Songs of the Sitar Player; Jewel of the Lotus; Twilight: Evening Ragas Sitar Solos Vol. 1; Serenity: Afternoon Ragas Sitar Solos Vol. 2; Sitar Christmas; Sounds of the Surbahar (oop); East Meets South (oop).



Stephan Mikés

Stephan Mikes's musical talents became apparent at a an early age. At age 7 he began his musical training with Maestro Carmelo of Italy and gave his first public performance at age 9. Discovering the guitar when he was 11, Stephan was playing professionally and teaching that instrument by the time he was 16. Around this time, Stephan first heard George Harrison's experimental Sitar work with the Beatles, and then Ravi Shankar's performances at Woodstock and elsewhere, and he discovered there was a new musical universe to be explored. Stephan knew he had to play the sitar, and after working a number of years as a producer and arranger for hire, he had his chance. Stephan was taken on as an apprentice to one of the greatest Sitar masters in the world, and he trained for an initial period of 10 years.

Stephan arrived in South Beach in 1992, taking the island by storm,and was soon playing five nights a week hitting every major venue in town. This period inspired the first of his sitar jazz fusion albums, combining the exotic Eastern sound of his Sitar with the sultry melange of Afro-Cuban, Reggae, Haitian, and Latin Jazz he discovered in South Beach.

After his second album was released in 1995, Stephan was picked up by world music label Putumayo Records, and has gone on to have his music released in over 100 countries, with unit sales in six figures. He has performed in concert halls like the Wang Center in Boston and The Kravis Center in Palm Beach on the East coast and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco on the West coast, and has been featured at hundreds of music and arts festivals across the US. Stephan has been invited to accompany onstage Classical Master Ravi Shankar and pop icons like Donovan and Cheap Trick, and in the world of Latin Music, the sound of Stephan's sitar has been used on recordings by Carlos Ponce and Emilio Estefan.

Locally, Stephan has been twice honored by the Miami New Times, as Best Acoustic Performer and Best Solo Performer. Ft Lauderdale's XS Magazine named him Best New Age Musician. WLRN Television filmed
a full length feature on Stephan's music, and he has performed live on WLRN radio many times, and at other NPR affiliates around the country.

To this date, Stephan has released over 10 recordings of different styles, some his modern sitar world jazz, some classical sitar music and also music for massage and meditation. Current works in progress include an album of Sitar Electronica, an album of sitar fused with traditional Latin forms, and more music for massage and meditation.

Media Quotes- "The sitar is back and one of it's new contemporary masters is Stephan Mikés." -
The Palm Beach Post

" A master at blending cool Indian-inspired ragas with upbeat instrumental world jazz."
20th Century Guitar Magazine

"Playing sitar is extremely challenging, Playing one as well as he does is as rare as a rabbi
in the Himalaya Mountains." -New Times Miami

Celebrity quotes- "I love the way he blends the music of East and West." - Ivana Trump

"Sounds just like the Buddha Bar in Paris." - George Hamilton

"He's a Genius." - Shirley Jones, Broadway, TV and Movie Star

Stephan's corporate clients include Armani, AirBus International, Bank of America, GlaxoSmithKline, International Polo Assn, MetLife, Merck, J.P.Morgan, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Walt Disney World, General Motors, Trump International Resorts and more.

Long form Bio
Although many Westerners have been fascinated by the sitar, Stephan Mikes one of the few who have undergone the years of rigorous one-on-one training in classical Indian music necessary to do
justice to this ancient instrument. As a primary student of sitar master Roop Verma, Stephan is part of a teaching lineage that goes back over 600 years and includes Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
He combines his knowledge of Eastern music with the influence of Latin, Middle Eastern, Afro-Cuban, and Carribean rhythms to create
compositions which are unique and compelling. In addition to the sitar, Mikes proficient on guitar, zither, mandolin, lap steel guitar and
various types of synthesizers.
Since 1986, Stephan has been performing and perfecting his own distinctive technique on the sitar. He has released four highly-acclaimed CDs of his modern original compositions on the independent Akasha label; Before You See, The Good, the Bad and the Karmic, Dakini Beach and Secret Songs of the Sitar Player. He also has five specialty albums; Twilight: Evening Ragas, Sitar Christmas, Jewel of the Lotus: Sitar Meditations, Sounds of