Ravi Shankar's life; Ravi Shankar Institute for Music and Performing Arts; General Conversation
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
8 Dec 2004
- New Delhi; Chanakyapuri; Ravi Shankar Institute for Music and Performing Arts
- 28.595 77.178
Split Track Stereo; Spaced Omnis
Show: Ravi Shankar, Susan Stamberg
DAT #: 8
Engineer: William McQuay
Date: December 8, 2004
R = Ravi Shankar
SUK = Sukanya Rajan
JC = Jessie Charnow
S = Susan Stamberg
Jes = Jessica Goldstein
Bill = Bill McQuay
(summary: Interview, shopping, brief pg 12 with Jessie C.)
1:41 interview room (salon)
BILL: channels will be flipped the same as they were in the other interview- Susan appear right but will be left.
[Raga and times of day]
Susan shows record jackets and ragas and morning, afternoon and evening.
(AMBI paper flipping 4:35)
This is a very effective song called prabuti- means oh lord
And it's a morning song
No it's a general meditation, morning and ¿
R-these are all prayers and chanting
But this is very effective, and if you have the original cd the words and all are explained here.
S- is there a morning raga here?
AMBI 5:25 pages flipping)
S- or afternoon or evening?
r- evening yeah
s- good show me
R- this is an evening raga
s- oh good, it says it¿
and also this is it,
s- here's an evening raga
r- raga ka mang (he explains pronunciation)
I would prefer this¿
s- I give it the two Shankar stars.
6:14 S- Okay lets look for a morning raga now, any idea
AMBI pages flipping
R- there is one morning raga here¿
7:22 is that all you have?
s- we have more, it is all I brought
r- if you have some better one ¿
r- do you have any list?
Jes- I will talk to her via email¿no worry
s- there is a raga for every time of the day
what is the difference
r- there are a lot of scientific but very technical explanation, you know a combination of the minor second and the minor sixth has some special time effect of different part of the day or you know different timings. Or the combination of the minor third and the minor seventh, things like that, but those are really very complicated and really technical. But there has been definition of why this raga is of this time in the olden days they have had this explanation. But for us it has become more of an association of idea.
R-We cannot forget that. Especially in the north Indian Hindustani style. We observe still today very much of this playing I mean we would never play a morning raga in the evening or visa-versa, but in the south, kitanaka (?) system they also had this but since about I believe 100 years or so they have done away with it.
r- because they were very clever I think, they realized in the future, the programs would be held only in a limited time. And maybe between four and 10 in the evening so you cannot cut away hundreds of thousands of ragas
s- right (over lap on Shankar)
r- which are not of that time
s- does a morning raga try to reflect the sounds of nature the day?
r- (overlap on stamberg)
all that is explained in the old scriptures, but were really don't , we are so used to it, that we cannot think of it. To us, it is both together, the moment you hear ragalalit, you think of sun going to rise, you know its all day, daylight before it still dark but you know the whole feeling of tying to meditate at that time or there is afternoon where the sun is at the top, absolutely, or evening when it is dusk things like that, the association is so strong for us. It is more that we follow with our instinct.
r- and prefixed ideas that this raga is for this time this time
s- but maybe this is a foolish question, these are ancient ragas they go back, you write ragas now, you compose, new ones, the world is so different the sounds of the world are so different, does that influence what you create?
r- no if you are well grounded in the technique as realized many years of practice and had a good guru teaching you the old traditional system, then and if you are creative at the same time, then whatever you create automatically follows all the rules and regulations and expression, feeling everything, without you thinking, but you cannot do it just with you intelligence, with a computer machine, you can think of hundreds and thousands of combinations and you can play it on a keyboard but it won't have that effect.
r- of a raga or what it should have
s- but I am thinking when the ragas were first created, the world was so different, there was so much more silence. And and the melodies and rhythms could grow out of silence. There is no silence in the world today and in our lives.
r- yeah, that is a very reasonable question, but I would say that we follow certain very deeper which has no time of being old or new, you know, it is an able musician who is well grounded, who had good talimore, good training from a guru he can create anytime at any moment the desired affect that the particular raga should bring.
s- then uh, explain to us the influence of the Vedic chants on the music you make
r- Vedic chants are supposed to be special of the Vedas one of the four main Vedas.
Some Veda has been acknowledged by all scholars and musicians as the source of our music but in the beginning it was just chanting in three note, you know, those three notes developed, two centuries maybe, into four (door closes in background)
r-five six, and finally they invented the seven note octave which is , and we don't sing Vedic chants any more because it could have been the source and the feeling of our music but music developed more as a performing art, gradually, Vedic chants fell just to meditate, and chant for calls in the temples. And gradually when the performing art developed it had to be something different. And we never wrote down our music but music never stopped it went on developing style of singing, style of playing on the instruments, everything gradually but it was such a slow development, you know, that you didn't feel because there was no television, no radios nothing, so one could keep the tradition very very straight. 15:08
r- and any creative artist added to it, but he never sort of plucked anything from different thing and added to it but it was something within the foundation keeping the depth of our music
s- so¿so the Vedic chants began in the temples, and they were sung by the priests in the temple?
r- absolutely, there were special people who could only adept in singing or reciting these chantings
s0 and that became the building block
r- and from that gradually developed our music.
s- what are those three notes? What were those first three-
r-this was (he sings!)¿then they would shift (sings again)¿ you know its all like modulating and gradually all these half notes were created and then they found out the srutis (shruties), which are the microtones, we have 22 in the octave.
s- but first they were sung and later they were played on the instruments.
r- songs and the vocal music was first and then of course things
(Susan- "right") nearest to the voice, came the flute and then gradually the string instruments, first there were guts maybe and then strings metal strings. India is known to have used metal strings before anywhere else, because everywhere else there were either silk or gut. But they really found out, discovered, metal strings
s -and when those priests first were doing their chants, how long ago was that? Thousands of years?
r- no, well it has been a roughly timed something like a 2500 years starting of our singing style you know to perform, as performances as entertainment, and before that, it dates back to 5000 years at least one can say without any hesitation when it was oral tradition teaching this chanting of sala Veda, Vedic Veda the four atarba Veda (approximation of transcription here¿)
s-what does Veda mean
r- Vedas are the ,,, they are the four Vedas , the four scriptures.
s- scriptures? Is that the mahabarata and the-
r- that is much later
mahabarata is a story form of the, and when Krishna was there (Susan speak over him )
r- incarnation of Vishnu
that is dated almost 5000 years¿
s- I see
r- but you know all these things are all for scholars
s- what do you remember of the first sounds of your childhood, as a little boy in Banaras.
r- it was fantastic because Banaras has too much sound of music in different parts. At the bank of river Ganges one hears all the time there used to be palaces of maharajas¿19:29
all around the bank of Ganges for almost two three miles and each of these musicians, mostly the instrument which is something like oboe we can shehnai, and this shehnai is to be heard, if you walked you would hear one raga being played and you just walked a little more another shenhia and it overlapped but for some just one of them and that was something fantastic, and then all along the Ghat, or the bank of the, there used to be religious songs, pajans. Or enacting Ramana stories, different type of folk songs it was full of music all the time , you know, and even from our home you could hear a lot of in the early morning all the priest going to the temples they used to chant.
R- haraha¿ (he chants) and it was early morning, still dark we used to wake up with all this and then I sort of learned lot of songs of rebendula tago, of Bengali, being Bengali myself it was very natural to so I was brought up into very musical atmosphere, but not really learning (mic bump) till much later , till much later
s- and your mother used to sing to you
r- and my mother , she had beautiful voice and she knew many classical, semi-classical songs, folk songs, Bengali, Hindi language, she used to make me sleep, go to sleep by singing this songs that was wonderful
s- do you remember any of those that your mother sang to you?
r- yes I remember, beautiful song, asking where is my beloved Krishna? (he sings)
s- I 'm feeling sleepy, (laughter) oh that would be wonderful to hear
r- she had a beautiful soft voice, very melodious, she was not a trained singer but...you know, having heard lots of musician, she could pick up. My father was actually more learned into music he had proper though he was not a professional but he learnt that what I told you, saman Vedas, they are known as saman chants and he went to different schools in bernadas, in puna, different styles there are, you know of singing these Vedic hymns. Actually,
s- I have to tell you this, I am thinking about you as a little boy, 10 years old sitting and playing sitar on a stage, my friend Eleanor, when she lived in India, would go to the classical music concerts and see the children on the stage and think, I have children that age at home they wouldn't sit still minutes, and look at these children who are musicians sitting for hours quietly making music on the state
r- yeah that was a period when that was possible, now it is really a little more difficult because everything has speeded up so much. Even in the west they have this wonderful Japanese system, you know, Suzuki system
(Susan whispers name)
which is fantastic, they have invented a particular style by which the little kids stand, they can pick up music much faster, and they get, they don't practice for hours or anything like that but you know as much as they can
s- yeah, no, but I mean, how come you weren't a wriggly little boy the way American children are when they are very little and ask to sit still for a while?
r- no I didn't really, from the age of ten until I met my guru at 15 I didn't realize one had to do that. I could just you know, fiddle with all the instrument actually (he laughs) and not be very serious and I could pick up things, what I heard and I was quite happy and everybody was pleasing me I was more spoiled that way. I didn't concentrate properly on any one thing, until my guru told me.
s- yeah, but you have a wonderful ear and a quick ear
(RS speaks over her)
R-yeah, in that I am very lucky. I could pick up very quickly yeah
s- lets talk about your work with Yehudi Menuin, and what you were trying to do there. To bring this western violin in the hands of a great master, together with the eastern sitar, in the hands of a great master, how could they meet?
R- it was something which I had more had wanted because I was very clear about something though I had a very good ear to appreciate, I feel very much at home with, starting with the Gregorian chants to music of Bach and Hayden and then to Beethoven to Mozart, even Tchaikovsky and all the famous composers music , I was so much familiar with it, but I never wanted to attempt play any western composer's music, because I though I was not sufficiently trained for that so I suggested that I'd compose within my raga and tala base and he was very happy and then I sort of composed, taught him and it was written down in western notation, and Vivi has has tried to because treatment of notes is so different you know 27:02
At staccato and vibrato and all these things are not in the same way as we do so we worked quite hard and he was such as such a great musician, he had such humility, and he called me his guru. And I was so touched because here is person I respected as one of the greatest musicians and it gradually came to shape and we performed in Bas Music Festival.
R- he was the director of that at that time. And it came naturally to
people such as Ted and Achembe was very, his masters were, such as EMI
interested in recording it. After we did one record he was so happy that, we
made three recordings actually. That was under the city's west meets east
S- and you did some sitar concertos too and the pieces were written for
western orchestra but the orchestras had a hard time
R- very hard time
A lot especially the second one even more with (two people named) and had to
work individually with all musicians. It was a very complex concerto number
S- talk then about the difference between the western orchestra you have all
those violins and they are constructed to play together and an Indian
orchestra is not built that way.
R- no I mean actually, orchestra is something very very new in our country
because we have this uh, habit even if two person play together, it has to
be totally fixed, they try to play exactly, or what happens is one tries to
lead and one follows a little behind, so that has been always the case, when
I was with All India Radio, to create as much as possible without aping or
copying the western style to find out a way that we can have something like
an orchestra, more of a chamber music not really a bit orchestra and
somehow, working for five six years there, I did find out a way to keep our
music, the raga system, the tala system, and at the same time have an
effective orchestra, not in the western sense, not with the full harmony and
chords,(hit mic and said again) and modulation and things that are the main
thing in the western orchestra and that gave me the expedience to the do the
first, the number one concerto, the sitar concerto. With the orchestra which
was the combination of the London symphony orchestra and Previn conducted
S- yes Andre Previn (?)...
Oh he would have been fascinated
R-that was really great, that gave me a really wonderful chance to
experiment (squeaking chair) with a tremendous use of octaves
Sounds quality and I exploited more of that
s- does all India radio still have an orchestra?
r- they have but they did not take it much further than what we did then
s- and are there Indian orchestras that exist today?
r- there are orchestra there are some which try to do exactly that play
western compositions, or play in the western, that to me don't sound that
interesting really...(Susan interrupts but he continues)
and of course in the Bollywood the film area have really done much more.
They have gone much more, more professional and more leaning to the western
sound. Using violins and saxophones and all the different instruments. And
they, do quite a good job but its not classical music. It is something else.
S- it is popular music. Yes. I think that you ended up feeling that you
couldn't put east and west together. They worked best together if you
alternated, if you played your sitar with the group and the western group
r- not necessarily. In both the orchestra there was no other I, didn't even
use tabla I use bongo.
s- in the concerto?
r- yes in both the concertos. I was alone and it was the full symphony
So we had different parts, I exploited lot of solo pieces on trumpet and
violin and different instruments. And lot of question answer type things
which was very interesting.
S-talk about that question-answer why is that such an important part of
r- it is really fun because you sort of play something and the other person
plays something a little different or adding or just doing exactly what you
do and one becomes the leader and you make it a little harder for the next
time (he chuckles) so it's a lot of fun, rhythmically as well as
s- well it was so much fun last night to hear you do it
s- all of you because it was a real conversation- and I guess it keeps your
concentration too- whoa you have to really listen.
r- of course in the concertos it was all written down in fixed things (Susan
"Yes") I had little solo pieces where I improvised. When you, for instance
when I play with my daughter or with my senior students its nothing fixed
It's all improvisation, and that becomes even more exciting.
s- lets see, you mentioned your daughter
S- lets talk about the two of them Anoushka and Nora, do you think
Anoushka's a pretty good musician do you?
r- Oh she's wonderful! She's so talented and fantastic. She's fantastic and
she is not just a musician but she has got so many different talents as a
writer as a dancer as a speaker, she's amazing really.
s- you are not just a proud father making casual conversation about his
r- no (he laughs) she's really fantastic. And it was such a pleasure to
teach her from childhood and now she has blossomed out to be such a
wonderful musician she's experimenting at present with making a record and
we are all very much eager to see what happens.
s- do you feel that she, will carry out your legacy?
r- I do hope so and I think she is the right person to do it.
But what will happen who knows?
s- the right person because why? Because she has the genes? The talent?
r- everything everything. I think yeah.
r - and as far as Nora is concerned I call her gitu, that's her Indian name,
her name from her childhood. Githali, we call her Gitu.
s- what does it mean, Gitalli?
r- Githali is like a singing bee, something like that. Yeah and she is again
something else, she didn't have any training from me, she just heard me in
her childhood until she was 6,7,8, but never had the chance to sit and learn
properly any Indian music but you know being in the states with her mother
and listening to jazz country music and all the music that she grew up with
she has such wonderful talent and that is what she has become today.
s- wasn't that amazing to you?
r- absolutely, I am amazed,
s- last night I walked into the hotel where we are staying with a microphone
with a keyboard, it wasn't a keyboard it was some sort of soundboard and she
was singing to one of Nora's songs
R- I see...
s- best known, come away with me>
r- she has such feeling something very musical. That's what touches me most.
s- her mother is a concert producer?
R- she is. She is also very talented. She did a lot of things 38:07
But a concert producing is one of the
s- and she lived in New York?
r- and then later on in Texas.
S- but Nora grew up in Texas didn't she? Dallas?
r- very early part to about 7,8, almost nine she was in New York and then in
Dallas, and then back again
s-you had a time when you really were not in touch?
r- yeah , for about nine years or so I didn't see her and I didn't know
where they were, we completely lost contact unfortunately and then from her
18th birthday she came back to me and we have been meeting very often. We
have such wonderful time and Anoushka and she is so attached to each other.
(Bill says--there was talking behind, Susan 'hi?! Its okay...)
39:22-39:33 (Susan looks at her notes)
S- are the sisters close now? Anouska and Nora?
r- they are very close to each other yea, and I feel so much happy to be ,
you know listening to her, I just heard her a few weeks ago before we came
back , in San Diego. She is getting better and better. I love her.
s- so who got you back together. How was it when she was 18- who got you
back in touch again?
r- well entirely it was Soukanya, my wife, she somehow found out and made
all the contacts and the phone and everything was happening. And in fact, it
was very strange, Nora came here, spent some time with us two years ago,
three years ago and everyone thought both the daughters were from Soukanya.
So everybody said, that your elder daughter looks like her mother and the
younger daughter looks like you! And we laughed so much. She has a round
face somehow and they mistook her to be the elder daughter.
s- and why was there so little contact ?
r- well I was having a lot of problems at that time. You know, and sue at
that time was more wanting to stay in the states and I had to tour so much,
and I got involved in so many things that it became very difficult.
s- isn't wonderful that you are all in touch now?
r- we are good friends now and I feel much happier now
s- okay we're finished. I need you do one silly thing
R- hello this is Ravi Shankar, Happy New Year!
42:39 everyone disperses (Ravi shares a joke about Sukanya speaking to the
44:26 AMBI 46:36 (bill stops)
46:48 (getting out of a car- some traffic noises, horns in the background.)
s- the store doesn't know they are coming
47:28 bell on the door chimes, 47:36 car horn closer, power saw?
48:03 fade into indoors
48:24 (scanners and check out type machines are heard and hum of visitors
48:48 (wooden stool over tile)
49:08 (going out for coffee, ravi and soukanya speaking a bit)
50:09 photo taken
R- oh my god, look at that!.....beautiful...
50:30 r- thank you
JC- we'll go upstairs, ravigee, and look at the clothes upstairs.
Suk- this place you can close your eyes and buy.
Jessica- look at the colors! It shimmers
AMBI looking at the fabrics- 51:50
52:01 Plastic rustling, foot shuffle, plastic stacked
52:40 (Bill speaking with Jessie and Ravi- control room is small etc)
54:07 this is our favorite to now. Alright keep it aside.
54:25 plastic AMBI rustle
54:33-57:16 SHOPPING AMBI "where's your coffee questions interrupt"
1:31:00 AMBI Shopping ends ¿.
1:32:20 AMBI Outdoor traffic
1:33:00 car doors open and close, passing horns, some traffic 1:33:16 (bill's voice can be heard following)
1:33:32 someone whistles, car starts
1:33:53 squeaky breaks
1:34:06 won't be stereo (BILL SETS UP) Condenser mics, Omnis
JC- my name is Jessie Charnow, I am 23 years old from San Diego California
S- why are you here
JC- well just to have this opportunity to be with someone like Ravigee is very exciting. I took this as an opportunity that I couldn't pass up to be able to study with him for a few months, I try and sit with him every day and practice. Really this gives me time to concentrate on music 24/7 which is what I love doing.
s- you're a drummer so he is not teaching you the sitar, which is his instrument
jc- that's right, he actually has taught sitar players, sirode players, tabla players his sense of rhythm is very beyond many western musicians and for that matter many musicians here, so there is a lot I can learn rhythmically from him and also melodically I can apply many of the just basics Indian exercises to my piano playing to my understanding of music in general which helps me be a better drummer, a better musician.
s- because drummers are playing melodies (Jessie affirms over her) they are just not going "da da da da da" (Susan sings an ascending scale). But you have got melodies in the skins of the drums.
Jc- definitely especially with modern day drum sets you are able to tune to specific notes and also you are utilizing the different tones of the cymbals, there are a wide variety of tones in the drum set.
S- so we were watching you last night, part of the class, you had the tabla
Jc- just the biaon drum, the low drum of the tabla
s- so tell what that was like, describe what he was doing with you and what you were doing together.
jc- well he was just having me keep the tal, or keep the beat. Playing the "tecas." He always says that I have a very good sense of timing, being able to keep a metronomic time, (he beats on his leg) that is because I have practiced a lot with a metronome, so that's kind of what I am doing, at the same time as practicing the Indian techniques of tabla which I'm interested in learning and playing, to do recording or live performances. But drum set is my main instrument. But it's helping to understand where they're coming from with their rhythms and also I can apply those rhythms to the drum set.
s- the tabla you play with your fingers?
But also the heels of your hands
Jc- that's right the Bian drum, the low drum you play putting (he taps his hand into the other hand) by putting pressure on the skin, you put more pressure into to raise the tone
s- oh so you're pushing into it and sort of rubbing it?
Jc- you are pushing and that is something I have to get used to because actually the first day we were playing and practicing in it and we played for about forty five minutes or an hour and I was playing it straight on the bian and the tabla my left arm was so sore¿for days, it really takes some different muscles that I am used to.
s- and what about sitting on the floor? (sort of laughing)
It's not a lotus position exactly
s- but its one leg crossed on top of the other¿
1:37:56 jc- yeah the reason I do that for the tabla is just so you can get close enough, to be able to reach the heads in all the proper places and it takes some practice just to sit that way also and then playing the sitar there is a whole different way to sit also because you have to support the sitar on one of your feet. And with one of your arms so its- there is a different position for all of the instruments from what I understand.
s- (speaks a bit over him)
so you have to sit in that position for hours.
Jc- yeah, yeah (he chuckles) but I mean your mind is someplace else. I mean you are concentrating on the music and um, your body gets used to it, it's really just a matter of stretching out to the right positions. Maybe that's why yoga is so popular here (he chuckles)
S- have you played the sitar too, I saw you have the siro, (Bill corrects) I am sorry the tempura
Jc- I have not played the sitar but just recently in the last few days I have had Kenji Ravigee's- one of his students, show me just a few things and I just love the sound, and the feel of the sitar. It has a very unique sound.
s- somebody told me George Harrison when he was studying came for some lessons and all and he gave it up , because he said, this takes a lifetime
jc- really any instrument can take a lifetime to master, but yeah I don't really know much of that, but I know that George was one of Gurugees most prized students and that they had a very loving relationship with each other.
S- clearly so, its lovely the way, we didn't really talk about, we're ready for lunch we're done thank you just this was just terrific.
1:40:56 AMBI for the above interview
1:42:26 (mobile phone goes off in the background and someone answers voice audible)
1:42:54 AMBI no voice, bird chirps though, and squeaky door