Lutes of the World – Program Notes

Improvisations on Sarod, Medieval Lute, Oud and Dhotar

This performance gives listeners a rare opportunity to hear a variety of lutes from the East and West. Although their sounds, shapes, sizes and playing techniques vary somewhat, these four members of the lute family are all united by a common musical thread – mode. Monophonic modal music, which is at the heart of many eastern classical traditions, also played an important role at various stages in the development of western art music, particularly during the Middle Ages.

Program from Feb. 2006 in the Purcell Room in London

Ken Zuckerman – Sarod, Dhotar, Oud & Lute
Anindo Chatterjee – Tabla
Keyvan Chemirani – Zarb

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I. Medieval Lute

Improvisation Ken Zuckerman
Moult sui de bonne heure nee (Virelai) G. de Machaut c. 1300-1377
Saltarello London, BM, Ms Add. 29987 (ca. 1400)
Je ne cuit pas (Ballade) G. de Machaut
Isabella (Istampita) London, BM, Ms Add. 29987

II. Dhotar

Raga Zilla Kafi Traditional, arranged by Ken Zuckerman
Tabla & Zarb improvisation Anindo Chatterjee & Keyvan Chemirani
Raga Zilla Kafi (conclusion)


III. Oud

Improvisation Ken Zuckerman
Chominciamento de gioia (Istampita) London, BM

IV. Sarod

Raga Koushi Kanra Traditional, arr. by Ken Zuckerman

Lutes of the World

The sarod is one of the most highly developed members of the lute family. Throughout its long history, it has evolved extensively to allow a high degree of resonance and expressiveness within the ancient system of Indian ragas. In the 19th century the addition of a steel fretless fingerboard and steel strings increased the sarod’s capacity to sustain ornaments and glissandi far beyond that of other acoustic plucked string instruments. In addition to 7 playing strings, the sarod has 18 resonating strings (sympathetic strings), which add to the overall resonance of the instrument. Its’ relative from India’s folk music tradition, the dhotar, has the same characteristics as the sarod, in a smaller form. It can be played while standing and it is common to see dhotar players in India performing in public places, near temples and even in trains.

The oud is one of the most popular lutes in the eastern world and is important both as a solo and accompaniment instrument. It was also one of the early “crossover” instruments, and is thought to have been partially responsible for the development of the early western lute. Its pear-shaped body, fretless fingerboard and angled peg box were all elements integrated into some of the first European lutes. The early medieval lute was an instrument in transition and during its rapid development, appeared in many sizes and shapes, with or without frets and with a varying number of strings.

Musically, each of the instruments is suited to different expressions of form, style and content. The styles represented in the performance are as varied as the instruments, with monophonic modal music providing the common thread. Both the repertoires of Istampita (Italian 14th century) and North Indian Ragas, are rigorous forms which also imply the use of improvisation in the actual performance practice. The 2-part Virelai and Ballade of French composer Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300 – 1377), provide a polyphonic contrast which nonetheless, retains the modal conception of the melodies.

The fretted medieval plectrum lute is well suited to monophonic solo styles (saltarello and Istampita) and also gives the possibility for early contrapuntal playing (intabulations of Machaut’s Virelai and Ballade). The sarod and dhotar, with their sympathetic strings and metal fingerboards, are optimized for sustaining intricate melodic phrases and ornaments, so typical in classical Indian music. This is true for both the serious classical ragas performed on the sarod (Koushi Kanra), as well as the lighter classical ragas influenced by the folk music traditions that are well suited to the dhotar (Zilla Kafi). The oud, with its deeper tones, retains some of the fretless colors and ornamental possibilities of the Indian instruments and allows for a somewhat different interpretation of both composed monophonic music (Istampita) as well as modal improvisations.

Ken Zuckerman is a well known performer and teacher of Indian and medieval music. He has studied the sarod for over thirty years with the renowned Indian master Ali Akbar Khan, and has also accompanied him – the first western musician to do so – on many tours through India, Europe, and the USA. On his own concerts throughout the world, Ken Zuckerman performs with some of India’s finest tabla players, including Swapan Chaudhuri, Zakir Hussain, and Anindo Chatterjee. He directs the Ali Akbar College of Music in Basel, Switzerland, and teaches North Indian classical music at the Basel Academy of Music. As a lutenist he was a pupil of Thomas Binkley, Eugen M. Dombois, Paul O’Dette, and Hopkinson Smith. He is known especially as an expert in the field of improvisation in medieval music.

Anindo Chatterjee was born in Calcutta in 1953. At the age of five he began studying Tabla and later became a disciple of Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, a renowned musician representing the „Farukhabad“ style of tabla playing. Today Anindo Chatterjee is recognized as one of the finest tabla maestros of India. He was the favorite accompanist of the late Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and has also performed with many other master musicians of North India. In 1970 he received the „President Award “in tabla in the All India Radio Music Competition. In 2003 the president of India honored him with the prestigious “Sangeet Natak Academy Award”.

Keyvan Chemirani (born in Paris) began studying the Iranian zarb at the age of thirteen with his father, from whom he learned the traditional percussion techniques. He later earned a degree in mathematics and since then, has pursued a career as a musician, both as a soloist and in ensembles. His versatility has led him to collaborations with representatives of traditional Persian music, Ottoman music, Greek and Turkish music, and the Spanish-Sephardic tradition, as well as with jazz musicians and musicians working in the area of contemporary improvised music, including David Hykes, Albert Mangelsdorff, Michel Bismut, Carlo Rizzo, Michel Montanaro, Jorge Pardo, and Jean Marc Padovani. His playing can be heard on numerous CDs, including recordings with his father and brother in their family trio.

Medieval lute by Richard Earle (USA, Switzerland)
Oud by Richard Hankey (USA)
Sarod & Dhotar by Hemen (Calcutta)


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