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NaTaRaj XT — East Meets West; East Wins !

A unique band was recently in the city to perform at the launch of music portal, a site which promotes musical talent. NaTaRaj XT, is not just another 'band ' of French hippies, but a group devoted to Indian classical music.

Pierre, a member of NaTaRaj XT, had never in his life played an instrument before. One day in Paris he heard a Pandit Ravi Shankar record.

"What is that instrument? " was his first reaction. "I want to play it ," was the second. And thus began his 20-year-old affair with the Sitar.

"I feel more at home in India and with Indian music than anywhere or anything else ," says the monsieur, smiling. One month later, he was playing it. And, he adds, "I know nothing about Western classical music ."

Another band member, Richard, heard Ali Akbar Khan's Sarod playing, and was hooked. For both the musicians, India and Indian music is like coming home. "The sound of the Sarod is so familiar, like it's coming from so long ago and it's like coming back to my original country," says Richard mystically.

On the road to India, the two met somewhere in Kabul. Both had been learning - Pierre with Pramod Kumar, then Pandit Ravi Shankar and later, in Delhi with Deboo Chaudhary, while Richard went to a music school in California and then to Calcutta.

The association grew, and what happened next was inevitable. Three years ago they decided to form NaTaRaj.

What's with the choice of name?
Richard exclaims, "Aahhh………Nataraj. It's all to do with Nataraj; he dances and it is a sort of re-creation. Shiva means lot to me, and so the name was like a pranam ," he explains.

The band believes in 'live ' performances only, and sticks to the original Indian tradition of improvising. They came out with an album of traditional Indian music. Until they met Kapi, the techno guy.

Kapi heard Richard playing, and they did a piece together with his electronic drums. It clicked.

"Before, people used to sit and listen to our music. Now suddenly with Kapi, they were dancing ," says Richard. So, NaTaRaj became NaTaRajXT and gave birth to the term "ethno-techno."

They weren't imitating anyone, and they stayed pure to the ragas. They brought out another album and played at Medium, the music festival held every summer in France.

Though Kapi has been playing the drums and the guitar for 24 years, he is unfamiliar with Indian music.
"The beats are very strange, " he says. He took to playing the Tabla three months back, but still learning. And he would rather not learn from any teacher. As he says. "I would rather learn by ear ."

Today, their music on the Net gets some 20,000 hits per month. And they get encouraging feedback, like "your music is full of heart and spirituality ."

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