Rhythm talks, part one | Music | DW | 22.02.2019
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Rhythm talks, part one

What happens when Western classical music meets traditional Indian music face to face? A clash of the cultures, or something new? Join us this hour to find out. 

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Indo-European Campus, part one

"Classical Indian music is one of the few historically-grown traditions worldwide that have not been influenced by Western or other traditions," says Thomas Schneider of the Beethovenfest Bonn, who shares responsibility for the Campus Project with Deutsche Welle. "We looked for pieces that made an effort to combine the two traditions, like for example Western minimal music by Philip Glass. Secondly, we decided to develop new pieces." 
The musical brains behind the project is Bernhard Schimpelsberger, an Austro-English percussionist who once studied with the tabla player Suresh Talwalkar. He told us just how he works on bringing Indian and Western aesthetics together, saying it's about "How to use Indian rhythms. How to let Indian rhythms inspire other forms of music. And working with young people. It's a beautiful thing." 

Taal Yogi Ashram & Nad-Roop Percussion Ensemble performing (Meike Böschemeyer)

Musicians in the Taal Yogi Ashram & Nad-Roop Percussion Ensemble

This is not the first Indo-Western musical confrontation ever. That also happened when Ravi Shankar, the Indian composer and sitar player, and Philip Glass, the American composer, got together to create the album Passages in 1990. The fifth piece on the album, "Meetings Along the Edge," has themes created by both musicians and complex, overlaid rhythms — and it opens our program.

The snake that swallows itself — the uroborus — is a symbol that is found in various cultures, from ancient Egypt onwards. It stands for an eternal circle of becoming and passing away, of coming and going, but also for a closed system that can renew itself. Indian composer Param Vir, who has long lived in Great Britain, made the uroborus the subject of the second part of his "Theatre of Magical Beings," a composition from 2003. 

Bernhard Schimpelsberger and Rakesh Chaurasia in Mumbai (DW/A. Boutsko)

Bernhard Schimpelsberger and Rakesh Chaurasia

Param Vir's work might be described as Western music inspired by the Indian tradition, but this hour also includes some of the real thing. In "Raga Bhimpalasi in Rupak Taal," the tones are presented in the "alap," the introduction, and the rhythm instruments join in in the "gat," the main section.  

Joining the musicians on the stage of Bonn's World Conference Center were colorfully dressed dancers. 

Ravi Shankar / Philip Glass
Meetings Along the Edge from Passages 

Trad. / Bernhard Schimpelsberger

  • Chalan and Rela 
  • Teentaal Bandishes
  • Path of Rhythm

Param Vir
Uroborus from The Theatre of Magical Beings for orchestra

Bernhard Schimpelsberger (1983-)/ Rakesh Chaurasia (1971-)
Raga Bhimpalasi in Rupak Taal

performed by:
Bernhard Schimpelsberger, percussion
Rakesh Chaurasia, bansuri 
SPLASH – Percussion North Rhine-Westphalia
Taal Yogi Ashram & Nad-Roop Percussion Ensemble
National Youth Orchestra of Germany
Leslie Suganandarajah, conductor

Recorded by Deutsche Welle, Bonn (DW) in the World Conference Center, Bonn on September 20, 2018

Rakesh Chaurasia onstage (Meike Böschemeyer)

Rakesh Chaurasia has helped to elevate the bansuri flute into the pantheon of the Indian classical tradition

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