Darbar: ‘Living Traditions’ & Indian classical musicology


Various ‘outreach musicology’ projects with Darbar Arts & Heritage over the past few years, exploring how classical music with ancient roots is adapting to a fast-paced, interconnected modern world


• Living Traditions collection •

’21 articles for 21st-century Indian classical music’

Darbar are committed to demystifying India’s classical arts for a global audience. In Living Traditions I interview eleven of today’s leading artists on how they create, think, and live, spanning Hindustani, Carnatic, Dhrupad, and dance. Also featured are ten in-depth essays covering various technical, social, and mystical dimensions of the music itself, examining how it manifests in diverse new contexts.


The 21 articles, aimed at newcomers and connoisseurs alike, can be read in any order. No previous knowledge is required: we go far in, but explain along the way, matching the words to the sounds using clips from our 13-year Festival archive. Darbar does not believe in diluting or oversimplifying – to do so would be to disrespect our audience. Instead, we prefer to preserve the detail, taking more time to explain when needed.


All novel concepts are defined inline, and linked to dedicated pages from our separate bank of educational articles. I’ve also put together 140 new Artist Pages, containing brief biographies and videos of our past festival performers. These great creative forms are for everyone – all you need is a willingness to abandon preconceptions, and open your ears…


—Eleven artist interviews—

India’s leading classical masters in their own words


—Ten musical explorations—

Varied perspectives on the meanings of the sounds

  • Raag Chandranandan: Modern creations, metaphysics of raga – Ali Akbar Khan created Chandranandan in the 1940s, naming it hastily during a cigarette break and soon forgetting how to play it – but it is now regarded as a modern classic. What does its curious tale tell us about the nature of raga?

  • How your favourite genres chime with Indian classical – Discover Indian classical music via styles you already like, through some surprising points of confluence. This article builds sonic bridges for fans of jazz, rock, blues, jungle, hip-hop, house, techno, ambient, minimalism, Western classical, and more

  • Singing sculptures: India’s curious musical instruments – Examining the music and history of ten strange, beautiful instruments from India’s classical traditions: the surbahartauschaturangirudra veena, sitar been, tabla tarang, jaltarang, sarangi, ghatam, and morsing

  • Rupak Kulkarni & Ojas Adhiya – Raag Jog (Darbar 2018):


• Darbar YouTube channel •

Writing 300+ video texts, adding context & detail to Darbar’s vast performance archive – e.g.:

  • Aruna Sairam – Kalinga/Gambhiranata (Darbar 2016): “Kalinga Nartana Tillana recounts Lord Krishna’s mythical battle with Kaliya, the fearsome five-headed snake who boiled the waters of the Yamuna River around him as they fought. It is based on a 6th century composition by Oothukkadu Venkata Subba Iyer, complete with rhythmic vocalisations to describe Krishna’s battle dance, and the hissing sounds of the snake. The music is set to the pentatonic Raga Gambhiranata, in the 8-beat Adi Tala…”

  • Amjad Ali Khan – Megh & Miyan ki Malhar (Darbar 2016): “Malhar ragas, associated with rejuvenation, heroism, and growth, are said to summon the monsoon rains if sung correctly. Legend has it that Emperor Akbar once asked Miyan Tansen to sing Deepak, the light-bringing raga, causing all the lamps near him to ignite and burn so brightly that Tansen’s own body became scorched… Miyan Ki Malhar is said to be Tansen’s own variant of the basic Malhar structure. Both use Kafi as their base scale (SRgmPDnS), but Tansen’s version takes a shudh [natural] Ni in ascent, before reverting to a komal [flat] Ni for the descent – some say that the melodic contrast between the two swaras helps clouds to descend…”

  • Jyoti Hegde – Raag Poorvi (Darbar 2014): “Jyoti Hegde is among the world’s leading players of the rare rudra veena. Sitar was her first love, and she studied the instrument under Bindhu Madhav Pathak, starting training at the comparatively late age of 12. But on hearing her guru play the veena she became instantly drawn to its slow, low tones, and asked to learn. Her guru refused, telling her that women could not play it. After some persistence he offered to give her a trial lesson, but deliberately set her up on an old, difficult to play veena in the hope that she would be dissuaded. But she took to it with talent and determination, practicing hard enough that Bindhu soon asked her father to buy her a better quality instrument. But even from there, the path to mastery was not straightforward…”


• Darbar Artist database •

Profiling (almost) every Darbar artist from our 14+ Festival years

Abhisek Lahiri | Abhishek BorkarAbhishek Raghuram | Akkarai Subhalakshmi | Akram Khan | Amjad Ali Khan | Anantvir SinghAnindo Chatterjee | Anupama Bhagwat | Arjun Kumar | Aruna Sairam | Arshad Khan | Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande | Ayan Sengupta | Bahauddin Dagar | Bernhard Schimpelsberger | Bhai Baldeep Singh | Bharat Bhushan | Bharat Sundar | Bickram Ghosh | Budhaditya Mukherjee | D Srinivas | Debashish Bhattacharya (sarod) | Debashish Bhattacharya (slide) | Dhruv Bedi | Debasmita Bhattacharya | Debjit Patitundi | Fareed Ayaz & Bros Qawwal | G Guruprasanna | Ganesh & Kumaresh | Ghatam Giridhar Udupa | Gurdain Rayatt | GJR Krishnan Lalgudi | Hariharan | Harjinderpal Singh Matharu | Harmeet Virdee | Irshad Khan | Indrani Mukherjee | Jayanthi Kumaresh | JA Jayanth ‘Flute’ | Jesse Bannister | Jayateerth Mevundi | Jyotsna Srikanth | Jyoti Hegde | Kaivalya Kumar Gurav | Kamal Sabri | Kala Ramnath | Kaushiki Chakraborty | Kedar Bodas | Kiranpal Singh | Kaviraj Singh | Kushal Das | Kumar Bose | Madhavi Mudgal | Manjiri Asanare-Kelkar | Malladi Brothers | Meeta Pandit | Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil | Mavin Khoo | Manu Seen | Mita Nag | Milind Kulkarni | Mysore Bros. | Momin Khan | Nayan Ghosh | Nahid Siddiqui | Neyveli B Venkatesh | Niladri Kumar | Nina Burmi | Nirmalya Dey | Nishat Khan | Nityanand Haldipur | Ojas Adhiya | Omkar Dadarkar | Parveen Sultana | Prabha Atre | Parupalli S Phalgun | Parimal Chakraborty | Pelva Naik | Patri Satish Kumar | Pratik Shrivastava | Praashekh Borkar | Prattyush Banerjee | Praveen Sheolikar | Premkumar Mallick | Pravin Godkhindi | Purbayan Chatterjee | Rahul Sharma | Rajhesh Vaidhya | Rajendra Prasanna | Rajwinder Kaur | Rakesh Chaurasia | Ramakant Gaikwad | Rajan & Sajan Mishra | Ranjani-Gayatri | Ronu Majumdar | Roopa Panesar | Rupak Kulkarni | Sahana Banerjee | Sabir Khan | Sanju Sahai | Shashank Subramanyam | Shahbaz Hussain | Shahid Parvez | Shashwati Mandal | Shivkumar Sharma | Shubha Mudgal | Shujaat Khan | Somjit Dasgupta | Soumik Datta | Soumen Nandy | Sudha Ragunathan | Sukhdeep Dhanjal | Subhankar Banerjee | Supreet Deshpande | Sukhvinder Singh ‘Pinky’ | Swapnasundari | Swapan Chaudhuri | Tarun Bhattacharya | Tarun Jasani | Tanmay Deochake | Tejendra Majumdar | Trichy Sankaran | Uday Bhawalkar | Ulhas Kashalkar | Utsav Lal | Venkatesh Kumar | Veena Sahasrabuddhe | Vinayak Torvi | Vijay Rajput | Vijayalakshmi Lalgudi | VV Ramanamurthy | Wajahat Khan | Wasifuddin Dagar | Yogesh Samsi



• More Darbar writings •

Other aspects of my ‘outreach musicology’ role:

What is ‘Darbar VR360’? Bringing Indian classical to the virtual realm: “Indian classical music has always adapted to changing times and audiences. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that its leading artists seem eager to adopt new technologies: far from being stuck in some imagined technophobic past, many have embraced any new chance to bring their ancient-rooted music to modern listeners…”

“VR allows you to put on ‘goggles’ which simulate an interactive, three-dimensional world around you. Darbar Festival 360 will teleport its viewers halfway across the world, dropping them in picturesque locations next to India’s temples, mountains, and lakeside sunsets…The experience is interactive and immersive too, aiming to recreate in the feeling of ‘being there’ in fine sensory detail. The sounds – including singers, sitars, and passing birds – will respond as you turn your head…”

  • P.S. Phalgun – Mridangam Solo (Darbar VR360, 2019):

Concert programmes: distributed at various Barbican, Southbank, & Sadler’s Wells shows – aiming to enthuse and inform, e.g.:

  • Bahauddin Dagar @ Purcell Room (Mar 2019):


  • Other Darbar projects: online raga profiles going into the musicological, historical, & spiritual detail (e.g. Darbari: Emperor of ragas), editing a collection of 80+ articles by Jameela Siddiqi & Jahnavi Harrison, community writings (e.g. awards & obituaries), various social media work, press releases, audience interaction, engagement with academics, etc


“Darbar Arts & Heritage believes in the power of Indian classical music to stir, thrill, and inspire. To find out more, get the Darbar newsletter, explore our YouTube channel, or sign up to the Darbar Player to watch extended performances in pristine HD quality.”


George Howlett is a London-based musician and writer. I play guitar, tabla, and santoor, loosely focusing on jazz, rhythm, and global improvisation. Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the human voices, cultures, and passions behind them.

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Recently I’ve worked long-term for Darbar, Guitar World, and Ragatip, and published research into tuning and John Coltrane’s raga notes. I’ve written for Jazzwise, JazzFM, and The Wire, and also record, perform, and teach in local schools. Site menu above, follow below, & get in touch here!


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