New Plectrums for the Sarod

Here are some of the new plectrums for the sarod. Go ahead – take your pick!

Equinoxe inside photo

Equinoxe inside photo

I recently turned my attention to experimenting with plectrums made from different materials. Coconut, although the traditional material for sarod plectrums, has several drawbacks. First, it is very difficult to find a piece that doesn’t have many imperfections, which make these picks rather noisy as they pass through the strings. And of course, the more scratchy sounding noises produced, the less enjoyment of the pure sound of the sarod. Also, coconut shells are difficult to fashion into an ideal shape, due to their natural curvature and lack of thickness.

Lignam Vitae - This is one of the hardest woods on the planet. It produces a powerful and pure sound, rich in overtones. It also can be polished to a very high degree so there is almost no noise as it makes contact with the strings. This is one of my favorites!

Tagua – This is actually the inside of a nut of the Tagua tree. It has a crystal clear sound and is very light. It is also very easy to shape, although sometimes there are imperfections that need to be avoided when cutting.

Ebony – Ebony is also a very hard and dense wood and produces a beautiful sound. It is not as powerful as the Lignam but very smooth and mellow sounding.

Mammoth Ivory – This variety of ivory comes from the tusks of the ancient mammoths, which in recent years have been excavated and sold for many of the same uses as ivory (which is now forbidden to be sold). It has a very impressive, powerful and crystal clear sound. It can be highly polished.

Elk Horn – This material is more porous than mammoth ivory but is still quite dense and produces a very strong and bright sound.

All of these materials are available commercially on the internet.

(4-minute Trailer) Teaching Monophonic Modal Improvisation in the Western Music Classroom

Here you can watch a 4-minute Trailer of this new documentary. Please scroll down to watch the full 30-minute video.

Contact Ken Zuckerman!

E-Mail: info@kenzuckerman.com


New Release! Meeting Two Worlds II:
Indian Ragas & Medieval Song

Equinoxe inside photo

To listen to a song from this CD, please click here:

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To order this CD in the US please click here.

To listen and download this CD from iTunes please click here.

To listen and download this CD from emusic please click here.

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Upcoming & Recent Concerts

2012 * * * 2012

November 16, 2012 , Musik-Akademie, Basel, with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri

November 10, 2012 , Zurich, Switzerland

August 25, 2012 , Zurich, Switzerland

July 28, 2012 , Ali Akbar College, San Rafael, Calif., with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri

July 22, 2012 , Portland, Oregon

June 22, 2012 , Aix en Provence, France, with Dominique Vellard

May 6, 2012 , Salon de Musique, Basel, with Kushal Das

To listen to a sampler of Kushal & Ken‘s music, please click here:

May 4, 2012 , Neunkirch, Switzerland, with Kushal Das

April 22, 2012 , Rietberg Museum, Zurich, with Sanju Sahai

April 15, 2012 , Fairfax, Virginia, with Anirban Roy Choudhuri

April 14, 2012 , Washington, DC, with Anirban Roy Choudhuri

April 2, 2012 , Slippery Rock University, PA, with Samir Chatterjee

March 10, 2012 , Brandeis Residency & Concert with Homayun Sakhi

March 3, 2012 , Asia Society, New York City, with Homayun Sakhi

March 1, 2012 , Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, with Homayun Sakhi

February 25, 2012 , Boulder, Colorado, Naropa Institute

January 13, 2012 , Kolkata – Weavers’ Studio Centre, 94 Ballygunge

January 11, 2012 , Kharagpur – Indian Institute of Technology

January 10, 2012 , Kolkata – AKAAR PRAKAAR

January 8, 2012 , New Bombay

January 4, 2012 , New Delhi – India International Centre, with Akram Khan

January 2, 2012 , Pune

2011 * * * 2011

December 24, 2011, Ahmedabad

December 27, 2011, Mumbai (Dadar)

December 28, 2011, Mumbai (Shivaji Park Nagarik Sangh)

December 29, 2011, N.C.P.A. Mumbai – Listening session on the music of U. Ali Akbar Khan

July 2, 2011, Badenweiler, Germany

July 5-6, 2011, Braunwald, Switzerland, with Dominique Vellard – “Songs of Love & Ragas of Longing”

July 9, 2011, Rietberg Museum Zürich, Switzerland, with the Züricher Kammerorchester

2010 * * * 2010

December 23, 2009 – January 11, 2010, India Tour

January 1, 2010 – Bhopal, India
Bhopal advert

January 15, 2010, Mumbai, India – Ken receives an award from the Music Forum for his contribution to the cause of Indian Music.
Music Forum Award

January 16, 2010, Krakow, Poland, with Dominique Vellard, Keyvan Chemirani & Prabhu Edouard

February 10 – 14, 2010 – South Africa 3 shades
Three Shades of Raga, with Pandit Jasraj, Kala Ramnath, Anindo Chatterjee & Vijay Ghate

Songlines – April 2010

You should have been there…

3 Shades of Raga, featuring Pandit Jasraj, Ken Zuckerman and Kala Ramnath, Durban, Cape Town & Johannesburg, February 10, 12 & 14 2010

Not only was South Africa experiencing its hottest summer for 30 years but Three Shades of Raga promised three stars of Indian music on the same bill.

It began with Ken Zuckerman, the American-Swiss sarod player who still attracts some curiosity: can a non-Indian musician, albeit a long-time pupil of the legendary Ali Akbar Khan, really pull it off? As though reading the audience’s minds, he promises to return as an Indian in his next life. They laugh and then, less than a minute into the recital, they’ve closed their eyes, any doubts melting away into the sounds of his exquisite alaap. If anything, the recent death of his master has added more poignancy to his music. They’re still on a high when Kala Ramnath comes on to mesmerize them with ultra-romantic ragas on her “singing violin”. One reviewer has said this is what Mozart might have sounded like if transported to the subcontinent. Jasraj, at 80, is still in full control of three octaves, living proof that age is just a number. He sings from his regular repertoire of Haveli Sangeet (Hindu temple music), plus a couple of joyously received Muslim devotional numbers. He engages in constant banter with his accompanists and when his harmonium player Mukund Petkar keeps turning to see someone, Jasraj makes up a piece on the sport cautioning against the habit of turning one’s head.

Judging by the audience’s response, it seems post-apartheid South Africa is a natural home for the classical music of India – there’s a special relationship as it was once home to Mahatma Gandhi. Indian settlers (here since the 1820s) have never entirely lost their link with the “homeland” and are ready for the real thing.

Jameela Siddiqi

March 31, 2010, Krakow, Poland, The Route to the Orient, with Hesperion XXI

April 14, 2010, Basel, Switzerland – Salon de Musique, in celebration of the late Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s birthday

June 12, 2010, Basel, Switzerland – Two Worlds of Modal Music

July 31, 2010, San Rafael, California – Ali Akbar College Summer Series

August 27, 2010, Zurich, Switzerland РR̦ntgenplatzfest 2010

October 2, 2010, Cologne, Germany – Two Worlds of Modal Music

October 12, 2010, Oviedo, Spain – The Route to the Orient, with Hesperion XXI

October 24, 2010, Bern, Switzerland – “Zoom In” Festival


2009 * * * 2009

January – March, 2009, Dartmouth College, Hanover New Hampshire, Visiting Professor in residence

February 17, 2009, Dartmouth College, 8 PM, with Samir Chatterjee

March 27, 2009, Cambridge, England, with Dominique Vellard and Sanju Sahai

March 28, 2009, Chelmsford, Essex, England, with Dominique Vellard and Sanju Sahai

May 8, 2009, Basel, Switzerland, Schweizer-Indische Gesellschaft

June 5, 2009, Jerusalem, Israel, with Sanju Sahai and Yair Dalal

September 8, 2009, Zurich, Switzerland, with the Zurich Kammerorchester

September 25, 2009, Zurich, Switzerland, with Hanna Järveläinen (soprano), and Sanju Sahai (Tabla)

October 5-6, 2009, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA, concert & workshop

November 13, 2009, Basel, Switzerland, with Swapan Chaudhuri – Memorial concert for Ustad Ali Akbar Khan

November 29, 2009, Paris, France, with Hesperion XXI

December 23, 2009 – January 11, 2010, India Tour

Maestro Ali Akbar Khan passed away on June 18, 2009

It is with great sadness that I inform you that my mentor, guru and second father, Ali Akbar Khansahib, passed away peacefully on the evening of June 18, 2009, surrounded by his family and close disciples. He was 87 years old and had been suffering from kidney disease for several years.

Khansahib’s long life and career spanned epochs and continents. He was one of the last “court musicians” of the old India and was the first Indian musician to record in the West. Yehudi Menuhin, who invited him to perform and record in the USA in 1955, called him “an absolute genius…. perhaps the greatest musician in the world.”

Ali Akbar Khan was the only son of Allauddin Khan, a legendary musician who revolutionized Indian instrumental music and trained some of India’s most renowned musicians, including his son and Ravi Shankar. His training was extremely rigorous, and he sometimes had to practice up to 18 hours a day. His concert debut at the All India Music Conference in Allahabad in 1939 opened a new chapter in Indian instrumental music by redefining the way the sarod is played. He was recognized both as a consummate classicist and innovator on the sarod, a 25-stringed skin faced lute. He will be remembered as the single most influential master of this instrument.

He received all of India’s highest music awards and was considered a “national treasure”. In the USA he was honored with the MacArthur “genius award” and the National Heritage Fellowship, which was presented to him by Hillary Clinton at the White House in 1997.

Khansahib opened the first Ali Akbar College of Music in Calcutta in 1956. Then with the great wave of interest for Indian music in the West, he opened his school in San Rafael, California in 1967, where he taught for the next 42 years. He trained thousands of students from the West and India at this institute.

Basel, Switzerland, was fortunate to have benefitted from Maestro Khan’s yearly visits for more than 20 years. In 1985 he opened the Ali Akbar College of Music – Switzerland, which I had the honor to direct, and he conducted annual seminars which attracted students from all over Europe. Although ill health prevented him from coming to Basel during the last 4 years, the College continues to promote his work with ongoing classes and yearly seminars.

In 2005, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Ali Akbar College in Basel, he wrote, “Many years ago my father gave me the mission to spread this music “as far as the sun and moon shine.” This has been my life-long work and I don’t want it to die. It is of great importance that my closest students and disciples, like Ken, continue this work in the future. Therefore I ask you all to give him your good wishes and support to continue this mission so that the great tradition of Indian classical music can be passed on to future generations. I would also like to thank the city of Basel and the Music Academy of Basel for all its help and support during the past 20 years. I have always felt very welcome in Basel and have many fond memories of my visits here.”

Here are several announcements / remembrances, etc.

Announcement from the Indian press

Announcement from the English press

A remembrance which I wrote for an Indian magazine

  • Recordings

  • 2 Worlds Modal

    Ragas d'equinoxe

    Salon de Musique

    Nature of Ragas

    Modal Tapestry


    Live in Basel

    Lute Improvisations
    (soon available)