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Chakra Suite

(32-string Veena, Tabla, 6-string Guitar
and Electronic soundscape).
Total duration 10:35 minutes (2005)
Published by Activist Music (ASCAP).

Ragas recorded in May 2005 by Thakur Chakrapani Singh, veena and
Mr. Jitendra, tablas; guitar and electronics recorded in September, 2005 by Alex Shapiro.

Veena and tabla recorded at Amplyfi Audio Architect, Amritpuri,
New Delhi-110065, India
Veena and tabla track engineered and recorded by Sumit Kumar

 

     
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In 2004 I received an email out of the blue from New Delhi, India, signed by Thakur Chakrapani Singh. In it he wrote me that having visited my website, he enjoyed my music and was very interested in a collaboration with me. “I want to do something new in music field, not like a fusion but some exemplary creative work.” My feelings, always. I immediately went to Chakrapani’s website and listened to the excerpts of his ragas, entranced. I had never collaborated with another composer before, but I sensed that a wonderful opportunity had presented itself to me, in the form of this brilliantly gifted veena maestro.

 

I wrote back to Chakrapani that I was currently beginning work composing an album of electro-acoustic pieces, in which a soloist is accompanied by a prerecorded soundscape. In earlier such pieces, I had always composed the soloist’s part as well as the electronic track. But in this case I suggested something different. “Send me a cleanly recorded CD with any tracks you wish of about ten minutes each, with or without tabla” I wrote him. “I especially love what I heard of your Raag Bageswari”. And there in my mailbox not too long after was a CD from halfway around the world, with that raga as well as his Raag Megh, for me to begin my exploration.

My first task was to listen carefully to the material and decide which sections to use, and where. I wanted to create a flow between the recording of the veena with and without tabla. And then the true challenge began: blending our musical voices from two sides of a planet.

Indian music is centered around linear melody and rhythm. Western music is all about vertical harmony and counterpoint. Two very different approaches to creating music, but in this case, I saw it as two halves of what could be a lovely whole.

Always with the intent of keeping the focus on Chakrapani and his incredible veena technique, I chose an electronic palette that I hoped would support the beauty of his unique melody, and with which I could subtly impose harmonies that I’m certain in some cases he would never have imagined. At one point I was concerned that perhaps I would offend this great Indian artist with my additions. But then I reminded myself that Chakrapani would not have bothered to contact an American composer if he had wanted his music to sound only Indian. The next thing I knew I was picking up my guitar and adding an even more definitive American sound to the piece. When I first heard Chakrapani’s raga I was struck by his sprinklings of major triad chords and jazz fusion style syncopated rhythms. Yet I doubt he knew that his raga also laid very well as an all out solo over a twelve bar boogie woogie blues!

It has been an honor to pair my creative voice with that of such a master, and I look forward to many future collaborations with him.

Thakur Chakrapani Singh

" I myself can simply say that it is not only unique but superb too... Your blending is as such that the Indian music and your surrounding music is quite distinct and also supporting each other."


------— response from Thakur Chakrapani Singh, composer and veena player

 
 

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