January 15, 2012 Off By Mani Padma

While surfing through the net for sites dedicated to Indian classical music, we chanced upon Ragascape or www.ragascape.com which introduced itself as a website designed to discuss the melodic modes of Indian music. Though there were other sites that promoted Indian classical music, some in a totally no nonsense , commercial manner, ragascape stood out among them because of its sheer simplicity and yet with an unadulterated devotion and reverence for a subject as pure as Indian classical music. Another noteworthy fact was that the website was an initiative by an American Steven Landsberg who had been researching and practicing Indian classical music since last thirty years. He also carries the distinction of being the only Surbahar disciple of the great Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan, the most outstanding surbahar player in the dhrupad style of this century and the greatest exponent of the Senia Sitar style.If morning shows the day, then surely Ragascape held a lot of promises as seen by the first few glimpses that we had the moment we entered the site.

The site itself is an artistically designed uncluttered , systematic one with the homepage having a dedication to the Godess Saraswati and a few words as an introduction to what the site and its categories were about. Navigation was easy and subjects and contents remain focused and direct. Though that was a somewhat technical overview , but again a neat , well structured interface is a mark of a website that knows what it wants to say to its readers. The content at such times can always be expected to be well researched and well articulated . And that is what Ragascape is. It is a well researched musical journey and a memorable experience in itself .

It was categorised into five main topics


musical pilgrimage


Raga exchange

Cd world

As can be deduced from the name, Ragascape covered essays on the various aspects of Indian music and also the intricacies of specific ragas and melodic scales . The contents featured multiple well researched subjects by various authors out of which the topic Kanailal and brothers : The history of an Indian instrument maker by Landberg himself is a great read and also a rare find. The essay detailed the development of a famous sitar manufacturer and the contributions he made to the modern sitar and chronicles the period starting from Bahadur Shah Zafar’s reign, when the first shop was set till 1995 when the shop was finally closed. So detailed is the article ( though never monotonous) and well researched, that the essay stands out as being one priceless piece of history. No wonder , it was supposed to be submitted in the Metropolitian museum in Art, New York city along with an instrument from Kanailal and brother shop.

Musical pilgrimage was about Landberg’s own journey into the realm of Indian classical music which is intriguing given by the fact that he is an American and who had no musical background when he first made his foray, on a whim, into the world of Indian classical music No doubt he was fascinated by it since the first time he came across it, but the story of how he was incorporated as one of its own by the close knit, disciplined, devoted and dedicated world of Indian classical music makes for an interesting read and is a potential autobiographical book material.It also gives a glimpse of the traditional aspect of the Gharanas, the Gurukul system and the purity of a Guru Shishya relationship  through his eyes and experiences and of their  importance in defining an artist. Landberg also shares interesting anecdotes of the period he spent learning classical music under the tutelage of Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan . It will be interesting to let you know that Landberg happens to be the only disciple who was taught Surbahar by the Maestro. The write up also consists of rare photographs of some happy moments spend by Landberg with his master and some milestones of his student period.

Sources is all about the legacy of Landberg’s guru Ustad Mushtaq Ali khan and spans from a period as early as the early eighteenth century and traces the origin and spans across to show how with each age, the legacy of classical music was handed down to the descendants and how there were further additions of knowledge into the same due to their thirst for learning newer techniques and newer instruments. The article mentions in brief almost all the stalwarts of the Nayak Dhondu lineage, a dhrupad singer of Shahjahan’s court, of which Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan was a descendent and carries information on Waras Ali Khan, Ashiq Ali khan and Barkatullah Khan . A rare collection of the recordings of Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan are displayed in archives.

Raga Exchange interestingly is a recommendation of links on similar websites on music and can be called a virtual treasure trove.. Surely Landsberg did believe and also realise about the importance of peaceful coexistence. The site also has an option of literary contribution from other music aficionados or enthusiasts on the matter related to Indian classical music. . That ensures that a strong database of information is formed for sharing and promotion all over the web. Landsberg surely has offered the highest form of Gurudakshina to his Guru by way of immortality of his legacy through cyberspace and also proved his commitment towards knowledge and music by attempting on his part to spread the beauty and purity of Indian Classical music to the world.

Ragascape indeed is a collector item for your webpage bookmark list and if you are into classical music, both academically or otherwise then this site is one big treasure island.

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