3 questions with Ken Zuckerman

US-based sarod player and eclectic musician Ken Zuckerman was in the city recently to perform at Pratahswar

On Sunday, Sarod player Ken Zuckerman enchanted listeners with a selection of morning ragas performed in various 'talas'. His performance marked the 44th Pratahswar concert, which focuses solely on morning ragas.

While the American musician is no stranger to performing at odd hours, he had never performed at 6.30 am and this concert was a first of sorts.
You are known for being "one of the wold's most eclectic masters of improvisation". What instruments do you play? Any favourites?
In addtion to Indian classical music, I have specialised for many years in the improvisation techniques of western classical music from the Middle Ages (1000-1500).
I have performed in many "medieval music" ensembles, playing on the lute and dhotar among other instruments. I have also composed for modern mixed ensembles (Modal Tapestry), as well as Persian and Afghani musicians. Of course, my favourite is classical Indian music on the Sarod. My biggest fascination with medieval music and Indian music is that both these forms share the concept of using melodic modes as the basis for composing and improvisation. This lends certain similarities to the sounds but each form has its own way of interpreting them.

How did you get interested in playing the Sarod?
I became interested in Indian music after watching a performance by the great master Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in 1971. After his performance, Khansahib informed the audience that he had a school in California where everyone was welcome to come and study. That's where I learnt the Sarod. My fondest memories of Khansahib are all the incredible musical moments that we shared, both during performances and over 37 years of training under him. It was also wonderful to spend time with him after performances and during our various journeys together.

Where are you headed next?
I will be touring with an Afghani musician, renowned for playing the rebab, in March 2012. There are several concerts and workshops planned in the USA as well.

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