deutsche Version
RASALÎLA - The Play of Emotions
Indian virtuosos meet the Ensemble Modern
Shubha Mudgal - Classical khyal singer and popstar
communication, globalisation, modernity, tradition
"The Future of Music is Global"
The Ensemble Modern - Portrait
Six Questions to Ashok Ranade

Indian Travel Sketches by Wolfgang Stryi
Aneesh Pradhan - one of Indias most outstanding tabla players
Dhruba Ghosh - Outstanding performer on the sarangi
"Diaspora-Componists" - Clarence Barlow, Param Vir, Naresh Sohal and Shirish Korde
Further musicians and composers - Aneesh Pradhan and Uday Bhawalkar
Zum Live-Hörspiel von Kiran Nagarkar, Shubha Mudgal und Aneesh Pradhan

Shubha Mudgal Barbara Fahle
The Indian cultural landscape has many rifts, on the one hand between classical and popular music and on the other between various traditions, so Shubha Mugdal is unusual in combining the apparently irreconcilable in one person. She is a classical musician, composer and pop-star at one and the same time and is widely esteemed for her skill, creativity and innovation. 'My music is first and foremost abstract, improvised classical Indian music. But I also feel myself to be a woman in the here and now and am inquisitive about other musical traditions and needs. On the level of art I can enter into a dialogue with people from all round the world.'

Born in 1959 in Allahabad in the north of India this singer grew up in a family fond of music and literature and was taught by eminent musicians and musicologists like Ram Ashreya Jha (Allahabad), Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya and Vasant Thakar (Delhi). She became a virtuoso in the classical Hindustani Khyal song tradition and a passionate researcher in the field of Indian vocal music. On moving to the capital Delhi, she had more scope for experimentation and independence.

She has established herself as not only a singer but also as a composer. Her settings of mystical poems from the Muslim Sufi-tradition and of rare Hindu texts have been highly praised by critics, though taken less warmly by Hindu traditionalists. She won popularity throughout India with her album "Ali More Angana" with devotional music suitable for dancing to. It became a dance-floor hit and led to her videos' being shown on Indian MTV.

Shubha Mudgal composes for dance and ballet and writes music for films and television. Her best known joint ventures in this field may be her co-operation with the renowned film directress Mira Nair on the film 'Kama Sutra: A Tale Of Love" and with Rajan Khosa on 'Dance of the Wind'. She was asked to compose music for the exhibition 'Padshahnama'in the British Museum in London and has received many other honours and awards. In 1996 for instance she received the prize for best music-directing in a documentary film at the Film Festival of India, and in 2000 the esteemed Order of Art 'Padma Shri' from the Indian government.

Shubha Mudgal about the cooperation with the Ensemble Modern:

"Musical collaborations are not new for the contemporary musician. All of us have at one point of time or another had a taste of music, musical styles and techniques from other parts of the world. Some of us may have had more opportunities than others to listen to, savor, accept or reject, consciously or subconsciously the innumerable strains of music that modern information technology makes it possible for us to access. And yet, for a variety of reasons, the experience often remains peripheral, only a ripple on the surface of musical depths that remain unexplored. The Contemporary Xchange project grants me the opportunity to take the plunge and explore in considerable detail a system of music making, which despite being unfamiliar in many ways, holds the irresistible promise of adventure and learning.

Sandeep Bhagwati’s plan and detailing for the collaboration could well be called one of its highlights. We started by being listeners – the Ensemble, on one of its trips to India, listened to a specially organized session of Indian music followed by a question and answer session. Later, we became listeners during an exclusive workshop designed to introduce us to contemporary Western classical music through carefully selected renditions by five of the musicians from the Ensemble. Subsequent meetings and detailed briefings by Sandeep Bhagwati brought more clarity with all the information he was able to share with us through recorded music and his comments on the music. We had now become more informed listeners, ready to observe the Ensemble at work in Frankfurt in May 2003. And finally, the opportunity to actually work with the Ensemble was, in itself, a humbling experience, particularly for the openness and readiness with which the musicians of the Ensemble, with their awesome virtuosity, accepted to work with us.

Throwing two sets of musicians together will almost invariably result in their jamming together, and at times the jamming could well be enjoyable. But a disciplined, detailed interaction with the express intention of creating a space for collaboration is rare to find and experience. Record labels will bring two or more musicians together if they think the special combination will sell in large numbers; similarly, event organizers will support a particular collaboration if they think it will attract enough notice and hype. But a collaboration that supports a process without any of these considerations is unique because it encourages a musician to explore in greater depth and detail, take risks and create new musical dialects rather than coax them into a ‘you play 4 bars and then I’ll play 4 bars’ situation that is more market driven.

We are grappling with musical vocabulary, technique and grammar in this collaboration. And since it is not possible to master or appreciate a new vocabulary within the span of a few days or a week, both sets of musicians are faced with a situation where they have broken the ice, so to say, and started a musical dialogue with each other, but are still unable to converse fluently with each other musically. While recognizing and appreciating the practical difficulties involved in organizing such collaboration, I would have to say that I have on more than one occasion, wished it was possible to have more time to explore and collaborate. In effect, we have had about two days of actual interaction with the musicians from the Ensemble, who have, on their part, shown remarkable generosity and openness. But a more prolonged interaction, one feels, could have had better results.

There are the other minor problems too, related to the diverse musical orientations that the two sets of musicians bring with them. For Indian musicians brought up in a primarily soloist tradition, the discipline of working with an ensemble can be and often is a problem area. Similarly, writing down a composition with finality as opposed to the improvisatory techniques that Indian musicians are more used to, can be stifling at times.

I can say without a doubt that the project will enrich my musicianship vastly. Having said that, I would also like to mention that musical influences are invariably very difficult to trace or identify individually in any musical work. A piece of music is often like a rich tapestry with colors, motifs, and designs that could have been adapted or borrowed from other cultures. Careful analysis can spot diverse influences in the intricate warp and weft of a musical work, but it is largely in the coming together of many strands that the beauty of collaborative work lies. I know that what I learn during this exchange project will, in time to come, influence my musicality particularly as a composer. But it would not be an obvious influence that would be easy to spot."

Contact: Gabriele Stiller-Kern

Audio Shubha Mudgal/Keran Nagarkar: "Meera: Unorthodoxies" (excerpt)