Here are some of the new plectrums for the sarod. Go ahead – take your pick!
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.
January 15, 2010, Mumbai, India – Ken receives an award from the Music Forum for his contribution to the cause of Indian Music.
January 16, 2010, Krakow, Poland, with Dominique Vellard, Keyvan Chemirani & Prabhu Edouard
February 10 – 14, 2010 – South Africa Three Shades of Raga, with Pandit Jasraj, Kala Ramnath, Anindo Chatterjee & Vijay Ghate
Songlines â€“ 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 audienceâ€™s minds, he promises to return as an Indian in his next life. They laugh and then, less than a minute into the recital, theyâ€™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. Theyâ€™re still on a high when Kala Ramnath comes on to mesmerize them with ultra-romantic ragas on her â€œsinging violinâ€. 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 oneâ€™s head.
Judging by the audienceâ€™s response, it seems post-apartheid South Africa is a natural home for the classical music of India â€“ thereâ€™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 â€œhomelandâ€ and are ready for the real thing.
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 – RÃ¶ntgenplatzfest 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
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.
Khansahibâ€™s long life and career spanned epochs and continents. He was one of the last â€œcourt musiciansâ€ 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 â€œan absolute geniusâ€¦. perhaps the greatest musician in the world.â€
Ali Akbar Khan was the only son of Allauddin Khan, a legendary musician who revolutionized Indian instrumental music and trained some of Indiaâ€™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 Indiaâ€™s highest music awards and was considered a â€œnational treasureâ€. In the USA he was honored with the MacArthur â€œgenius awardâ€ 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 Khanâ€™s yearly visits for more than 20 years. In 1985 he opened the Ali Akbar College of Music â€“ 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, â€œMany years ago my father gave me the mission to spread this music â€œas far as the sun and moon shine.â€ This has been my life-long work and I donâ€™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.â€
Here are several announcements / remembrances, etc.