Posts Tagged ‘music’


Of course everyone has their own opinion, but how often do you hear music so beautiful that it makes you cry?

I had the pleasure of watching esteemed santoor player Ranjeet Pathak perform at a live concert last weekend, accompanied by his twin brother Ajeet Pathak on the tabla.  I cannot even begin to describe how exquisite the music emanating from Mr. Pathak’s santoor was – as though an ethereal magician had captured the sound of raindrops dancing on water.  I honestly felt my heart wanted to leap out of my chest to pay obeisance to those glorious sound waves.  To his credit, Mr. Pathak even accomplished what I had written off as impossible:  he got my freshly 5-year-old son to sit for 2 hours without so much as a peep (a feat that several members of the audience even commented on).

The santoor is a rare and unusual instrument. It is trapezoid in shape and has upwards of 70 strings which the musician taps and glides with wood mallets (hence the resemblance to the sound of raindrops).  The original Sanskrit name of the santoor – Shatha Tantri Veena (“veena of 100 strings”) – apparently has references back to the Rig Veda.

It’s hard to capture the music in a recording – but Mr. Pathak has a beautiful piece on the home page of his website.  You can also watch a video clip: (click image to play)

Top image:  Painting from Hasht-Behesht palace, Esfahan, Iran

Spring Sangeet
Author: Gnaana

Our April Newsletter is out, and this month it’s all about spring sangeet!  Music is a fantastic way to connect with kids.  Although musical talent and ability starts from a very young age, most formal music lessons – be it piano, violin or Indian instruments – are not available until kids reach the age of 5 or 6.  And understandably so – children are only beginning to refine their fine motor skills so their young hands may not be able to perform complicated maneuvers on keys or strings.

But young kids can still learn music on a simple instrument such as a xylophone.  The color-coded keys lend themselves to an easy and natural way of learning the basic musical notes, or swaras, and the instrument’s simplicity builds musical confidence in kids – a perfect starter instrument!

Here are some exercises to teach kids the basics of Indian classical music (Carnatic or Hindustani) on the xylophone.  Starting with short, brief lessons, you can eventually move on to having kids learn 2 basic songs – Kamala Sulochana and Vara Veena Mridu Pani – songs which virtually all students of Carnatic string and wind instruments start with.  Of course this process will take time and persistence, but the benefits are many – kids will learn the virtues of practice and persistence, gain musical agility and connect with our culture!

1. First, you’ll need a xylophone.  The basic 8-note plastic models are fine to start with, but you’ll eventually want something with at least 12 keys.  We recommend Basic Beat 12-Note Glockenspiel. If you’re not familiar with Carnatic/Hindustani swaras (notes) – here they are:  sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, da, ni, sa (much like the Western Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do).  NOTE: for the second swara, ri is used in Carnatic music and Hindustani uses re.
2. Before you embark on your musical journey, bless your instrument with some kumkum and haldi and say a simple prayer – such as Sri Gurubhyo Namahah (“obeisance to my master”).  The child should thereafter pay respects to his instruments before each practice session.
3. Start with having your child practice hitting the keys with the mallot – with a slow and steady hand – until he can produce crisp notes up and down the board.
4. Have him practice hitting each note twice (sa sa | ri ri | ga ga….) up and down.
5. The next exercise is in a 2-1 format (sa sa ri | ri ri ga | ga ga ma |…) up and back.
6. Now we up and back a little – this will take some practice (sa sa ri ri sa | ri ri ga ga ri | ga ga ma ma ga…) up and back.
7. You child should now be comfortable hitting the keys and going up and down the board.  Now we learn to recite the swaras – sa ri ga ma pa da ni sa (NOTE: in Hindustani music “re” is used instead of “ri”).  Repeat steps 2-5, this time having the child recite the swaras.
8. Now we introduce tala (beat or rhythm).  First is Eka-tala – which is a simple beat of 4’s.  Have your child play notes up and down the xylophone to this beat (sa ri ga ma | ri ga ma pa | ga ma pa da…) .
9. Next is Roopaka-tala – a beat of 2,4:
|| sa ri | sa ri ga ma ||
|| ri ga | ri ga ma pa ||
|| ga ma | ga ma pa da ||
|| ma pa | ma pa da ni  ||
|| pa da | pa da ni Sa ||

Now we’re ready for our first song – Kamala Sulochana.  This song is played in Eka-tala and Raga Anandha-bhairavi.  Before we start the song, we play the musical scale of this Raga – called Arohana when we ascend the scale and Avarohana when we descend the scale.  These are the notes that we use in the song, so have your child play:
Arohana:         sa ga ri ga ma pa da pa ni Sa
Avarohana:    Sa ni da pa ma ga ri sa

Here is the song (full page printout here).  Take your time, learn slowly and enjoy!
And here is how the song is supposed to sound:  Audio here.

Another beautiful song is Vara Veena Mridu Pani.  This song is played in Roopaka-tala and Raga Mohana.
Arohana:          sa ri ga pa da Sa
Avarohana:     Sa da pa ga ri sa

Full page printout here
Listen to the audio here

**NOTE:  Given the limitations of the xylophone, the notes are simplified.  E.g., both songs use the second “ri” (r2), but only “ri” is used here.

Fun & Simple Music Games
Author: Guest Blogger


Image: Audio CD Cover –  Elizabeth Mitchell, Smithsonian Folkways Recording Artist

This post is authored by Kavita Bafana, Co-Founder and Director at Little Ustaads.  Little Ustaads offers play-based musical education classes for children ages 0-5 in the New York/New Jersey area and in Mumbai.  The curriculum is designed to encourage children and parents to discover and appreciate the world of Indian classical music through rhythmic tunes, rich vocals, mini instruments and vibrant visuals.

Here are 2 simple games to teach some basic concepts of Indian Classical Music.

Learn the Hindustani Sargam

To teach the Hindustani sargam to children, it is best to make it visual and fun.  We can do this by building a make-believe tower with our fists. Place one fist on top of the other and then take the bottom fist and put it on top.  Keep taking the bottom fist and moving it on top of the other.  Do this 7 times to represent the seven notes.  The sargam consists of the building blocks that make up all of Indian Classical Music; hence we make a visual tower with our fists.  This can be done individually or by holding your child’s hands.

1.  Have the children first build building blocks (one fist on top of the other and repeat) and say “lets build blocks with our hands.”
2.  Once the child has gotten the hang of building with their fists, then build a pretend tower of putting your fists on top of each other 7 seven times – to represent 7 building blocks of Indian music.  The idea is to associate one fist with one note.
3.  Then say the seven building blocks of our sargam with each hand starting with sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha and ni.

Peek-a-Boo Basuri

To teach a child what a basuri sounds like, play a game they know – Peek-a-Boo – with a twist.

1.  Play a short piece of basuri music and cover your face with a small piece of cloth.
2.  Then suddenly stop the music and say “peek-a-boo!”
3.  Then repeat this a few times.  The child will be waiting to hear the basuri music and listening hard for the music to stop.  They will naturally absorb what a basuri sounds like!

© 2010 Little Ustaads

Little Ustaads currently runs programs in NY, NJ and Mumbai, and is seeking partners in other parts of the world. Please contact them if you are interested in setting up a Little Ustaads Franchise or Partnership.

World Lullabies
Author: Aruna

Those in my circle of near and dear already know how much I adore these 2 CDs of world lullabies – they are my absolute favourite items to gift for new babies.  And shame on me for not posting about these earlier.

The World Sings GoodnightVolume 1 and Volume 2 – each contain roughly 32 tracks of lullabies from almost every corner of the world – Senegal, Egypt, France, Ethiopia, Korea, Japan, Argentina…and the list goes on.  For the first volume, creators Susan and Tom Wasinger spent over 2 years collecting the songs.  (Tom Wasinger was recently profiled in Boulder Magazine – where he talks more about the making of the album).

The beauty of the lullabies is that they are almost a cappella – with little or no instrumental accompaniment – just as though mom, dad (or grandma) were singing.

During these long winter nights, I love to curl up with my kids and listen to these beautiful lullabies – it’s like we’re travelling and connecting with a global humanity.  What a gift.