‘Ragawerk’ from Ragawerk

Ragawerk is the new project and album by two Frankfurt based musicians, guitarist Max Clouth and drummer Martin Standke. In Ragawerk they have created a blend of Indian inspired loops and ragas with electronics, contemporary jazz and a touch of German rock. The melding of jazz music and Indian raga is nothing new with the likes of Joe Harriott, John Coltrane, and John McLaughlin all having brought the two styles together as Indo-Jazz fusion.

Artwork by Simone Deiana

A raga is an array of melodic structures with musical motifs, considered in the Indian tradition to have the ability to “colour the mind” and affect the emotions of the audience. Each raga provides the musician with a musical framework within which to improvise. Improvisation by the musician involves creating sequences of notes allowed by the raga in keeping with rules specific to the raga (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raga). Raga music, like jazz, is scale-based. A raga can be improvised with as if it were a scale, and chords or beats can be placed underneath it.

It’s a way of improvising that opens up a whole other world again, some of our pieces are based on ragas but they are so immersed in our band sound that you don’t even think of that art first. We take the raga and put it in our context, we don’t always stick to all the traditional guidelines, and this is what defines our music.

Martin Standke and Max Clouth

‘Ab Yeh Kya?’ takes the listener straight into what the two musicians talk about above. The sound is Indian, the rhythm is Indian, and the wonderful vocals of Varijashree Venugopal are Indian; the sparse jazz element comes from the piano improvisations of George BoeBner. I would describe this as a great dance track. ‘I Promise’, on the other hand, has a more new age meditative quality to it – as does ‘Grace – Kipā’ with Max Clouth’s guitar playing standing out above the electronic loops and repeating drum patterns.

‘Nature Of The Self’ is built up of repeating patterns over a strong pulsing beat from drummer Martin Standke. ‘Overlays’ has an ethereal quality about it over a strong beat and some wonderful percussion work. As the track progresses the sound takes on a darker colour as the playing becomes less spacey. ‘Das Modul’ is Krautrock and electronica with an Indian hue, another dance track with a good bass line. ‘Theta Wave’ slows down the tempo and mixes the sitar led melody and electronica to good effect. The music fades to allow a political spoken vocal that should be heard to fore.

‘Face In The Sky’ has a good prog-rock guitar sound to it matched by the keyboard playing of George BoeBner and a steady beat from drummer Martin Standke. ‘The Shore’ opens with soaring violins over a subtle electronic beat. There is further use of a strong pulsing beat that fills out the sound and works very well against the pitch of the violinist. This brings us to the album’s closing track, ‘Mangal’, with vocals written and sung by Koel Puthli. The press release pack describes the song as “beguiling […] with the feel of a night-time ride through Mumbai – an elegant, casual glide through hectic traffic while the lights of the big city flit across the windshield.” A good description of the standout track from the album Ragawerk.

This album is “set to take the international music scene by storm” and it may well do but not as an Indo-Jazz fusion release. Ragawerk is an Indo-electronica dance album and as such is a good one. The use of the Indian raga works very well against the electronic sounds created by Ragawerk but other than the jazz piano inflections heard in the opening track (check out the You Tube clip below), I heard very little of what I would describe as Indo-Jazz fusion, which, for me, is a shame.

Musicians: Max Clouth – guitars; Martin Standke – drums & electronics; Peter Puskas – bass; George BoeBner – Keyboards.

Varijashree Venugopal – vocals (1); Kabuki – modular synthesiser (1, 3, 7, 9); Koel Puthli – vocals (10); Mahesh Raghavan – GeoShred (10); Shruti Ramani – vocals (8, 10); Shivaraj Natraj – kanjira, mridangam (1, 6, 10); Udhai Mazumdar – tabla (1, 5, 6); Mehtab Ali Niazi – sitar (1); Abhisek Mallick – sitar (2, 7, 8); Manas Kumar – violin (1); Hannah Visser – violin (3, 9); Sophie-Justine Herr – cello (3, 9); Koel Sen – voice (7).

Tracklist: 1. Ab Yeh Kya? 2. I Promise. 3. Grace – Kipā. 4. Nature Of The Self. 5. Overlays. 6. Das Modul. 7. Theta Wave. 8. Face In The Sky. 9. The Shore. 10. Mangal.


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