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The Blessing and the Burden

The Blessing and the Burden

Philosopher Patrick Grim says that we have two kinds of heroes: those who are both enviable and admirable, and those who are only admirable. We admire the Beatles’ musicianship, and also envy the success and adulation they received. But although we admire Abraham...
Kirtans East and West

Kirtans East and West

In yoga centers all over America, people gather with a few instruments, usually harmonium, guitar, and/or tablas, and sing kirtan: Musical chanting of the Hindu names of God. Once these places taught only the physical postures of hatha yoga, now they are expanding to...
Thinking Outside Pandora’s Box

Thinking Outside Pandora’s Box

When I first found myself wanting to play Indian classical music I was, like many young lovers, scared of commitment. It was bad enough when I was a rock and country musician who wanted to play jazz in coffee houses, where most of the jobs paid little or nothing. I...
Twenty Years of Recipes

Twenty Years of Recipes

I have been enjoying India Currents (IC) ever since I first chanced upon a copy in 1989. India Currents is unique, and has been from the start. Even when it was a simple black and white newsletter that mostly listed Indian cultural events and conveyed something...
Remembering a Legend

Remembering a Legend

When Bhimsen Joshi passed away in January 2011, newspapers and magazines all over India ran his picture on the cover with no caption except the dates that set the borders of his time on earth. There was no need to give his name or say anything else about him. He was...
The Cowboy and the Yogi

The Cowboy and the Yogi

When I first came to the SF Bay Area, I knew only one thing about India: its music was amazing. Critics would often refer to these astonishing structures of melody and rhythm as “ethnic music” and, of course, I knew I was more likely to get hired playing at Indian...
Who are the Raga Nerds?

Who are the Raga Nerds?

Raga Nerd is a sociological oversimplification, like “Yuppie,” “Hippie,” or “Feminist.” I’ve never known anyone who referred to him or herself in those terms, so perhaps the people I call Raga Nerds would also resist the label. Nevertheless, here are some...
Raga Nerds

Raga Nerds

For decades, the Ali Akbar College of Music (AACM) was the focal point for the serious study of Indian classical music in the West. Many of the first students had originally studied in India, because that was their only option. Once the AACM was an established...
Chomsky vs. Ragas

Chomsky vs. Ragas

The Unanswered Question was composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein’s heroic attempt to find a universal musical grammar that would do for music what Noam Chomsky is trying to do for language—uncover the fundamental rules the mind uses to make sense out of it. To...
Karnatik Keyboard Prodigy

Karnatik Keyboard Prodigy

The traditional western keyboard is arguably the instrument least suited for Indian music, because it cannot produce essential microtones and other nuances of color. A keyboard player can choose from many different sound sources, such as a piano string, an organ pipe,...
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