Recent Press 2008-2015

Musician awash in the sound of sitar
Sentinel Tribune - David Dupont on Dec 10th 2014

La música pura, la que toca los corazones, no viene del ego
Periódico La Jornada - Juan José Olivares on May 14th 2014

Hoy inicia el Gharanafest
Acid Conga - on May 8th 2014

Tocarán en Tlalpan para fundar un ashram musical mexicano
Periódico La Jornada - Juan José Olivares on May 8th 2014

Paul Livingstone – Raga
Refinersfire News - Chris McMurtry on Feb 6th 2014

'RagaSON' is an album that fuses Indian ragas with Mexican Son Jarocho
PRI's The World ~ Producer Betto Arcos on January 29th 2014

Homage to Pt. Ravi Shankar by his disciple Paul Livingstone @ Raja Ghat of Benaras
Sreeni On Stage ~ Inspiring Talents, Mesmerizing on March 14th 2013

"Be A Learner, Don't Try To Impress People", Sitar Maestro Paul Livingstone Told Students
News From Nadia on Feb 5th 2013

"Master of his craft"
Deccan Herald on Jan 30th 2013

A Legacy Lingers On
Banglore Mirror on Jan 20th 2013

US Sitarist Bridges All Culture
Times Of India
By Ayesha Tabassum on Jan 20th 2013

Lummis Day 7 to Celebrate NELA's Diversity
HighlandPark-MountWashington Patch
By David Fonseca on May 29, 2012

Ancient ragas transport BG listeners
Sentinel-Tribune on April 4th 2012

An Evening Of Indian Classical music with Paul Livingstone and Shashanka Bakshi.
Word By Word -01 ~ Prose, Narratives and Opinions on July 30th 2011

Llevarán a Marco sonidos de India
EL Manana on July 30th 2011

'Van' a la India consumúsica
Vida! on July 29th 2011

Harmony: West meets East concert in West Bengal
United Religions Initiative on Feb 5th 2011

Paul and Arohi Ensemble on August 26th 2010

Paul's Story with Ravi & Indian Music
In Celebration of Ravi Shankar's 90th Birthday, reflecting on the life-altering impact of Ravi Shankar music on his life.

India Currents April 2010 issue

'L.A.-based musician sows religious unity with the sitar'
Los Angeles Times on April 20th 2010.

'Crossover Music' Interview in India Currents Magazine, June '08 issue

Telegraph, Calcutta

Kolkata press with Dwani
(Abhijit's world crossover ensemble)

Hindi press, Giridih
"an Indian soul inside white skin"

"...western sitarist entranced the discerning musical audience with his magical skill." - Dainik Jagran Feb 22 '08

"Paul's performance mesmerized the listeners & gave the impression that to master an art from a culture foreign from your own is no barrier when you apply enough courage and dedication."
- Hindustan Times April 7th, '08



Paul Livingstone perform at St Andrews Church, India

Lummis Day
Paul Livingstone performs at 2012's Lummis Day Celebration

Mexico tour
Paul and Shashanka Bakshi
on Tour in Mexico

ravi shankar tribute concert
Swapanji & Paul performing on April 10th
at Ravi Shankar Tribute Concert

photo by Bonnie Perkinson

Sitar virtuoso Paul Livingstone plays at Throop Church,
a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Pasadena.

photo by Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / April 14, 2010

Kenny Endo, Abhijit Banerjee & Paul Livingstone

Giridih concert with Shashanka Bakshi

Also check my
RagaJazzMusic Blog

with India Tour updates.


Raga Jazz Interview North West Jazz Profile/Sep '07

Santa Barbara News Press Interview/Sep '06

Santa Barbara News

Arohi cd & Ensemble
"Very effective and impressive approach" - Pt. Ravi Shankar

"The Arohi players... seamlessly combined elements of jazz, Indian classical music and Brazilian rhythms with their own stylistically unfettered improvising." - Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times

"If only the governments of our sweet planet could converse as elegantly as these musicians - exchanging the fruits of traditional culture and creating a global harmony as pleasing as the sounds of Arohi!" - John Schneider, Global Village, KPFK Los Angeles 90.7 fm

"Arohi Provides Exciting World Music" "Arohi transitions seamlessly between different instruments and styles. It is music that takes you on a journey." - India Journal

"Ultimately hypnotic in sound… pieces have a jazz sensibility and an Indian sound." - Orange County Register

Paul's sitar playing
"Melting the audience with his mesmerizing Kafi in drut gat" - India Post

"Blazing away… despite it's intensity, Livingstone's approach was more intellectual" - LA Weekly

"Strikingly powerful and spirited rhythms on the sitar" - The Signal, Santa Clarita

"Un gran experiencia para el espectador con musica de India" - Siglo, Guadalajara, Mexico

"engulfed and transported" - LA Weekly

Paul's fretless guitar
"Livingstone performed on a nine-string guitar of his own design ornamenting many of his phrases with the whirling melodic curlicues and fleet rhythmic strumming of Indian music making (while he) continued to reveal both the timbral and articulative qualities of jazz, making an extremely compelling combination of sounds and styles." - LA Times

About the Sangeet School of World Music
"One of LA's most unusual and inspired grassroots endeavors" - Los Angeles Times Magazine

North West Jazz Profile/September 2007 issue
Educator Spotlight - Paul Livingstone Interview with David Keys

What is Raga Jazz?

I use Raga Jazz to symbolize the symbiosis of influences in my music. Ragas are the core melodic forms of Indian classical music. Each raga has it's own personality that is created through what I like to call it's distinct musical phraseology. The very specific melodic pathways & stresses that must be adhered to are what creates the individual rasa (feeling) of each raga. What I'm doing is taking these forms, along with the rhythmic elements of Indian music, and putting them into contemporary pieces that incorporate various styles & grooves with improvisation to stretch and explore the territory of the raga & pieces. Some pieces have chord changes, but many are either modal (deeply exploring the raga sound) or utilize what I call tone changes, whereby the soloist will improvise around different notes of the raga as the band changes the tonal focus every 4, 8 or 16 bars, while driving the soloist in their accompaniment.

But really for me the jazz influence is like the spirit of jazz more than anything else if you know what I mean… it may or may not have recognizable 'jazz' features in a given piece but that doesn't matter. Without the history of jazz and my own study of it, along with these older world traditions and their common ground of improvisation, this wouldn't exist.

This is really what I believe is the future of music… and we're already here. It's not that this hasn't been done, it has, but there are infinite ways to keep pushing music into a global sound without diluting our traditions. What I don't dig personally is superficial fusion, just taking a tabla or a tanpura or sitar and strumming it along in your song without any good training or any knowledge or context because it sounds 'exotic'!

Now you've actually taken this knowledge and practice and putting it into schools?

Yes, and really that is what hasn't been done. I believe it's a new direction for education and a very valid one, though not easy to convince administrators of it. The question really is how do you put this idea into an actual curricular format and why? Through my work as an educator, I am very interested in seeing this idea of world music synthesis recognized as an essential element in 21st century music education. After all, we are a global village of musicians and music lovers and we can recognize how styles of music influence and give birth into new styles & genres. It has always happened and continues to today. It's apparent just looking at the history of jazz itself… well, you know, that's a whole article in itself and not one for me to write, but we know it's so. Nothing comes out of a vacuum, so why should it stay in a bottle to be preserved in only one way. Traditional jazz & blues was a synthesis of cultures and artistic expression and look where it took us. Everything that came from it literally changed the world and gave birth to oceans of music. That's why I don't understand the idea of keeping jazz in a box. It's cool if you want to play bebop or Latin jazz or even swing and take it to a super high level. We need people who can still push the envelope in those traditions. I try to do that the best I can with Indian classical music. But let's let the intermarriage and cross-cultural development keep going as well. There's so much to learn, endless possibilities. For me, I am always trying to learn something new that will keep my music fresh and alive.

So you are saying that you perform both traditional music & your creative Raga Jazz synthesis music. Do you also teach both?

After studying all this world music for the past 20+ years and having 12 years experience composing, performing, leading the Arohi Ensemble, as well as other collaborations in this field of creative world music, as I call it, I felt called to put some of this into a curricular context.

I do distinguish my creative world music from traditional music, which I have committed to on an ongoing basis for over 20 years now, especially with sitar & Indian classical music. I continue, to this day, to learn new ragas and study deeper with my teachers, but I've also been blessed to study jazz, traditional Persian, Arabic, Javanese, Balinese, Mexican, Brazilian & African traditional music as well. Jazz is a tradition, yes, but also a quickly evolving one. In that case, classical Indian music is actually still evolving too. Some may disagree, but if you look at just the last 50 years, Indian music has changed radically, fortunately without losing its core essence.

So, at some point, all these names & categories break down. They are just a means to bring people into a context and an understanding of this world of sound. Hopefully, a new experience and they perhaps discover some moment of illumination, some touch of the hand of God. That is what music is all about for me. Reaching out to people and making our interconnectedness real, not these names and categories. But, these things must be done, I suppose they are a means to end. The end has always to do with something that is beyond words though, beyond signs.

I perform 20-30 classical Indian concerts a year and have many students who learn sitar weekly in the traditional manner, some of whom have been studying continually with me for over 12 years.

What experience do you have with teaching this world music synthesis… as you say.

Well, I taught at Cal Arts for 5 years, which is where I also went, by the way, when I was a student. The last 2 years, I brought into the music curriculum my Raga jazz Ensemble and then another class I developed which distilled a lot of melodic & rhythmic skills, techniques and concepts I've learned and developed over the years called, 'Polyrhythmic Melodicism'. I've posted the syllabus for this class on my website. It was super cool. The students all created their own musical projects for their final, relating to the material we learned. Some of them just blew me away with what they came up with. It was incredible!

Just last month I completed a wonderful project called 'Shplang Ensemble'. Through the Music LA Program (City of Los Angeles) I worked for 8 weeks with Jr. High & High school age musicians, teaching rhythms, melodies and concepts of Indian and Balinese music, playing them on western instruments along with some traditional world instruments as well. It was a blast, and the kids put on a performance. It was totally glangin' (awesome)! Shplang is an onomatopoeia, a word which symbolizes the sound of different musical cultures colliding in one place, hah hah. It's kind of like a musical microcosm of living in Los Angeles! Shplang is three parts cultural education + one part fun and one part craziness.

Are you using any cutting-edge techniques in your approach to teaching music?

Well yes, I would say that the use of solkattu (oral rhythmic recitation) is an innovative tool I use in all my classes. But for Indian musicians especially, tabla players or those who play mridangam (barrel drum) or other South Indian drummers, it's old hat. For use in jazz and contemporary music education it certainly is new. But it doesn't matter whether I'm teaching a grade school student or a grad school MA jazz candidate. What inevitably happens is I give them some rhythm orally and they start with "What? I cant do that!" Now, if it was written down they may try it if they are good readers… but that's not learning. That's reading, a super useful tool. But I think only reading music can be dangerous. Many students get stuck to the page; they fear that they can't learn things without the page. They think they can't but the mind can, it's just takes slowing down and using extreme focus on the material at hand. In bite size chunks you can learn anything. I really like what Kenny Werner says about learning slowly like that. We really waste time when we try to learn too much too quickly, and a lot of schools perpetuate that, unfortunately. I think it's a shame when schools abuse their students to perform too much music for some ego reason, to impress the public like… look what we can do! Schools should be the place where learning is the #1 priority and, sure, performing is important, but in my opinion should come after learning material thoroughly and not at the expense of the music student's time to hone their skills!

Do you use notation at all?

Yes, absolutely. These ragajazz pieces are all written out. I've posted some examples of my charts on my website, which you can check out. But when I teach, I give them the music and we use notation for learning the overall piece, but for the details and the concepts behind the music, I make them turn the page over and vocalize the parts. That is key, especially when you're dealing with concepts that may be foreign to you. Why? Because those concepts come from a culture where the music pedagogy is different and it's different for a reason, because it serves and illuminates the music to learn it that way.

I always say, "if you can say it you can play it". Because it's in you, not just on the page! So I respond "yes you can…watch this" and I break it down to small bite size elements and 5 or 10 minutes later this rhythm, which they thought was so crazy or complex, is in them. The trick is in getting it in your body and vocalizing the rhythms that you see. It becomes internal then and if you keep it up, it becomes part of you and your musical language. Reading music is external, its great for playing through a piece quickly & hearing the overall arc of it, for group rehearsals etc. Even if you're reading to learn a piece, once in a while put down your instrument and sing some of it, or at least memorize a section and play it without the music. Then your focus changes, you go inward and hear the sound.

The reality is, music is a hearing art not a visual one. You see, when you have truly imbibed a musical phrase, then you own it, right? It has absolutely nothing to do with black dots on a white page with lines. That music was just a signpost. If you're reading it, you're still borrowing it. Why look at the sign when you can go to the Promised Land? Take it the to the bank and own it! I think we often waste time in life otherwise. I know I have!

Beyond that, there is musical memory. That's something I want to work on personally now. You see, you can learn something today, but tomorrow, next week, next year, has it become part of your musical vocabulary or has it at least affected your skills or influenced your musical universal consciously. These are all deep pedagogical issues, which I feel are rarely addressed but are vitally important to the long term growth and viability of our work as musicians. I think most great musicians just figure them out, but imagine if it was addressed in education…wow! I would have loved that for myself.

What has been your best experience as an educator?

Well, I must say that last year, teaching at Cal Arts was an extraordinary time of growth & inspiration for me and my students. I taught two courses of world music synthesis, which I created myself. The 'Raga Jazz Ensemble' had 10 students, all very committed and inspired, and we played a number of my charts, with several performances at the school, a concert at the REDCAT Theater in the Disney Hall complex downtown & 3 educational performances at local High Schools. These educational school concerts were a highlight because we were able to transmit the joy of the music and these rich traditions through multiple age groups simultaneously. This is done through the Community Arts Partnership (CAP) Program at Cal Arts, which is an awesome program where faculty perform with their undergrad & grad students in various underserved & ethnically diverse High Schools around Los Angeles, engaging the kids in dialogue about music, art & culture through the performance and follow up workshops.

I had to leave Cal Arts after teaching there for 5 years but all I will say is it's a wonderful and unique school, especially for world music, jazz & all kinds of creative music and innovative art-making. Check out the student testimonials on the site as well. I was very touched by what they expressed and inspired to continue doing what I do.

Paul Livingstone



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