Madras Special

Dialog-GlobalTala   Madras Special-New generation   Mandala   Mahaphon Clang Madras Special   Karnataka College of Percussion   PMP Record Label   Camerata-Sigi Schwab

Zoltan Lantos, the Hungarian violinist who spent several years in India plays a crucial role in the band. His virtuosity and warm sounds coupled with his knowledge of Indian ragas is just right for this music. Zoltan also leads his own highly accliamed quartet of Hungarian musicians. Sandhya Sanjana, the Indian singer lives in Amsterdam and is one of the few singers, who can bridge various vocal styles and indian classical music. As a freelance singer, Sandhya has performed with Alice Coltrane and appeared recently at the John Coltrane festival in L.A. Christian Zürner, self-taught musician from Bamberg who played piano and drums before he gravitated to electric bass. He musical experiences include playing in funk ans soul bands and he has been in recent years the duo partner of the brilliant guitar player Rainer Hartmann. Ramesh Shotham, drums, percussion and voice.

Madras Special’s new CD ‘Urban Folkore’ released by Double Moon Records. Booking:   Best of both worlds (The Hindu 12-22-2005, India) Indian percussionist Ramesh Shotham, who is making waves in Europe, talks about his latest album “Urban Folklore” From Jimmy Hendrix to Om Vigneshwara, it’s been quite a journey. A journey that Ramesh Shotham, the Indian percussion master from Cologne currently making waves in Europe, began right here. This was when he was a drummer with a 1970s rock band called Human Bondage, which he co-founded with his brother Suresh Shotham in Chennai. Since this was in the 1970s, he began by playing the music expected of any rock band post-Woodstock: much to the delight of the many hippies and youngsters who hopped off planes in order to find the truth, love and peace that India, the home of spirituality, was expected to supply to the West. The Shothams then played music inspired by the likes of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Till they discovered Indian music, and the fabulous sound of Indo-Western fusion. Then, Ramesh Shotham decided to return to his roots, and study the music of the South. He began by learning the tavil, a South Indian temple drum, in Chennai and went on to learn classical percussion at the Karnataka College of Percussion in Bangalore. So when he moved to Europe, he began to find other classical musicians from different traditions, to fuse music and melody from all over the world. India-inspired fusion “World music is a development that has been going on since the mid-1980s,” he says, explaining why it isn’t exactly a new trend, even if it’s getting popular in India only now. “There has always been an interest in Indian music.” He does however say there has been a swell in India-inspired fusion lately. “I’m one of the people who has been promoting this sort of music in Europe. (While Shotham plays with various artistes, he has his own group `Madras Special’.) And now, there’s the resurgence of Shakti, brought about by John McLaughlin (the legendary British jazz guitarist), with Selva Ganesh. Discussing the December music season, which he is “trying to catch as much of, as possible,” he says, “There seems to be a lot happening here… but with the fusion thing, it’s always been a question of the Carnatic side of it overshadowing the Western. I don’t know if that’s because of a lack of awareness of Western music… ” he trails off, adding thoughtfully, “there is a need to be humble when you approach and try to learn a new form. You have to go half way in meeting their culture. I have met some talented Carnatic musicians who think Carnatic music encompasses the world.” World music Practically all the western artistes who are now playing fusion successfully have taken time to learn and understand Indian music. Zoltan Lantos the violonist, for instance, who has worked with Shotham on his latest CD, `Ramesh Shotham and Madras Special: Urban Folklore’ studied music in India. “He was born in Hungary, but lived in India for several years,” says Shotham, adding, “so he contributes a great deal of experience from both music worlds.” The rest of his Madras Special team is equally proficient in both worlds. There’s German Christian Zürner, who’s known for his mastery of Indian rhythms. Mike Herting is a well-known German pianist who skilfully bridges the East-West divide. And Sandhya Sanjana, their vocalist, is originally from Mumbai, though she now lives in Amsterdam. “The album’s called Urban Folklore,” he grins, “because this is about city people interpreting traditional elements.” The compilation, which was released just about two weeks ago in Europe, is a live radio recording by `funkhaus europa WDR’ of a recent concert. “The recording was done in a town called Bochum, not so far from Cologne,” says Shotham, “And it was a Sunday morning concert. But the audience was very enthusiastic. The venue was full, and there were people standing in queues to get in.” It’s unfortunate that World Music, currently the rage in Europe, is so niche in India, says Shotham, adding India has tremendous potential, both in terms of audiences and performers. “You can create such incredible music here. You just have to mix the music from the North and South, the songs from the villages and hill stations.” SHONALI MUTHALALY   Express nach Madras (Blue Rhythm Herbst 2005, Germany) Ein paar Jahre nach seinem letzten Studiowerk, das wie seine Band auf den Namen „Madras Special“ (pmp/sunny moon) hört, kommt einer der besten in Deutschland ansässigen Perkussionisten mit einem neuen Album, bei dem südindische Ornamente auf jazzige Bezüge treffen und zu einer eigenen Sorte Funk überleiten. Ramesh Shotham hat dazwischen aber keine Pause gemacht, im Gegenteil. Er war nicht nur mit seinen Workshops beschäftigt; er tourte oder arbeitete mit anderen Kollegen wie der WDR Big Band und Wolfgang Niedecken, mit Sigi Schwab, Charlie Mariano, Maggy Scott, der Schäl Sick Brass Band, Dave Liebman, dem Flamencomann Gerardo Nunez oder den Bluesfreaks von Tri Continental. Mit den drei Gitarrenfricklern ist er demnächst in Kanada unterwegs-und dann tüftelt Ramesh auch schon neue Termine aus, zum Beispiel mit Abaji, dem in Paris lebenden Orientalisten. Seine Aktivitäten mit Tri Continental mag der gebürtige Inder natürlich sehr, hat er doch als Teenie einst Blues gespielt und Cream interpretiert, statt Bollywood zu kochen. Aber was heutzutage in seiner eigenen Combo passiert, steht auf einem anderen Level. Davon zeugt „Urban Folklore“ (Double Moon/sunny moon), ein Mitschnitt von einem Konzert in Köln. Zum Auftakt rappt Ramesh ein Konakol-Solo; das Publikum folgt die Stimme begeistert. Und dann bekommt man trancigen Gesang von Sandhya Sanjana mitten ins Ohr, die auf dem Studioalbum nur als Randfigur auftauchte. Mit dem superben Geiger Zoltan Lantos und Ramesh findet die Sängerin Töne, die ganz in den treibenden Sound der Band passen. Christian Zürner hält alles mit seinem Bass zusammen, und als Gast funktioniert der Pianist Mike Herting, der eine einer alten Raga angenäherte Komposition beisteuert. Ramesh hält es offen, ob er seine Band künftig als Viererbande oder mit Verstärkung auftritt. „Mir hat das alles gefallen. Mit dem Klavier haben wir natürlich andere Klangfarben, andere Möglichkeiten. Mal sehen, was noch alles passiert.“ Text: Uli Lemke