Updated Therianthrope Tour dates

therian mashup new web


  • 01.30.14 @ Lestat’s in San Diego CA.  8pm.
  • 02.02.14 @ Soho in Santa Barbara CA.  8pm.
  • 02.27.14 @ The Poppy in San Francisco CA.  8pm.
  • 03.02.14 @ Wisteria Ways in Berkeley CA.  8pm.
  • 03.04.14 @ UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz CA.  12pm.
  • 03.09.14 @ The Blue Whale in Los Angeles CA.  8pm.
  • 04.30.14 @ The Lost Leaf in Phoenix AZ.  8pm.
  • 05.10.14 @ Ed Hales Park in Redlands CA.  time TBA.

Tarana: Amir Khusro and Ustad Amir Khan

I am looking forward to studying vocal music as part of my training in sangat for my upcoming AIIS grant in New Delhi.  In preparation, I have been listening to tons of Hindustani vocalists, though, I keep coming back to Ustad Amir Khan and his performances of the tarana–something I had previously little knowledge of before.

Tarana, literally means ‘song’ in Persian, but was born from the creativity of the legendary poet saint, Amir Khusro (1253-1325 CE) of Delhi.  With the influence of nigrit song forms in sanskrit of the time,  which used nonsense syllables during improvisations, Amir Khusro introduced the use of Persian and Arabic phonemes intertwined with Hindi/Urdu words and phrases to create a new art form called the tarana.  Sometimes the performers actually used sitar or mrindang syllables reciting entire gats, tihais, and chakradhars.

Saldly, the tarana of Amir Khusro’s time quickly become obsolete simply because there were no subsequent performers that could sincerely uphold the tarana’s integrity.  That was until the revival led by Ustad Amir Khan.  His renditions and interpretations of tarana were incredibly moving, and consequently reintroduced the genre back into the canon of Hindustani vocal forms.

Below are three renditions of the tarana form.  The first is of course, Ustad Amir Khan.  The second though, is a Tarana of Kishori Amonkar in Rag Haunsadhwani.  The final example is of an orchestral performance of Ravi Shankar Ji’s at the Kremlin.  Each example displays a distinct characteristic of the Tarana that I hope you will enjoy!

Deepak Raja’s blog

As I have been gearing up mentally for my upcoming year in Delhi, I have been looking for more online writings about Hindustani music and although I have seen his blog before, I never spent much time reading his posts.  But I wish I had!  Deepak Ji maintains a great blog with constant additions and great insights.  I recommend it to anyone interested in Hindustani music.  Enjoy!


Ustad Chhamma Khan – Delhi Gharana

I just ran across across this gem today!  What beautiful, traditional, playing from the Delhi gharana.  Below is a small history of the Delhi gharana as well.

The following is an excerpt borrowed on the history of the Delhi Gharana from:  http://www.planetradiocity.com/musicopedia/music_decade.php?conid=2353

There was no author given, but it is from the musicopedia website.

In Indian classical music, there are two primary conventions, the north Indian tradition of Hindustani, and the south Indian convention of Carnatic. In Hindustani music, a gharana is a system of social regulation associating musicians or dancers by ancestry and/or learning, and by abidance to a given musical form. Gharanas is present in the vocal & instrumental forms of music. The earliest gharana to found conventions for creativeness is also the most ancient of the tabla gharanas – the Delhi gharana. It was created by several families near the Delhi-Lucknow-Barreily strip. The other tabla gharanas comprise Ajrada, Benaras, Farrukhabad, Lucknow, and Punjab.Created around the early eighteenth century by Siddhar Khan, the performing style (baj) of this gharana is also called the bandh baj. During the 20th century, the most critical tabla player of the Delhi gharana was Gamay Khan (1883-1958). His son Inam Ali Khan (1924-90) was an influential tabla player of the later portion of the 20th century. His son, Ghulam Haider Khan is presently the ambassador of the gharana. Natthu Khan (1875-1940) is from another stream of the gharana and was one of the foremost tabla players of his time. He was also the father-in-law of Gamay Khan. Latif Ahmed Khan (1941-90) one of the most legendary tabla players of 20th century was a follower of both Gamay Khan and Inam Ali Khan. Shafaat Ahmed Khan the popular tabla accompanist of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan was the son and follower of Chamma Khan from another stream of the gharana. Pandit Chatur Lal was the follower of Haji Mohammad Khan. From the most outstanding initial advocates was Chhote Kale Khan who trained Gamay Khan, the leader of Ustad Inam Ali Khan, a predecessor of the legendary Ustad Latif Ahmed Khan who passed away in the early 1980s. A concurrent line is that of Chamma Khan and his popular son Shafaat Ahmed Khan (illustrious accompanist of sarodiya Amjad Ali Khan). Pandit Chatur Lal trained under Haji Mohammad Khan and Hafiz Miyan of Udaipur and soon after received ‘further tuition’ from Pandit Ravi Shankar. His baaj is taught by his nephew Shiv Narayan.

Trends write-up 
The Delhi gharana has lucidity of sonics that is a product of the first function of the tabla as an axially to vocal and instrumental music. This sharpness is attained by performing on the chati or kinar, and has given way to the baj being called the chati-ka-baj. The beat most commonly experienced is the barabar (basic) of the ad (portions and multiples of one-and-a half), while the objects are primarily kayada-rela, peshkar, and the mohra/ mukhda. The kayada range of the Delhi gharana is the paradigm for the kayada items of the other gharanas as well.

Major Artists 
Founder- Siddhar Khan. Other artists of this gharana include: Gamay Khan,Inam Ali Khan,Latif Ahmed Khan,Natthu Khan,Pandit Chaturlal,Shafat Ahmad Ali”



Time is elastic and blurry underneath.

If you open your eyes,

White foam, dimensions of light, of dark,

of sand.

Eyelids flail open, every particle effecting,

They sting.

But this beauty is elusive:

It was neither my experience, or an

Experience that was experienced by an experiencer.

It was, and it is, contained in what will be,

Perhaps, contained in what was.

Blurred beneath only eternal elasticity remains.


Stories attached to names; James, Judy, or


Could never be the essence of “I am.”

For they were born (although not at birth)

And they must die (although maybe, not at death).

“I am” was not born, and “I am” cannot die.

Essences of beingness never birthed.

Fallacies of names

With their stories are remembered,

then replacing.

Beyond the memories though, well beyond

Ideas of both birth and death,


“I am”


“The river is a strong brown god.”

Said Eliot.

Fervid eruption, seperation from the

Sudden fall.

We are our condition.

Though condition only, at the bottom of our fall,

The River again.

Indian music scholarship (Part 2)

This is a continuation of an earlier post, Indian music scholarship (Part 1)

19th and Early 20th Century Musicology

Sir William Jones (1746-1794), the first European scholar of Indian Music (as well as the first to translate Sanskrit texts in both Greek and Latin), is important for two main reasons: (1) Jones was a famous judge in Calcutta and therefore represents another magisterial approach to scholarship, and (2) his work began a similar, but European approach to master narrative scholarship.  In Jones’ famous article, “On the Musical Modes of the Hindus,” he “drew scholarly interest toward Indian music by showing that it deserved respect and attention” (Quoted from Simms 2000:49 where he draws from Surobindro Mohun Tagore’s 1875 Hindu Music From Various Authors).

Beyond Jones’ contribution though, we cannot speak of India’s modern musicology without a look at its two most famous contributors, Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), and Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1872-1931).   Although both of these scholars had similar goals of disseminating musical knowledge to the emerging middle class, their ideals differed greatly.  Bhatkhande had a “tripartite understanding of music—modern, scholastic, and secular . . .” and strove to create a music that was not ancient, but modern, national, and unified (Bhakle 2005:97-98).  He believed that the division of Carnatic (South Indian classical) and Hindustani (North Indian classical) music was an approach that would never lead to a nationalist art, which he firmly believed in.  He aimed to create treatises of music that had nothing to do with religion or ancient works, and in return, established a textual basis for music schools all over India.  Bhatkande was also employed by princely states to codify musical exams that sought to standardize music education.  Even though his ideals departed from others within the category of master narrative scholarship, his approach was entirely devoted to theoretical and historical studies.

Paluskar differed in his approach only because of his ideals; he is still considered a scholar under the rubric of master narratives who utilized nationalist motives for his spread of Indian Classical music.  “His understanding of music was simple, straightforward, contained few contradictions, and focused on the simple, spiritual, and public duties of music over the arcane and intellectual” (Bhakle 2005: 137).  As opposed to Bhatkhande, Paluskar truly believed in the propagation that this music was tied to ancient Hindu beliefs, which, as I argue here, is apart of the master narrative.

Recent Musicological Works: Proceeding Towards Ethnomusicology

I want to make my conception of two approaches, musicology and ethnomusicology, clear: Musicological works within India’s musical scholarship are not based in ethnographic material and are concerned primarily with musical theory and/or history.  Without being devoid of history, ethnomusicological works are rooted in ethnographic research, but have more to do with social behavior and social systems, and almost nothing to do with theory.

Kofi Agawu addresses the divide between theorists and historians in his 1993 article, “Does Theory Need History?” by asserting that current boundaries “ain’t such a bad thing” (Agawu 1993:98).  He believes that although theoretical tools may be necessary for historical analysis, the contrary is false; historical conclusions are not needed for theoretical analysis.  This illustrates a contrast in the musicology of India—the divide in India’s music scholarship is through musicological and ethnomusicological approaches, not theoretical versus historical.  Although theoretical discourses such as Nazir Jairazbhoy’s book, The Rags of North India, or Alain Danielou’s, The Ragas of Northern Indian Music, focus on “Indian music theories,” they are always written with historical notions in mind.

For example, in Jairazbhoy’s, The Rags of North India (1971), he reflects on the historical/theoretical divide: “While a study of the cultural background of the people is essential for a social and historical perspective of this music, its appreciation depends largely on comprehension of the musical idiom, and it is to this end that the present work in dedicated” (Jairazbhoy 1971:11).  While theoretical developments of melody remain central to his effort the proceeding introduction is the only example of “social and historical” concern throughout the entire book.  The reason for Jairazbhoy’s division of theory has nothing to do with what Agawu expresses in his article.  Rather, the differences between history and theory in Indian music have much more to with the directed audience of a particular work.

For brevity’s sake, we cannot go into depth with other key musicological works, but they still need to be mentioned.  Fox Strangeway’s 1914, Music of Hindostan, is important because it was one of the first books rooted western scholarship to discuss Indian music history and theory and established the way many authors, Indian and non-Indian, wrote after him.  Swami Prajananananda’s 1965 book, A Historical Study of Indian Music, is an example of an Indian author following the approach of a much earlier musicologist (a lean towards a spiritual connection to music), Vishnu Digambar Paluskar.  Although much information in Aban Mistry’s, Pakawaj and Tabla was obtained through interviews (which could be considered ethnographic to some extent), its concern is undoubtedly rooted in historical and genealogical charts; something that ethnomusicological works tend to shy away from.

All of these works are still examples of the master narrative in Indian scholarship, with a shift in emphasis to what I see as curatorial.  If the preceding musicological works that we discussed (the Sangitasiromani, the Sangitaratnakara, and Jones’ “On the musical modes of the Hindos) were rooted in magisterial approaches, these more recent works certainly depart from earlier forms.  I posit that they are curatorial because their aim was to exhibit (especially in Jairazbhoy’s work) and frame what was important about Indian music for a larger audience.  Although there was a shift from magisterial to curatorial works, a common thread is of political concerns (be it nationalist or a choice of which audience one wrote for) were always at the forefront.

A recent book worth discussing serves almost as a bridge between the two approaches, musicological and ethnomusicological: Ritwik Sanyal and Richard Widdess’, Dhrupad.  Co-authored by a western musicologist and a professional Drhupad singer, the approach to this work encompasses ethnographic methods and historical/theoretical musical examples.  Although this book is not within the realm of what I consider ethnomusicological, it provides an example of a shift in emphasis from the purely musicological.  Conclusions are not presented as a result of individual labor, but rather, a collaborative effort where the “trained” musicologist is in dialogue with a very visible culture-bearer.  In the chapter, “The transmission of tradition: The Dagar family,” a difference in master narrative can be seen where focus is not entirely on historical and theoretical concern, but on processes of transmission.  While this book is not entirely representative of a shift in narrative, it certainly displays a shift in emphasis of musicological works on Indian music.

Ramji Mishra

I found this recording on youtube through knisar22’s youtube channel (which is amazing and really active with new uploads from unique recordings all the time).  Ramji’s playing is mind blowing!  Even though this an older recording without high quality, the essence of his mastery is so crystal clear.  The clarity, speed, and sheer variety of his bols is breathtaking.  I wish there were more recordings out there of his.

From reading a few articles on the web about Ramji, I learned that he is the son of the famous Benares tabla master Anokelal Ji, and was all set to take the world stage “but that certain other jealous Benares tabla players slipped him some mind-cracking drugs and sent him mad. It is one of the big shames of Benares music-circle politics.” (http://forums.chandrakantha.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=982)  This intrigues me because regardless if it is true or not, this story adds a certain mystique to his life, which, if juxtaposed on the few recordings of his that are available, tell a story untold about a rare genius.  In hindustani music this juxtaposition may not be a necessarily new phenomenon (i.e., of a mysterious life against the work of a genius), but this recording here undoubtedly displays an artistic feat seldom heard.  Supposedly, he still plays concerts occasionally, but because he is quite old now rarely gives long performances.  I would love to learn more about Ramji’s life, and hear more of his recordings, so if anyone knows what direction to point, let me know!

There are 5 clips loaded of Ramji’s tabla, but I just added one here: