October 13, 2019

The Shape of Things to Come

Here is about one-fifth the LPs I have in line to digitize for this blog.

I certainly hope that in a few days more transfers will appear. I appreciate your patience with me.

I have been fortunate to see quite a few live performances of Hindustani Music in the last month. If I told you what city I lived in, it would not sound like a Capital of Indian music — but there are plenty of chances to see the music live if you know how and where to look.

I encourage everyone in North America to seek out live music of all kinds, even if you really have to search for the concerts — these recordings are amazing but live music will always be where it’s easiest to have a transcendent experience listening to the vibrations in the air.

As always I thank you, my readers. I read every single comment submitted. I have been having trouble getting my replies to upload to the blog, but let me assure everyone — if your comment has been published, I have seen it, read it, decided it was not spam, and hit the “publish” link.

PS plenty of bansuri and violin music on the way

July 31, 2019

The music blogging world has lost a giant -- RIP Tawfiq

A year or so I was at a concert performed by an American folk guitarist. After the show we happened to be talking about various types of music and I mentioned Indian Classical Music. He suddenly brightened up and mentioned a few Dhrupad musicians whose recordings had dramatically changed the way he approached performing on his chosen instrument, the guitar. He looked at me and solemnly, slowly told me, "There is a blog. It's my favorite blog in the world. You have to check it out. It's called 'Oriental Traditional Music.'"

I certainly wasn't expecting that! I smiled and told him I knew the blogger. 

It wasn't true of course, in the strictest sense of knowing someone like a close friend. But I definitely felt like I knew him. 

Axel, or "Tawfiq" as he styled himself on the internet, and I had exchanged several dozen emails over the years, sold and bought from each other various LPs and CDs, and in general maintained a healthy banter in the comments sections of our respective blogs. He had a strong presence selling music on Discogs as seller "Tawfiq49" -- any time i have ever mentioned that an LP was purchased from the old stock of a distributer, I was slyly giving credit to "Tawfiq" as the person who had sold me the LP. 

We often encountered difficulties when online web hosting sites started to disappear or become difficult to deal with, when the EU started making rules about online privacy which drove many people to abandon the blogs, and even sometimes with Google and their difficult-to-figure-out rule changes. On one of his posts he mentions his thanks to me for helping him sort out a difficulty with comments no longer being able to be approved. "That's just what blogging friends do for each other," was my thought at the time...

I was sad a few years back when he stopped distributing his email list of CDs for sale, even telling one person that there weren't any interesting Indian music CDs being produced any more. But I knew that indeed many manufacturers of CDs such as Saregama are no longer releasing physical CDs anymore. It's all digital downloads or artist-released CDs these days. 

There would be times when he was quiet and not post very much, but then again that's true of any blogger. At one point he mentioned that a year prior his wife had been sick and had died. Not a peep of a mention on his blog -- I think maybe he took it as a point of pride that he wasn't going to solicit any condolences, but then again I don't have any proof of that. Just a hunch. 

"Tawfiq" at all times maintained a quiet dignity in the face of both praise and blame, compliments and complaints. I myself have measured very low at times in the "weathering the internet storm" department. 

"Tawfiq" had spent a long time learning about all types of Asian and Central Asian Classical Music -- from Uzbekistan to Azjerbajan, from Pakistan to India, from Iran to Iraq. He wore his expertise lightly and was gentle when correcting me about a factual matter and and mostly silent when disagreeing with me about the relative qualities of various musicians.

A little while ago I noticed something odd. I had commented on several of his last few posts of his blog and did not receive a reply, nor were the comments published. I figured he might be busy. But then as the days went on I started fearing for the worst. I then methodically went through every single post of his blog to download the audio files, making sure that if I had accidentally missed a post then I would be sure to have that music in the event of the blog going off line.

I had a bad feeling. But there was no way to contact him other than through email and the comment section of his blog.

When I heard the news about his death, in a comment in the comments of section of the previous post on this blog, I can't say I was shocked. It had been over three months since I had had any contact with him, bit still felt immensely sad when the worst was confirmed.

The "Tawfiq" whom I interacted with was kind, decent, modest, and he cared very deeply about the power of music. His blog stands as a monument to one man's passion for music. Had the internet been developed 10 years sooner, we would have had 10 more years of his musical sharing. Those ten years would have been filled with a masterful curation of the gems from his music collection, and we would all have been the better for it. There would have been so many more treasures from to discover and enjoy. But instead of focusing on what could have been, I will instead feel tremendous gratitude to "Tawfiq" for doing such a masterful job of introducing me to so many artists and genres of music. 

I don't know anything about his extended family and what will become of his collection. I hope he planned ahead and it will be given to a library or an individual who cares about the music and preserving it. His blog will remain online as long as the rules for blogspot remain the same and no specific response is required in order that it continue to be displayed for visitors. 

The files, however, are a different story. They are hosted on Dropbox and Adrive - both of these require a payment for the account to stay active. At some point the links won't work anymore. I strongly encourage people reading this post to go there and do as I did -- methodically go through every post (I started at the end and kept going back into the past until the first post) and download what you can. I doubt very much that I will ever have the opportunity to post as much music as he did (unless I create some kind of mirror-site blog -- I have even less time for that).

The traditional Buddhist phrase to say when a death occurs is, in the Pali language, "Anicca Vata Sankhara," -- which basically means that all the things we think we are -- our body, our opinions, our thoughts, our perceptions -- all of it is impermanent. It's a bit reminiscent of something said at the Christian funerals of my extended family -- "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust..." which is based on Genesis 3:19 if you are in the mood to look it up. 

I hope that you, dear reader, will -- in some small or large way -- carry on this delicate work that needs to be done. We are preserving musical culture against a growing tide of hostility and (worse of all) indifference. There are people who believe that sharing otherwise commercially unavailable music online is "piracy" -- I call it "distributed backup."

Goodbye "Tawfiq" -- your memory is alive in me and countless others whose lives you have touched. Thank you.

To my readers: please use the comment section of this post to let us know any thoughts you may have on "Tawfiq" and his blog. I know there are real-life friends of his in Germany and I especially encourage such people to get in touch with me in the hopes that somehow his blog can be archived properly (with the permission of his family) with all the links working. 

June 17, 2019

Bismillah Khan and VG Jog: Shehnai and Violin [EASD 1299] an LP recorded and released in India in 1965

Here is a delightful jugalbandi from 1965, one of at least two which this pair of musicians recorded for HMV/EMI.

This record came to me from a source in Germany who had access to unsold stock from a former importer. Therefore it was in immaculate condition. Unfortunately, the recording itself seems to have a very small amount of distortion in a few louder passages. This might be a mastering problem or may be the result of using worn out stampers (a common practice in Indian LP manufacturing, unfortunately). The fadeouts are quite abrupt as well. This is probably not very noticeable for most people.

side one: Raga Jaijaivanti
side two: Raga Bahar

Bismillah Khan: shehnai
VG Jog: violin
Mahapurush Mishra: tabla

Equipment used in transfer: 
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 20 minutes in pure clean water
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Audio-technica AT440MLb
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.
Recorder: Sony PCM-M10 at 24bit/96kHz resolution
Software: AudacityClickRepair, and xAct


24bit, 96kHz FLAC files (906 MB)

16bit, 44.kHz FLAC files (257 MB)

320 kbps mp3 files (108 MB)

Here is a good explanation of what FLAC files are and why you should be listening to them if you can.

Below is a video concert of VG Jog and Zakir Hussain from the archives of Basant Bahar, who are still promoting concerts in California. Definitely check out their wonderful YouTube channel!

June 3, 2019

Browser warnings

There has been some talk in my comment section and also around the internet that Google has been busy labeling certain websites as being potentially harmful.

The first sign I noticed a few weeks ago was the little warning box in my address window saying that a site was "NOT SECURE" because it would not accept a https:// (notice the s) connection, which is a secure connection. See the photo below when I visit my own blog.

Now apparently Google is maintaining a database of websites which have had complaints from people who say they have downloaded malicious software from that site. Any web hosting site is going to be on that list (except GoogleDrive, I bet) because the hosting sites have no way to scan for viruses -- even Google will warn you when you download a file that it is too large to scan for viruses. (sorry no screenshot here).

So this is the warning people are getting when attempting to download material from adrive.com, which is my web hosting service:

Notice that your browser is warning you that the website may try to trick you into downloading some apps you don't want. I think anyone who has used Zippyshare or Mediafire has noticed the very aggressive popups and warnings to download the latest version of Flash, etc etc. 

If anyone notices such popups or warnings coming from adrive.com, please let me know.

Finally, I decide to click on the link in the warning box to check on websites. When I entered adrive.com the database said it was potentially unsafe but maybe not the entire site. Then I entered the exact URL address of the download and i got this:

As I was going through some old posts on my dear friend Tawfiq's blog "Oriental Traditional Music on LPs and Cassettes," I noticed a comment on one of his posts from February 2015. It reads:

Anonymous said...

To admin; apparently A-drive has been blocked by "google safe" due to containing harmful malware on the server downloadwww.31.adrive.com. In other-words I cannot download this album. Thank you for for your wonderful blog. I'm able to find many treasures here I would not be able to find.


19 February 2015 at 08:07

So this has been happening off-and-on for almost five years. 

In the meantime, I am going to keep using adrive.com. You and I will both notice this sort of warning coming up frequently. 

I truly thank every one of my readers and I sincerely hope that you are deriving benefit from the music available here and on other similar sites listed to the right. 

I hope you will study this beautiful music and give it your full attention. 

I also strongly hope that you will do your best to see Indian Classical Music concerts in person and help support the artists in that way. There are Hindustani and often Carnatic concerts everywhere -- not just Asia but every country in Europe, every country in North America (including Mexico, where a friend of mine just toured), and even at least one in Africa (South Africa). These are not always well publicized but they can be found with a little looking around on the internet and also mentioning to others about your love of this music. 

June 1, 2019

Rais Khan: Sitar Solo [ECSD 2412] an LP recorded in India in 1969

Here is an early LP by Ustad Rais Khan -- it appears to be his third overall and his second Classical album. Tabla duties are expertly rendered by Bashir Ahmad Khan.

Rais Khan's first album, "Raga Jazz Style" was a big hit. The story I have heard was that the LP was recorded while the Bollywood musicians were on strike. Khan continued for several more years to work on film music (as do so many classical musicians up to the present time) and unfortunately for some commentators this has tainted him. 

Regardless of Khan's work in film, his classical albums were very solid and his concerts right up to his death two years ago were a delight. He had a very personal style which provided great joy to many people. Here is a video of the first part of his first concert in the United States, in 1989:

Side one:
Raga Darbari Kanada in Teentaal
Dhun in Dadra Taal
Side two:
Raga Tilok Kamod in Teentaal
Dhun in Dadra Taal

Sitar: Rais Khan
Tabla: Basheer Ahmad Khan

Further resources:
Another very good vinyl transfer of this LP is on my friend Kirrin's excellent blog. 
A vinyl transfer of Rais Khan's first LP from 1968 is available on Kirrin's blog and a transfer of the cassette version of that album is on my dear friend Tawfiq's wonderful blog
Another LP by Rais Khan (with the great Sankha Chatterjee on tabla) is available on this blog.

Equipment used in transfer: 
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 20 minutes in pure clean water
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Audio-technica AT440MLb
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.
Recorder: Sony PCM-M10 at 24bit/96kHz resolution
Software: Audacity, ClickRepair, and xAct

May 19, 2019

Malini Rajurkar: Pure Classicism At Its Best [ECSD 2933] an LP recorded and released in India in 1983

For this post we have a wonderful LP by vocalist Malini Rajurkar, who was born in January 1941 in Rajasthan, India. She is an eminent member of the Gwalior Gharana and had at least two LPs released in the late 1970s to early 1980s by EMI.

There are several excellent live (audio) recordings of her on YouTube at the moment and I recommend searching for them. There is a video concert embedded here near the bottom of this post.

Equipment used in transfer:
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 20 minutes in water with a few drops of Triton X-100 added, then for 10 minutes in pure clean water.
Turntable: Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Audio-technica AT440MLb
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.
Recorder: Sony PCM-M10 recorder at 24bit/96kHz resolution
Software: Audacity, ClickRepair, and xAct.

March 3, 2019

Hidayat Khan and Sanju Sahai: live performance in Nuremberg, Germany on December 9, 2010

It's been a while since I last posted. I'm sure everyone reading this will have busy lives of their own so I won't belabor the point and detail a long list of less interesting topics which occupied my time over the past few months. Regardless, it's good to take a break once in a while and as usual after taking a break, I'm eager to get back in the game.

This post is an unofficial live recording by an anonymous (even to me) enthusiast who apparently lives near Nuremberg, Germany. I'll post a slightly edited version of the information they provided with the music and then add some information of my own. I did take the opportunity to remaster the sound slightly, so that some irritating audience noises have been removed, and a very small amount of audio compression has been applied while the tabla is playing. This can sometimes be necessary because the very sharp spikes of sound which the tabla produces can overwhelm the more linear notes from the sitar. Compression, when used inappropriately or indiscriminately, can push the life and "air' out of a recording, so I only use it very sparingly when I do.

The original information is as follows:

After a long, long while the local German-Indian friendship club Sangam has finally started to bring new concerts of Indian master musicians to town.

For the last 25 years it has invited some of the most famous masters but now they have changed their scheme and will bring only young players, accomplished masters all of them, but of the younger generation.

The first such concert took place last week [back in 2010] and it presented two excellent musicians: Hidayat Khan and Sanju Sahai.

Both actually are renowned players of both the sitar and the tabla but for this concert Mr. Hidayat Khan, son of Ustad Vilayat Khan played the sitar, like his father did and Mr. Sanju Sahai did play tabla, an instrument he plays in the sixth generation in his family.

The interplay between the two was interesting to observe, especially in the first part: Sahai kept encouraging Khan to explore the scale and the melodies of the raga further and further in the Alap and also the Jor for a full half hour until he finally did join him for the equally extensive Gat.

Unfortunately Khan did not announce the second raga and I couldn't quite identify the name of the third rag either. It sounded like he said 'Purvi.' [I believe it might be Pilu -- let me know what you think]

The graceful tanpura player, Mrs Jaymini Sahai is a bit low in the mix; she is a musical master, as well, by the way, and both practices and teaches Indian dance.

Hidayat Khan: sitar
Sanju Sahai: tabla
Jaymini Sahai: tanpura

total time = 123min 26 sec

I used the program Audacity to apply a small amount of compression, as noted above, and also to remove some (but not all) extraneous noises. The audio file was obtained on the peer-to-peer sharing site "Dimeadozen." I did not record it, and I obtained it in16bit, 44KHz quality so I cannot offer a 24bit version this time.

A lengthy lecture-demonstration by Hidayat Khan

Here's a little solo by Sanju ji which you can watch without leaving my cozy music-filled blog:

February 27, 2019

Please post general questions and comments here!

If you have a question or comment about a particular blog post, please enter that into the comments section of the particular blog post. Your comment (or question) will not show up immediately because i have set up the blog in a way that all comments are sent to an inbox. Only comments I approve will show up.

Please put any general questions and comments about general topics involving Indian music, blogging, and transferring vinyl and cassettes into the comments of this post.

I am going to attempt to date this so that it is always just beneath the most recent of my posts -- hopefully I can do that.

And lastly, THANK YOU for reading my blog and listening to this wonderful music!