TuneDig is an in-depth and informed conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music — one album at a time.

In each episode, we go down the rabbit hole to spend a while in the strange world we discover. We take an honest look at creativity in all its complexity—from writing and production to history and cultural impact.

We promise you’ll learn something new every time, no matter how much you already love the album we explore.

Episode 53

Three Ragas

Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar lived one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary lives, bearing witness to—and making—history all around the world. To many (especially in the West), he personified an extraordinarily complex style of music and the cultures from which it was borne, and he worked hard to make it look easy.

That work opened doors for scores of artists—John Coltrane, Phillip Glass, George Harrison among them—to explore and express their worlds in newer and deeper ways.

This episode could never touch every part of the proverbial elephant that is his life and legacy, but we humbly present what we hope becomes as meaningful a musical touchstone for you as it has for us.


Kyle: Today we’re talking about Three Ragas by Ravi Shankar.

Cliff: This will be one of those fun ones where we get to anxiously tiptoe up to the precipice of trying to figure out how to talk about a thing that we figured out was very important, even though we thought it was important before. And then the more we learned about it, it became very important feeling.

And now that precipice feels like it’s 10 miles up, suspended in air. Like that dude, astronaut guy from the Red Bull Phoenix thing, where he just like, was like, I’m in space, whoop, jumped out. It’s a very long way down take a video of me I think this is going to feel a lot like that But I think what’s awesome about this and me and you being friends and this podcast in general Is a cool direction that we can take when we approach really complex music with a lot of history.

It’s just Try to show up for it be present Practice listening to it if we can and otherwise just respect the fact that there’s like A whole dense ball of stuff to be discovered. If you push into pretty much anything we’re gonna talk about for however long this episode lasts.

Kyle: Yeah. It took every bit of 51 episodes to be prepared with the philosophy that like the knowledge around this album. or the relationship with this album doesn’t end when we put our thoughts to record. It only begins in that moment. It has not yet begun until we think about it in a meaningful way. And so today is day one of my real relationship with.

Ravi Shankar with Hindustani music with all the nearly myriad branches that come outward from it. My goal for today is just is to coonoo my way through this thing. It’s just to do less. The less you do, the more you do. I want to not try to surf, just surf. I want to skim over the top of the water with this one. There, I know the first thing that I’m doing after we get done with this season is I’m revisiting the book about Robbie that I started and I’m so fascinated by. It’s the first biography I’ve read in a while that I think I want to read multiple times. There’s a great saying in the beginning of the book that the author said in the Ford, I came to realizing that capturing Ravi Shankar’s entire life and music into one book is to borrow David Shepard’s verdict on Brian Eno, like folding a skyscraper into a suitcase. let’s pack light on this episode.

Cliff: well said already.

Kyle: Jesus Christ, man. Where do you want to start?

Cliff: I do think we can start, this will be fun. We can start with probably what we’re not gonna do. Which will also give us a nice foreshadowing for, I think, the overall story of Three Ragas, which we’ll touch lightly enough on to show all the different offshoots of it, basically. But, if people, for the most part, are generically aware of Ravi, it is through the direct and dense impact on Western music in the 60s and creates a sort of view into Ravi came from, the music before that, what all that looks like, but it sort of starts and ends with the American perspective on the impact of Indian music on rock music.

And that is only of a million valid perspectives, but we’ll definitely talk about frankly some of the funny shit he said About meeting those people and playing music at those festivals because some of it’s hilarious but What I think we can explore together in talking through this is how to approach this without a myopic western mindset from the jump.

It doesn’t mean that this Hero Toon Dig episode is going to be the proper equivalent or proxy for an actual study of this human being, much less, uh, Indian classical music, Hindustani music, like, the sitar in general, the concepts of Indian music, the theo like, the theory of anything. Like, we will only be able to tiptoe into each little rabbit hole anyway.

But one thing we can try to do, I think, is what we’ve Me and you have done in trying to approach this album like we do the special weird ones try to keep the most open mind. You can listen for things Use some different frameworks and approaches to draw ideas But otherwise, I think we’re just going to be able to talk about the things that we learned to appreciate that we weren’t otherwise prepared for by just having a passing awareness of Robbie’s impact in music, and how I think that shifts the more you sincerely push into what’s actually happening with music that you don’t understand well.

Kyle: I think one of my initial impressions that really surprised me was how many cliches about Eastern music and what is described as, you know, the phenomenon of Orientalism like Eastern stereotypes, positive and negative. How, like how much of that was imbued in my consciousness. I’m at. I didn’t really realize it.

And in studying the stuff that like he influenced in the West in that very specific time period in the 60s, it’s like, Oh, a lot of those cliches and media come from there. And Some of it’s kind of cool and a lot of it kind of cheapens it, but then like you can push too far in the opposite direction and revere it because it’s so exotic and different too.

So where I’d really like to land is just like a sense of mindfulness and appreciation for what it is and that it is something really different. Like that book that, We love that we’ve referenced over the years that, um, every noise ever a book where you’re just studying different dimensions of what makes music, music. There are volumes of quotes by a wide variety of people, our hero, John Coltrane on down who have Seen something markedly different in the technical approach to music and the philosophy of why and how this music is made that is different from a lot of other cultures but it has shades of lots of other cultural traditions and practices but a lot of it is like more focused and disciplined and central to the culture of the country that it comes from.

So there’s a lot, there is a lot to appreciate and unpack. But I think like the first exercise is to be like, what do I know? What, like, what comes to mind when you think of the sitar or of Ravi Shankar, if you have a familiarity or of Eastern music or India and just put all those thoughts out on the table and try to clear your head of, of all of them as a Westerner and start with a, A child’s perspective and curiosity, it’s been really rewarding for me personally to do that. And and so I would encourage you as a listener to do the same. And if you’re listening, I’m making the assumption that like, you love a lot of music, you probably have some passing familiarity with all this stuff. you are not deeply studied on it. Like if you’re a deeply studied Hindustani expert or a musicologist you’re well past whatever this is that we’re doing here, Cliff and me.

Cliff: Yes, please send us your podcast.

Kyle: yeah, you’ve, you, your third eye is open and you’ve transcended past the need for a podcast. You simply transmit thoughts telepathically now. So please feel free to do that or send us a handwritten letter with your thoughts and observations.

Cliff: Yeah, and to, to drive that home or, or put a point on it, maybe if when Kyle asks, what do you think of when you think of sitar, if you thought of the Beatles, vaguely, that is okay, we’re going to put that on the table together. But what we want you to know is that that is. That is a door that you now can walk through and there is a world on the, there are worlds on the other side of that touch point into what happened.

And like, we will put that moment into perspective, but even that moment In kind of music history of, of the Beatles using this, even that sort of didn’t play out the way we all think that it did or the way that it ends up being told in retrospect and really speaks to the complex relationship that Robbie’s influence would then have with the music that he influenced because it wasn’t all intentional and I think by Us talking about the fundamental aspects of what’s happening in this music enough to start to tune into it It will better illuminate Why it became so fascinating that there are real differences of opinion about Not just how music is played, but how music is experienced and how music is positioned spiritually.

Like there is a very serious and heavy through line of some of the music that we’ll talk about here. And I think what we can do best is approach that with Inappropriate reverence, you don’t, you don’t have to believe in a religious fervor in order to understand the point that they are trying to make or what they are trying to do and entering into that a little bit, in my opinion, is going to help illuminate.

Indian music in general, because the, the relationship to instruments, music, sound, participation, audiences, live performances, everything is fundamentally different than we have with it here. And that only really came to the surface after 10 or 15 years of his influence on popular music.

Kyle: So Stop me if you’ve heard this joke before. Ravi Shankar walks into Abbey Road Studios November 7th, 1956. About six years before the Beatles ever do. is there any backstory that you think is helpful to tell Ravi’s story and sort of unpack his music and his influence?

Cliff: Yep, so here’s the first of the many rabbit holes that we’re gonna just stick toes into and purposefully try to walk over because there’s a lot to say even here alone. But I think probably the most important context for this moment is he is already a highly influential, well known Indian musician by the time he’s walking into the studio to record what would become his western debut, Three Ragas released in 1956, um, which it seems to have recorded and then released, uh, same year, but prior to this, he’s not only got a massive influence, like to me, trying to explain this moment or this context brings Fela Kuti to mind. Like this whole episode is going to be telling you that we’re not telling you 99.

99 percent of every interesting thing that possibly happened for this person just up until this point in time, much less the whole story of their life or narrative. So similarly suffice it to say through the preceding decade, especially he gained influence, um, became very well known for what he was doing and was.

You know, truly known as a master who had from childhood been involved in Indian classical music. Though, if I recall correctly, he actually started off dancing to it, uh, with his brother as a family bit.

Kyle: Yeah, and his brother and perhaps his father as well thought he would be a dancer. That would be the thing that he was known for. And While his family didn’t have famous musicians in it, like his dad had put on theater in London and his brother was a super, super famous dancer. Ravi, also danced, but he picked up the sitar like around the age of 10 or so and would accompany some and started doing his own thing.

So, Definitely a Wunderkind situation, but it seems like, in the vein of Prince, he started really young, was rabidly curious they paint a really beautiful picture in the book, Indian son of the place where he grew up and how it fostered creativity and oneness with nature. Like, I don’t want to over project, but I just couldn’t help but get the sense over and over reading about him that there was like, he was sort of divined to be in this role, like just the right combination of pieces of stardust came together for this. to grow into this figure that would take these musical ideas the world over and like sort of raise the vibrations of the world. Because it’s an extraordinarily tall task, but there’s a paragraph in the beginning of the book that sort of condenses the whole almost Forrest Gumpy type story. It into a short thing.

So I’m going to, I just want to read it real quick. Ravi also lived one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary lives. He had an uncanny habit of being an eyewitness to historic events all around the world. He was born in India when the nation was struggling to evict the British and. India declared its independence from the British in 1947 after years of non violent protests by Gandhi and others.

He was born in India when the nation was struggling to evict the British, toured Weimar Germany as a child star just as Hitler was rising to power, danced at Carnegie Hall, and partied at the Cotton Club, met Clark Gable and Joan Crawford in Hollywood, sang for Gandhi, and was blessed by India’s great poet Rabindranath Tagore all before he was 18.

Only then did he switch his focus from dance to music. He came to national recognition at the time of India’s independence, toured the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, was invited to America in 1956, thanks to the CIA, can’t find enough details on that particular thing, but that’s fascinating, and moved to California just in time for the Summer of Love.

He shone a spotlight on Bangladesh’s liberation struggle, played inside the Kremlin in the mix of a Glasnost, And served as a member of India’s parliament. So it’s like hard to even conceptualize the extent of his influence, you know? And right around this time period, one thing that’s really fascinating.

And I think you know, with Rihanna, we were trying to compare her to the Michael Jackson’s and whatever we’re not saying a bunch of facts about Rihanna or Fela Kuti or. Somebody else to like, because some sort of linearity is going to make it more interesting. It’s still like wrap your arms around the scale of a planet almost.

So like in 1952, he became the director of music at all India radios, home services division, like the national state radio, right? His radio was exploding in the country and he drove two big innovations with AIR. First, he. created the National Program of Music, which was a 90 minute weekly show on Sunday evenings where one classical musician performed live.

And it was like a huge springboard. for a lot of musicians to become household names in India. And the second was the Vadya Varenda or the National Orchestra which he curated the musicians for and boldly started including Western instruments like the violin and the clarinet, um, when there’s a pretty strict tradition of only using Indian Eastern instruments.

I guess that’s like if Taylor Swift was also The SVP of programming at I heart media, like that kind of has no equivalent now because there’s not really a monoculture, but just think about the extent to which the art form was able to pervade because he was not only a practitioner of the art form, but he was. He was an entrepreneur helping to he was always seeking to expand its influence And you’ll you know, you’ll read time and again when you read about Ravi Shankar He was taking time to try to explain the music he would foreground every performance especially in the West with introductions about the forms of Hindustani music.

You don’t know about this yet, but your kids are going to love it sort of thing. So it’s really interesting that he was always really committed to like a bit of the showmanship, but also he just, it really seemed like he wanted people to know it and love it like he did.

And he, he took great pains to do that throughout his life.

Cliff: Definitely. And we may touch on this some more as well, but even, even simply becoming a master. of a musical instrument in Indian culture represented a tremendous amount of invested time and energy. And there are multiple layers to that as well. That is sort of betrayed once again by our Western viewpoint on how people become virtuosic. Is that it? Hey, cool. Why not?

Yes, our podcast virtuosic it is, but Even now, right? Like, our sort of extremely modern experience of it is like, non D type stuff. Like, Oh, look at this child! And like, okay, the child has been able to consume so much information and start doing the task like, repetitively on whatever instrument that they are like, a natural role.

At five, six years old about something. Right. I literally, I’ve watched, I think it was an eight or nine year old do a backflip on their BMX bike in a concrete skate park on their first try today, just like things just kind of like pop up to you on the internet now and like mastery has sort of become a more dialed in and particular thing inside of our culture, I think, or at least our conceptualization of it.

Whereas, again, this is a sweeping statement, but generally speaking, Hindustani music, Indian music, becoming good at that classical music not only required you being generally good at the instruments and memorizing a lot, which we’ll talk about. the sitar alone is an instrument that you play while seated for hours.

Like, I promise you that if you’ve never tried to sit in the same position for hours at a time, it is not easy. Especially on the floor, especially with an instrument that you’ve got to play. And I think we’ll, we’ll hopefully reference this a couple of times, but there’s a, a really great video from Emory university, actually shout out local that we found on YouTube that is just called understanding the basics of Indian Raga music.

And it’s got this. It’s a very dense introduction to, uh, raga in general, but also sitar and some of the experiences of these performances. And one of the things that gets mentioned in there is that when you’re learning sitar, you are literally sitting for five or six hours at a time. As a session, like that is what you’re doing.

So it’s a little bit more back in the vein of the sort of classical children, just like repeating tasks every day until they sort of spiritually connect with it or spiritually disconnect with it and move on to something different in their life. And just like, clearly Robbie had a deep connection to whatever this thing was throughout his life.

In starting in dance is not as unusual again, as it might seem like from our perspective, because of how intertwined dance vocals and instruments are in this type of music at all. So when we say that, you know, he’s walking into Abbey road in 1956 and prior to that had done a whole bunch of stuff that was just mentioned in that blurb that you read, like the density of

Kyle: 20, almost 25 years worth, like borderline a quarter century of experience in this field.

Cliff: Yeah. Yeah, and this is his first recorded record that the West could get. That’s kind of why we’re starting here. This is not a this is the best Ravi Shankar album for you to listen to. That’s not really the perspective we’re taking here. This exploded in terms of influence because it was the fastest he could get here in terms of recordings.

Uh, and up until this point had been driven by performance. So, so grand and popular that like his knowledge of his playing ability and performances were spreading throughout the world again, at a time before recorded music was just being sent around the world. So like this becomes this. Kind of nuclear moment where he has built up all this other stuff in a totally different part of the world and finally comes here and only, basically dorks know about him at this point, but the dorks are going nuts, To be able to get his recording in to uh, to be able to get down which we’ll talk some more about as well. Just Three ragas is this is highly improvisational music, but these aren’t like songs that he wrote like that’s another incorrect way to look at it and so like thinking about this recording existing in 1956 and then We’ll even mention just a smattering of all of the ways this particular record started You Changing the way that musicians thought about their own music, uh, and started showing up in myriad ways throughout a lot of different places, um, but especially both jazz and classic rock.

It’s just, it’s hard to express how much was happening in this moment for a simple mono recording of, a handful of people performing Indian classical music, effectively, exercises.

Kyle: Yeah, and condensed for Western audiences. I mean, really, for the format of being pressed to wax. But to your point about the sitting down, like these performances in India would last four or five, six hours, sometimes much longer, depending on audience context. And, you know, I think one of the main things that we’ve learned is the like signal and receiver importance of context.

And it’s like sort of taken on much deeper meaning and studying this. So I know we’ll talk more about that, but not only was this his first recording for an LP and like LP is still a relatively new format, right? Like 78s were popular, like acetates and that sort of thing, mid fifties. But like L long playing records of this length were still a relatively novel thing in the grand scheme of things.

So not only was it his first LP recording, it was the second Indian classical music outing ever for the LP format period. The first being Ali Akbar’s. So just, it’s a little hard to parse that with how sort of I’m the president, if I say the word sitar, you can hear a sitar in your mind now, and you can visualize something almost certainly.

So just the, how far we’ve come with the cultural transmission in a relatively short time in human history is like kind of mind blowing to me.

Cliff: Yep. So maybe before we press further into some of the pertinent details about Dhriragas specifically, Sitar and a few other things about the theory, which I think will help. Let’s maybe talk about that first exercise, for folks listening, we in this new Lowercase s season of toondig one of the things that we’re doing is being really intentional about helping you approach music in really specific ways so that it is not feeling intimidating or Like it’s like it’s something you’re not clicking with or something like There are several different ways you can approach it and get things back out of it, depending on your posture and your way of dealing with music.

One of the ways that we do that, I think is actually a good place to start and reflect on before we then talk about like, what happens when you start to understand more about what’s actually happening in the music. So starting with that, one of the questions we ask in Kyle, I’d love to hear from you, like what surprised you?

When you first started listening to this record, like what stands out when you’re not trying to figure out what should stand out.

Kyle: Familiarity and time, I would say, are the two things. The first. I’ve been listening to Ragas for a long, long time just because I have a childlike fascination with the sounds of the sitar and the tempura, but like now, 51 tune digs later like nearly every musical theme or idea that I’ve ever liked or any way that I’ve had my mind expanded by thinking for a long time about it on this podcast lives in some way in these recordings.

I made connections to Erykah Badu, and to Kan, and to Chelsea Wolfe, and to, uh, Mono, and I was just thinking, like, Björk, and Queens of the Stone Age, and I was thinking about every one little nugget that has preoccupied me as we’ve gotten into a conversation. Those ideas washed over me in waves, as I listened, and like, sort of contemplated the whole of the musical universe.

Because it is at once so technically complex and like, he’s a real good picker. You know, like, you, you listen and you’re like, damn, this dude’s shreddin But also on, on the whole, it sort of clears your mind. Like it can be a little bit of a mind eraser if you let it. So it’s real easy to get present with it.

So I just, the influence on so many other things directly or indirectly was very clear. So I’m very thankful to you and your introduction to. the band Sun, to me, for like teaching me how to even sustain my focus over greater increments of time to be able to think bigger thoughts and walk through bigger webs with it.

But the influence was clear and sort of a like, aha, you know, sitting outside taking a breath of fresh air type of clear. So running it through the prism of music that I already like and appreciate. There was a lot to love. And then with time. The first track, the A side of the record, Raga Job, I’m sorry that I’m not going to be able to pronounce any of the three ragas appropriately.

It’s 28 minutes. And like you said,

Cliff: it’s a prog track. Yep. Yep.

Kyle: you prime for. Some of the like first minute sounds and also like Fela, I, I remember you mentioning the of water no good enemy and how it was like a, like a primer.

I mean, the start of Raga Jog is, is like a little bit of a bell to be like, Oh, we’re back around in the cycles. And it, and it just happens faster and faster, but in a good way, not in a like time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping. And I like, I’m more in control of time when I listen to these recordings.

And I think part of that comes from Raga Jog starting on such a, like lively, almost bluesy Note in like, we can, we can talk about why it reads as bluesy. But also I can like see the Coltrane inspiration in that one in particular, because Ravi like goes to climb the mountain a couple of times.

And when you get past the 20 minute mark in that he just does some what I think is objectively cool shit. There’s a halftime moment with a tablas and the, the rhythm. The sort of uneven rhythm around that passage at the 21 minute mark reminds me of dope smoker by sleep and how it felt like walking on, on the sand.

And then about a minute later there’s some really cool up feels like up picking on a guitar, like punky plucks, like descending note plucks, and it just gives it some cool oomph. It’s like where I have always thought of this music is. Sort of like mystical and peaceful and, you know, had, had those sort of stereotypical attributions.

Like the shit’s got some attitude, man. You know, it’s got a little bit of a posture to it, which is cool. So I just noticed lots of different dimensions immediately, but it’s a huge space to get up and walk around in. And like, you know, like Bjerg said, it’s, it’s a massive emotional landscape

Cliff: Yeah, that last 10 minutes of the first track really builds to the degree that around I think 26 and a half minutes and like it’s if you dropped directly into that track by then you’d think it was electronic loops Like he starts playing so fast and all of the all the resonant and sympathetic strings are going so quickly and the harmonics are so tight with however He’s playing it.

I mean it for real is starting to sound like a computer And this is a legitimately just live ass recording of someone playing sitar like straight through you know for this whole session, so The way that dynamics appear, if you can hang on long enough to wait for the dynamics to get noticeable it’ll really surprise you and kind of blow you away.

But yeah, there’s a whole arc to that half hour long track for sure.

Kyle: and you mentioned before this, like speaking of dynamics, percussion. where that’s a thing so often in western music that we love percussion and rhythm. It’s like not there for long swaths of this. And for me as a drum lover, it’s so sparse that like I started listening for the drop and I guess we’re gonna, I guess we’re gonna use some electronic music.

terminology. It doesn’t appear in the first raga until 13 minutes in. And then when it does, it’s very like, uh, it announces itself. So it’s, it’s very interesting that there are, they allow the players allow each other to speak for long periods of time before they join the conversation or move the conversation forward.


Cliff: There are a lot of aspects that are analogous in our Western understanding to jazz, which I think is. both unintentional and then, you know, maybe there’s some intentional influence points, but yeah, to that end, like they are not worried about letting another player take a lead for a long period of time.

There is no rush to finish up 12 bars or anything like that. There’s really no concepts of that. And yeah I was surprised how often I would go, wait, When did the drums drop back out though? Like wait, when did that happen? And like I kept noticing that it would just kind of shuffle in and out in a way that is not representative of our general relationship to rhythm in western music where it’s like Punctuated almost literally whereas here, this is much more complimentary and the rhythm is internal to what’s being done and has a lot more to do with drone than it does BPM, which is fascinating.

I do think even on a blind first listen through, so to speak. I think it’s entertaining for anyone who’s listened to any broad spectrum of music because you just, you get that full range of little 30 second vignettes of, Oh, that sounds like something else. Oh, I’ve heard that before. Oh, I know I know that feeling.

And like, to your point, you can bring sitar to mind immediately, and it’s not that that you’re thinking of, but yet, you’re sitting there hearing the sitar play for long enough that you can catch these little moments of like, Oh, that actually sounds like a thing that you would then realize was made 15 years later.

On a guitar by somebody who it turns out was very interested in this record and it’s like, okay I’ve seen a little bit more of the matrix today. Like i’m understanding a little bit more of what’s happening and all at once And maybe this is me, but all at once it sort of starts to make you Happy and sad, like, I’m happy to feel the connection between musical cultures and influence and learning from one another and the things that make the blues great, right?

The theft that is moral and appropriate of, uh, iterating on each other’s music and learning from one another. And yet, on the other hand, there is this kind of immediate sinking feeling of like, boy, I bet we didn’t do that right, though. I bet we didn’t totally handle that with the best taste we could have.

And all those things end up being true on further investigation. But Yeah there’s something deep that you can connect with, I think, pretty quickly because you start to realize how much is going on here that you weren’t aware of before.

Kyle: How would you recommend people contextualize this record? When, where, how, why do you put it on?

Cliff: I think this one would be fun to experiment with because it’s going to be mildly inaccessible for some people. And in that sense, when you’re experiencing that, I think there are a couple of basically opposites to try. I love to recommend music that I think actually works for meditation. Uh, I think this is one that can.

I would also fully understand if, A familiarity or lack of familiarity with this music would instead be distracting, and that would be difficult. In that case I’d try an even more passive way of listening to it. I don’t think there’s anything disrespectful to putting Ravi on in the background while you, like, make breakfast or some shit.

I The more that I put this music on in a bunch of different contexts through every speaker and set of headphones and whatever that I owned, the more it no longer felt odd to be listening to it anytime I wanted to. And it started to click in differently. In a way that I think other people should experiment with.

Kyle: And you say meditation, and that probably brings one particular image to mind. You know, the sitting on the floor cross legged with your eyes closed, but this type of music Good, bad, or otherwise, I think is associated with the practice of trying to achieve greater mindfulness for a reason. Like the way this music spreads itself out and sustains drones around an anchor point lends itself to the same sort of practice with your mind.

So I think it is good for both. aimless thinking, like you can leave it at a low volume to minimize the distracting bit it’s better than the air quote silence of the room, or in a very disciplined fashion, trying to hold your focus on a thing longer, in particular your breath to start, like I think it’s a great record, an entry point for breath work, to just work with the flow of the record.

to keep yourself focused on your breathing and become more circular with it. My favorite meditation because I can’t sit still is a long walk and it accompanies a walk in nature so beautifully and I know it cheapens nature a little to bring airpods or human vibrations or whatever. But I think this is about as good as it gets for the man made stuff for just going and noticing.

And achieving greater mindfulness by thinking about birds, thinking about the way the air smells, looking at the different greens of the trees, and just finding more of your place in the world. So meditation in whatever form that may look like for you, becoming more mindful of who you are in your body, in this place, in this space, in time. the other thing that I think is interesting contextually is like, if you want to play an instrument or you like to play, or you just want to like, think about music, like you like music theory stuff, but you don’t, really know. Hindustani is a world unto itself. It’s got a lot of terminology that gives a kind of a high barrier to entry for westerners like me.

But seeing, there are very smart people who are finding ways to use the vocabulary of this music to like make playing and thinking about playing more interesting. I know, like, I love and have sent you a number of Matt Sweeney’s Guitar Moves series, and one of my favorite ones is Blake Mills and how he has learned.

He’s taken the best of what he does on guitar, but he really likes the sound of the sitar, and he’s found unique ways to try to emulate the, like, unique setup of the instrument relative to a six string guitar. This album, this music is very instrument forward, you know, like these people pick these instruments and these instruments seem to kind of pick them too.

And they each have a role in the playing and So just like thinking about instruments, if you were just, if you just sort of want to geek on that the same way that you would do with saxophone, maybe, and think about, you know, Coltrane versus Jerry Rafferty versus whatever, whatever there, there is just a whatever context makes you think about the music itself on the train or, or whatever this is a fun thing to do to just think about, music because it it is probably so different than a great deal of what you listen to even if it is stuff like jazz or stuff that’s very akin to or influenced by this

Cliff: Hell yeah. Dude, let’s just Let’s use that as the rocket ship that okay. Let’s then talk about at a kind of high level what Indian classical music ragas Sitar a couple other instruments like let’s just hit some points on that to give a quick kind of intro To what’s happening so that you can focus on it because I do think First of all, we’re I think we’re in total agreement If you stopped listening to us right here, and you knew nothing else about this record, or Ravi, or anything, you can get a lot out of this record for the rest of your life.

You don’t need to think anything further about it in order to get more out of it, because something important is happening in it, and you will attune to it. If you’re interested in listening to it, like something is being done here that is has connected and enlivened musicians across the world. Like it will catch you too, if you just listen to it and let it bring you things.

So that’s cool. I do think though, if you’re interested in like, okay, I want to listen to this instrument, like you’re suggesting, Kyle, I want to follow it. What? Am I following when I’m trying to follow one of these instruments because their whole approach to the way that they sound is fundamentally different than Western instruments for the most part?

And secondly, their musical approach. In theoretical approach is analogous to ours. I don’t think it’s either better or worse, but it is different enough with enough nuance to where if you want to understand what is happening you have to know just a little bit more about what is different about it.

And I think. You know, hopefully you feel the same, but not that much time and energy, uh, was invested in order to understand enough to start, for instance, getting what a sitar sounds like and why. And I think that could be helpful to folks.

Kyle: i Yeah, I yes, to the physical instruments part. I talk all the time to my wife about we stumbled on a Howlstuffworks episode, or how it’s made about the building of a pedal steel, and that thing is such a beautiful and intricate work of human mastery and craft that I think about that shit, like, once, once a week.


Cliff: That’s your Roman Empire!

Kyle: It’s my, yeah, Petal Steel is 100 percent my Roman Empire. but the sitar is like very similar in, it’s not as complex as a, as a pedal steel, I would say, but they’re, I’d say they’re like cousins in, in a lot of ways. So I think, yes, the instruments themselves, but also to your point about the, the philosophy and theory, there are things.

That just like hadn’t even occurred to me about how to produce or consume music in some of the ways that they think about like some of the traditions especially in particular i’m thinking like certain ragas are intended to be played at certain times of day or for certain purposes like waking or ending the day and that is a recognized thing about a raga generally And that is That’s like Legend of Zelda y to me, you know?

Like, you play the ocarina and it does a different thing during the day than it does at night. And I don’t mean that flippantly, I mean, like, that, that sparks such a deep sense of wonder in me. It’s like, Well, yeah, I mean, of course you could play, you know, some playlists are better for morning or lunchtime drive or, or nighttime party or whatever, but like specific things being devoted to specific purposes.

It’s like very, gives me a thrill.

Cliff: makes you feel like it’s possible that people once actually felt the way about music that me and you do on a normal basis like wait a minute there was a culturally embedded thing that lasted for generations and persists to this day where musical exercises and Refrains are understood to represent feelings and times of day that is That’s the

Kyle: I mean, I feel like a psycho most of the time when I say, you know, like music guides my daily life, like everything I know about how to be a decent human. I’ve learned from music like that’s, that’s here. That’s all here normalized. And so it, I guess you’re right. It does give me a comfort in that way.

Cliff: That’s nice to find the silver lining. You only have to look across history to find some.

Kyle: And the literal planet.

Cliff: think a few quick hits on what is distinct about So I’m just Indian classical music in general from a common western understanding of music that I think will get folks a good portion of the way there. And as always, there, this is another branching off point.

If you want to learn more, go learn more. This is the introduction, my friend, okay, but it’s cool to like, there’s a depth of understanding. I know we’ve said it, but like, there’s a depth of understanding about this record that comes from understanding what is being done. Inside or what is shaping the improvisation that’s happening because it’s both highly improvisational and highly structured All at one time and it’s a very different framework than we usually use.

So first ragas in general are like a generic Thing inside of the music like three raga is a literal, there’s three of them. It’s these which are like, that’s a classical grouping of them. But ragas are a thing in and of their own. Uh, and they’re basically like melodic frameworks or scales that sort of fill out the foundation of how Indian classical music works.

for joining us. But they differ from a traditional scale or in guitars like modes and things like that They differ from that in a number of ways But one of them is like they have unique sets of ascending and descending notes They often have specific repeated melodic patterns Patterns, so it’s not just finding all the notes in a scale in a given octave.

It’s particular patterns that get repeated as part of a practice. And then those things that we just talked about, those are the things that are associated with moods and emotions and times of day. So that’s that’s a whole thing that we’re not really used to thinking about at all, that.

Starts to unlock a little bit more of it. So it’s and I know that this won’t describe it the right way, but it’s a bit like a combination of scales on an instrument with like rudiments on a drum where you’re practicing a set of basically drills that are not only good for anybody, uh, and can be, played at different tempos or different levels of difficulty, but on top of it, they are.

Like rudiments are a generic thing that often come in common groupings that drummers or percussionists are just Generally aware of and can often just start playing together because they understand enough about it So it’s similar to that as well in the sense that it’s like a cultural thing inside of particular Instruments or particular music so ragas are that framework scale rudiment type thing That sits Inside of or sort of, uh, in output of the larger Indian classical music, which has, you know, seven basic notes with five interspersed half notes.

So they have a 12 note scale as well. I could literally. I will not do a dorky podcast about this particular aspect of it, but I will not the the decisions about how musical frequencies, like how a note sounds, like what frequency a note is at is has generally been a historically cultural decision about the functionality of performing music.

Generally speaking, the way that we tune instruments in the West, especially, stems from our desire to be able to play in multiple keys inside of the same performance. And so we can’t tune the instruments to a particular key if we want to be able to play different keys. So we actually have a different mathematical system for how our notes work.

Kyle: This is your Roman empire a little bit.

Cliff: Oh, oh, buddy. Oh, yes.

Kyle: I remember that time you gave the history of metal talk and you talked about the tritone for like a hot minute.

Cliff: Yes.

Kyle: is that.

Cliff: Yes. Why your great great great grandparents thought the tritone was evil and would bring Satan to the fore.

Kyle: Number three may shock you.

Cliff: And it’s that they were dumb. Sorry. so, but okay. So yes, like in the Western form of it, our 12 note scale is effectively like a ratio system so that no matter what key you’re playing in, the notes are equal distances apart from one another. Okay. So that it sounds approximately right, but the little fun takeaway from this moment is like effectively like Western music, like the notes are not on pitch pretty much ever.

They’re not in on actual pitch for what we’re thinking that they’re supposed to be. So differently from that is the idea that you’re tuning instruments directly to a particular key. That is what is happening in Indian classical music and in a lot of other. Music with other forms of instruments from the past.

Um, but that is important because That means not only is a particular key being chosen, but the key is not anchored to you’ve probably heard of 440 Hz before, which is the way that we center our tuning. So, like, that’s not a thing either. So, the key is sort of a relative thing. The root of said key could also be decided.

The space between the notes in the scale could also potentially change, which is not a thing that we do. There, there’s a ton more to it for sure, but I think just that kind of basic understanding of like the shape you’re looking at geometrically looks similar enough if you step back from it, but if you get really close and sort of look inside of it, it’s a very different way Kind of network of how things connect to one another.

And so hopefully that is, that’s honest to God, my best fucking pitch for that’s why you should listen to these people playing a musical scale for an hour. Cause there’s like so much inside of it and their relationship to these musical frameworks and scales. are themselves that these provide a framework for improvisation, which is most of what we’re hearing inside of this record to begin with. How

Kyle: just touched on, you just touched on something. Great. You, you pass. No, no firing squad for you today. uh, you made me realize just now that not only do I like to listen to, I guess, the fretwork for an hour and thinking about the music itself and like, why does it sound different? than other things, but also I like hearing people talk about this music and, and this sort of approach, you know, like I could do that for as long as I could listen to it. And I say that as someone who hates having it explained to me you in the Frank Ocean episode, I know I’ve referenced this before you use the, like turning the lights on in space mountain thing. Like that’s That’s my ick, bro. So we have my Roman empire and my ick documented in the Ravi Shankar episode. But like with this, it’s so fascinating and it’s so bountiful and it goes right up to the present moment where there are scores of Westerners obsessed with King Gizzard and their commitment to inter tonality and micro tonality and like, who am I to talk about that shit?

I don’t play the guitar. but it’s really fascinating to me. Hmm That they’ve like gone out and made custom instruments in order to be able to do this thing, but it comes from like, if you look at a map, you do a heat map from the Indian subcontinent on down Southeast to the aboriginal people of Australia and New Zealand on up to the practitioners in Japan there, there’s that thing in, in what would broadly be regarded as Eastern music with stuff like microtonality and the fact that they have specific ascent and descent sequences, like they have moves relative to all this stuff is fascinating.

It’s just even if you’re like me and you don’t know how to apply that science for a really long time, it just starts to color the way you think about all the music that you’re listening to and what is or isn’t happening in it relative to this new knowledge that you are now wearing like a cloak, you know?

Cliff: 100%. So, I think one more appropriate adornment to said cloak Is a quick explanation of the instruments that are being used here to that end again, we will we will once again verbalize we are going to briefly say a thing that otherwise With the removal of constraints I would manically talk about for hours.

so, just Know that that is what is going through my heart mind and body at this moment in time however, specifically the sitar is Once you start to like understand what is happening on that instrument the sound of it is it speaks to you differently

Kyle: It’s a thing of beauty. Like it is truly a marvel of human invention.

Cliff: yeah And so I think there’s a key detail in here and before I kind of describe all these instruments I think one note that was helpful, that I learned in this process was for the most part Hindustani classical music is vocal centric and so a lot of the musical forms and therefore how the instruments are played and how they sound are themselves vocal centric.

And I think that starts to draw out interesting characteristics of why particular instruments get chosen and how they get played, but I think that is a bit of why I think you can hear the influence of that vocal centricity in how sitar is played at all. So I think bringing that into the moment helps you hear a little bit of how it’s being used and what the like tradition of it is but specifically Okay, so just let’s base folks on something that they probably know right, standard american ish guitar As we know it now or western guitar six strings, you know that can flex down to four It’s a bass guitar flexes up to seven eight strings or more if you’re a metal influencer on tiktok so but generally speaking those are that’s the like centricity of our strings and those

Kyle: Sing, single digies.

Cliff: Yeah, and those are, those are tuned to generally speaking, a common set of like note patterns, like standard tuning, drop tuning, open tuning, whatever.

We have a handful of these types of things, but again, generally speaking, somewhere between four and eight strings. So sitar is 18 to 21 strings, and six to seven of those strings are played. The other ones are for resonance and like this it a mo, this is a moment for sure where it’s like, if you already know, this is gonna be like, okay, thanks for saying it really slowly, I get it.

But if you’ve never heard this before, like I think this is killer because this is like, I, I know I’ve heard this story from other people before, but this is the type of thing you do get when you go to music school, even for a bit, if you’ve ever had a music teacher. that wants to teach you about resonance.

One of the little fun tricks that they do is in a certain type of piano, you can like yell into the piano and press the sustain pedal and your voice will be reflected through the reverberations of the piano hammer string thingies. They’re not strings. I don’t know how to describe any of that. What is happening on the inside of the piano starts to reverberate with the tonality of the, like what you put in it through your voice.

And You start to get this understanding of like, okay instruments work in a particular way like a guitar is not just i’m playing a string and string makes This note it is you are playing a string which vibrates at a particular frequency Which resonates inside the body of the guitar which gets picked up by the pickup and transmitted outwards so like the body, the instrument, the shape, everything that’s happening on your instrument that we can just kind of take for granted because you just pull it up and start playing a fucking John Denver song or whatever is like that betrays the complexity of what can happen in an instrument and a sitar takes you all the way to the other side of it to the degree that most of the strings on this instrument are now not things you’re controlling but are simply responding to what you’re playing and how you’re playing it.

And based on how you’ve tuned them in advance, they will respond in a specific way to what you play and how you play it. So there’s like, playing and meta playing, and then there’s the stuff that happens that you may or may not be able to expect in the meantime that’s just gonna come up as a result of how you decide to do stuff.

It’s wild. You’re smiling at me like I just successfully, manically talked about a sitar for like five

Kyle: it’s so extra as an instrument. you’re forced to reckon with the, the miracle of music. Like it, it really Manifest what a miracle it is that we can like harness the lightning and we have real process around it. It’s like a factory for the sublime, a little, not the band sublime for the supply, you know, the things in the universe.

Yeah, it makes you a little manic because it just like, it fills you with the Holy spirit, so to speak. And I don’t know what a sitar or pedal steel is like. about as perfect cup of coffee as you can get in this world when it comes to instruments.

Cliff: yeah, and I think just knowing that generally about sitar and how we talked about it and the fact that there’s like strings that are designed to resonate will If you’re curious, help you notice things differently in instruments that you’re used to, like banjos can have sympathetic strings. That’s probably why you’ve heard a banjo sound that reminds you sitar.

There are these little things you start to learn and it’s like, okay, so we’re all just in a big soup together learning from one another. And every now and then an instrument comes along like this, it’s like, Oh, that sounds crazy. And like the, but it’s, it’s the good crazy. It’s the kind of crazy that makes every Western musician in the sixties, as we’ll talk about, go absolutely bananas and be like, how do, like, I’m already bored with guitar because I just heard this thing and now I need it for my guitar to sound like this thing that has.

10 times the amount of strings and complexity to it. There’s something really cool about that instrument And it’s then backed by Some simpler instruments. Okay, the Tabla is just, it’s hand drums. That’s not to oversimplify the playing of it, which, on which there is very incredible musicianship on this record.

So not downplaying it at all, just that particular instrument is a bit more straightforward. There’s definitely cultural depth to it. But we’ve already talked about probably the most interesting aspect of that instrument here. Is how judiciously it is used compared to how we’re used to rhythmic instruments.

And then Tambora is. visually speaking, something that we might think of more like a bass guitar in the sense that it’s going to play longer, steadier notes that are perhaps more aligned with rhythm. But specifically in this type of music, like this is, it’s doing something particular and it’s intended to have a droning effect, not provide a rhythmic basis for the melody.

That’s being played. And I think you can hear that both in the intention of how it’s played, but then like this instrument itself is, has far less strings. I think we’re just looking at four at this point, yeah, tuned to specific notes within that scale that’s chosen. But it’s creating ambience.

It’s your, you know, musical nag champa which gives me quite a bit of respect for someone who’s playing it. Cause like, that’s a real vibe. You’re connected to a frequency playing this instrument for RGAs that are lasting half an hour. Like that’s something different.

Kyle: Yeah. Yeah. Setting the room tone for five hours, six hours. But knowing that you’re putting the vibe, you were quite literally putting the vibration in, into the space for the whole time. You know, you are the basis of the thing, which Has a bit of a Western equivalent in the base, like sort of bringing the, the rhythm to drive the more narrative action forward.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out like the ZZ Top of this particular set of recordings. It’s three men who make as my dad would say make a lot of racket for just three fellas. So Ravi obviously playing the sitar, Chaturlal playing the tabla, and in his short life was a player of some renown on the instrument, and sort of in some ways did for tabla what, what Ravi did for sitar.

He was a, like a prominent influential player, and Prajatsin on the So thank, thank you gentlemen for your cosmic contributions.

Cliff: Yes, indeed. So I thought also, like we could touch really quickly on the and I don’t wanna overthink this, but the, the sort of underlying meaning or associated concepts with the three raagas really quickly. And then we can talk about our second exercise that we recommend, which is like, you know, the first one we discussed was sort of how does it hit you when you’re not thinking about it too hard, but now we’re talking about, okay, you’ve learned a thing or two.

What are some things you can kind of focus and isolate on? So let’s hit that. And then we can, we can definitely talk about the way that this played out culturally from here and ram people up to learning more if they want. So the first, so Raga Jog, Raga Jog, however it is that we want to accidentally mispronounce it, we’re doing our best.

But, so like we mentioned, they’re like associated culturally with times of day and moods and stuff. So this one is an evening Raga that expresses the yearning of a longing soul. And like, I just want to put a point on what I just said, which. That was a quote from somebody else about the actual meaning of this kind of culturally and as word, but like, okay, we have built up to this point that what is being played in a raga is effectively like a musical framework or scale or whatever that is creating a foundation for further improvisation, but the improvisation is within.

The raga itself. So like this thing that we just described, which is very based in a very specific framework is itself for the evening. Try to accept that as a truth without putting it through the filter of like, does it make sense to me that this thing could be represented by the evening or by the yearning of a longing soul?

Like just. I don’t know, I, I hope you can just like, swallow that eat, like, especially the first two have a particular meaning, the third one is a little bit more of like a musical exercise, but like, if you can just sort of say, okay, I believe that, I think it helps you to frame up the next time you listen to it.

Kyle: Yeah, and it I, you know, I don’t want to assign too much undue symbolism, but knowing that this was the sort of recorded introduction to Western audiences for Ravi and for this type of music, knowing that it’s typically played in the late evening, 9 p. m. to midnight, There’s a great quote from that same source, Arun Singh, talking about this Raga, saying, you know, Jog integrates the Atman, the soul, with the Paramatman, or divine reality, unifying the previous day to the coming day.

So it’s about like transitions or linkages or thresholds. A person can take in this divine cosmic power before morning to remain full of life during the day. So. Starting with a bit of a transition, but also introducing the West to the East with placing them at a threshold musically in this type of music and also introducing some things that might be fairly familiar to their ears or their sensibilities.

in that it has some pentatonic to it. That same source also mentions it omits the second and sixth intervals, making it pentatonic in nature. So, you know, there’s a bit of nighttime is the right time, evening blues which was a hugely popular thing by this time in, um, the U. S. and the U. K.

Cliff: I’m glad you mentioned that about the pentatonic bit. I don’t have more to say about it, other than just like, if something in your dorky musical nature has come alive listening to us try to poorly explain some of these concepts what Kyle just mentioned is one of a million little Journeys for your escape pod into space, like the fact that this is a pentatonic scale that is alike, but different from our scale introduces the thing that makes you feel or think of blues while you’re listening to it.

And like that, it’s, it’s. Something about that is really cool when you lean into it and it will help you not only hear this song differently, but then you will hear blues differently now too, which is really cool. So, The second Raga is, this one’s your, this one’s your morning deal. You’re 6am to 9am. Uh, I saw in at least one place the kind of literal translation of this one is morning devotional.

Raga Ahir, Bharav. One example, it’s hard to fact check a few of these things. So, I’m going with the vibe of this feels directionally appropriate to repeat because I saw it somewhere. But, this raga was fabled to mimic the ringing of cowbells at dawn. Like this idea of like six, six to nine, that’s the sun has come up, right?

transition that Kyle just mentioned, you know, you had gone into night through midnight with the raga jog, and now you are. Trying to experience the feeling of it is morning and I love the 6 to 9 a. m Range of it because sometimes I would like to sleep in and still catch this energy But like thinking of it that way again gives you a new little lens on what you’re listening to The next time you listen to it

Kyle: Also interesting for anyone subscribed to the calendar it is the opening raga on the Call of the Valley record which came out in 1968 and was like, in many ways, considered the first true Hindustani classic that, that sold super widely in the West. So 12 full years after this came out, but, uh, still very much in the same tradition.

But if you look at the artwork for that record, It it is literally pastoral. It is a field in the day. So, take in Ravi and his crew’s interpretation of it and then go check out Call of the Valley for their take on it as well.

Cliff: right on And then the final raga, so this final one so far as I’ve been able to discern, uh, is distinct from the other two in that it doesn’t necessarily represent culturally or otherwise a very particular time of day or concept but musically there’s a couple of things this raga is distinct belonging to the Southern Indian Carnatic tradition.

So I, I think these ragas are combining multiple, multiple cultures, uh, over time from within, you know, similar geographic areas. But it’s got some sort of functional equivalence and other musical expressions. So, raga is equivalent or similar to a Hungarian minor scale in, in Western music.

We I’m saying this with a sincere and straight face. We don’t really use the word gypsy anymore However, it is popularly known as a gypsy minor scale so there are touch points and alignments with what’s going on in this raga With other forms of music and other frameworks as well. That’s a little bit more Directly aligned that some of the other ones are which are a little bit more about a vibe in an association with music that comes from a different culture than we really have.

Kyle: Also called Egyptian Miner

Cliff: Much


Kyle: Yeah affectionately so by Miles Davis, who in his autobiography said it’s something that he learned at Juilliard. And so for the mega music nerds or aspiring music nerds familiar with the sort of notoriously complex composition artists that, I think Miles himself never actually recorded, but he composed and there are other people’s versions of it out there.

But like part of the canon for Miles Heads and Jazz Heads Nardis is also in this scale.

Cliff: So, that’s our best, here is what we think is the least amount of information you might need to know to go one level further into what you’re actually listening to here. Uh, yeah, there would be other ways to summarize it but this is our best approach and people keep telling us that we’re not too bad at it.

So here we are trying again, because we really want you to get into this record if you can. Like, sincerely, for real, once again, we want you to get in to this music that you might not be used to, and we’re gonna do everything we can to try to get you there.

Kyle: More in the spirit of we are getting into it,

like as people who listen to a ton of music and have, crossed many rivers musically and expanded in so many different directions that this is exciting as two jaded music people and we hope you sense that excitement and are excited as well.

Cliff: you know, I did that thing that my body does automatically now, where if I start enjoying music to a certain degree, I unconsciously start just searching for artists named merch, so I’m just in Safari like, Robby Shankar like, hold on, god damn it, nevermind, let’s pull back, Yet another one for the pile of things that Kyle’s gonna need to make on the press that I get him to put in his basement so that

Kyle: to find a pretty cool Alice Coltrane shirt not too long ago that we were like is this a cafe press bootleg but uh it actually turned out pretty nice.

Cliff: So in that spirit, so the second exercise that we mentioned. So when you want to go a little bit further and focus on something or isolate something what. What stood out to you when you started to listen into things in particular, or, I don’t know, what surprised you once you started to isolate things?

Kyle: exactly what you said about the sitar, uh, anchor and fly away of the resonant notes and then the improv over and around it. And just seeing how that made me feel and how that was like, Oh, the interaction between these two things. I like in the same way that I like the Everly like watching the way these two notes or sets of notes interact.

But it was way wider than two people singing a note together in time and amount of vibration. So I thought that was, that was really cool. Like you, you have said the word resonance a couple of times and on a, a literal vibrational and on a spiritual level, the idea of resonance with each other and with time and space being like sort of the ultimate aim of music is the idea that I.

Can’t get out of my head as we think about this music. So I just like having a guiding word or a mantra of resonance as you go in and like sort of visualizing the stuff dancing around each other is this, you know, it’s a little bit Xbox visualizer. Hmm.

Cliff: totally no that makes a ton of sense. I yeah, we’ve talked about it, but I ended up thinking about really similar things to I this was one of those records that the more attention I tried to pay to the music the more Non musical things started occurring to me Um, which is weird like I don’t know how to discern which records do that exactly but this one does and yeah resonance was a thing because I This will be fun to try to verbalize one of those little thoughts that you end up letting run rampant in your brain, but There’s obviously, uh, inspiration and overlap with modern, like, drone.

You already mentioned Sun up at the top but like, you know, you don’t, you don’t have to be a genius to understand why drone would be influenced by this type of music to begin with. But when I think of like a Sun show in particular or like a Noise show, like, they, They are playing with the relationship between dissonance and consonance, right?

Like at a Sun show your heart starts to ache because they’re playing the they’re playing a Dissonant chord really really slow and you know that the resolving chord is coming and so they’re like slowly playing with kind of bending in and out of what feels and seems right and you Begin to discern the waves, like you start to hear the waves interacting with each other and go, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, like you, you start to hear something at a, at a totally different level entirely.

And it kind of started occurring to me like that in a sort of spiritual, descendant type of way, like that is the resonance of their instrumentation. Like the sitar is resonating what is being played, you know, melodically inside of a framework. But it’s interactions between itself. And then the other instruments is doing a very particular thing that creates like, A bunch of kind of meta cadences like you you hear different rhythms, especially in the moments where there isn’t a drum being played in like similarly for a good drone band.

So not just. Not just a bunch of doofuses on stage making noise and hoping that it sounds right. But those people that you’ve actually heard or seen, where you’re like, they’re doing something and they understand what it is, even if I don’t. That form of drone like, all of a sudden it felt like my little third eye opened up about the concept of resonance, and it was like, wait.

The resonance of drone is the feedback between amplifiers pointed at one another that they’re using to sort of resolve and create dissonance between them. But then if you push that even further, like, is electronic music’s resonance the dancing people on the floor instead of it being the way that the music sounds?

Because it’s the thing that you are naturally creating as like an expected byproduct of the thing that you’re doing in the music. And like, It’s not like there’s some sort of magically profound thing it brought me to. It’s more like it started to tell me that there is a profound thing that I need to be more open to.

And, like, when you’re just sitting there listening to a fucking record and your brain does that to you, like, something else is happening. And, like, it’s worth digging into why music just made you do a thing like that. And not to go too hard on it, but to be honest with you, a thing that connected with that feeling to me was, I saw, we’re gonna go for it for a second, sorry, I saw a quote from Ram Dass, who was talking about something obviously totally different, but he said, As you approach perfect truth, you meet the guru on deeper and deeper planes. And, For whatever reason, that concept, that was the, that made me go, Okay, the thing that caused people, which we’ll talk about some more in a second, The thing that all of a sudden makes people come alive sometimes, When they hear this music for the first time, Is they are meeting Ravi. They’re meeting the guru of sitar at a plane that they can understand Because you’re willing to engage with it at that level You’re willing to like present yourself to the music and try to hear what’s happening and like you are meeting someone who’s not just good at sitar, but it’s spiritually connected to their instrument and the way that they Perform and improvise music at all for people.

Does that make sense?

Kyle: Yeah, it actually That and what you said about electronic music and dancers being part of it. Of the resonance. Brought up something, the memory hold from high school in freshman year speech class, the basic building block of communication that you talk about on the first day or first week is that all.

Communication in human connection is signal and receiver and noise in the middle and good communication seeks to remove as much of the noise and create fidelity or resonance between speaker and recipient, right? Because we can never occupy the same brain as two discreet units of existence. So the best that we can do is try to put out a signal and hope that there is resonance and fidelity.

And when we find people that we fall in love with, or we find a scene that we fall into in music or whatever, it’s because there’s greater resonance. But that is in, I think that’s why there’s such an affinity and for this type of music and such a desire to go deep because it like it presents itself as a sort of fidelity immediately and you can’t necessarily explain what it is or why but part of it is because it has practitioners like Ravi who understand the power and the potency of it but even if none of this is your bag like music in general that’s what you should be seeking is not only resonance with the guru of music to take you deeper and deeper towards your own perfect truth in life.

But like, how can you put your perfect truth out there with greater clarity based on the red, like how music has taught you to be more resonant? That, that was an extremely hits blunt sequence there for a minute,

Cliff: Producer, please insert bong noises.

Kyle: we do need, we do need a soundboard. 96. 9, the third eye, making your drive time trippy.

Cliff: Whatever man, if you encounter either of us in actual life, we’re gonna be way more this way if we’re sober. So, sign yourself up. Yup.

Kyle: yeah, yeah. This is, uh, this is pretty, pretty good. Pretty toned down for the bar,

Cliff: thing. Um, because

Kyle: we’re a lot of fun when there’s touch tunes and hot wings involved. You get, you get more than you bargained for a hundred percent of the time, but like, if you take nothing else away from this episode, I hope that idea of. You are a person probably with headphones on, in a, in, on a train or driving in a car or like sitting in a room by yourself in a house. If you’re listening to a podcast in a very isolating and fragmented world. We should all be seeking resonance with something like a higher thing, not a thing that seeks to harm.

But this teaches you, this attunes you. It doesn’t really teach you. It attunes you to the practice of resonance because it itself is pure and resonant. And as I’m sure you want to get into, as we talk about cultural impact, a lot of people latch onto the wrong shit about that or they make it about themselves.

But they still are drawn to it because of it’s perfect truth as a teacher. So thank you Ram Dass for that.

Cliff: for the segue. Um, let me make fun of one or more Beatles. be

Kyle: I got a song about an octopus when you the whole time you were talking about the Beatles in the intro and like, you know, alluding to Beatles go to India. I can only remember it as the Dewey Cox version. Now, like, that’s, that’s what I picture in my mind’s eye. It’s Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman, and Justin Long. Just sitting here while my guitar weeps loudly. We’re


Cliff: that’s fine. Besides, I was reminded how much of a jackass I am anyway for hating the Beatles, because literally, I saw someone on the internet this week use the phrase, There are people who hate the Beatles, as a phrase to help you remember that there will always be haters. Like, oh, well, mm, okay.

Okay, well, maybe

Kyle: it. I’m, I’m more, I just want to go on the record of saying like, I was a, a Beatles militant, anti Beatles militant for a long time, but now I’m mostly just in the Ron Funches camp. There’s that clip of him going around where he says, outcast is more important than the Beatles. Um, and you know, in 25, 30 years, there will be another insert.

Whatever is more important than outcasts, but. moves on and the sand shifts to other oceans. So,

Cliff: It’s just, it’s partially a defensible stance that’s mostly about if you pay too much attention to the Beatles, I think you’re not paying enough attention to everything that’s not the Beatles, and that’s pretty much the root of it. But this, but this is an objectively hilarious moment, okay?

Because The Beatles are sort of famously centered as like one of the portal holes through which Ravi entered Western society, but like the That point, though, is sort of pseudo famously on Rubber Soul in 1965 Beatles record the song Norwegian Wood had an improvised sitar on it. And They would go on in subsequent records on Revolver tracks like Love You Too and Tomorrow Never Knows had a ton of influence of Indian music, uh, off Sgt.

Pepper’s, You Got Within You, Without You. So like, this persisted, but In Norwegian Wood, there was this kind of improvised sitar, which, you know, sounded, sounded cool to the untrained ear, in, in general.

Kyle: Narrator,

Cliff: It’s kind of hard to say, like, I don’t think they did anything intentionally disrespectful however, What they did was sort of effectively disrespectful in that George Harrison heard a sitar. He heard Ravi, okay? Other people had heard Ravi. He heard Ravi and he said that sounds tight and he’s not wrong about that It does sound tight.

That is pretty cool. The Beatles probably could use some weirdness. You should try. However, Understand like we’ve tried to present to you a little bit. Um, I’m Indian classical music is imbued with like a spiritual connectedness to the mastery of your instrument. So the idea that you would then simply take that instrument and then dick around on your track, call it sitar, and then put it out there to which other people who had never heard sitar went, that sounds cool, is kind of like low key disrespectful at this point.


Kyle: not to make a waffle house, not to make a waffle house ass analogy,

Cliff: do.

Kyle: but it’s a bit like if you drive fast down the back roads. and you think, well, I could be a race car driver for sure. I can drive. Um, except the turns at Talladega are like 90 degrees. They’re vertical. You drive on a wall and that’s the difference between you and one of the big guys.

Um, Nikki Glaser also said something to that effect in the Tom Brady roast race recently. Like there’s so many clowns that think they can go out there. and play football because they beat a guy in a foot race once. But like, if you stepped foot onto the field itself, you would blow up into a pink mist compared to a professional football player.

Cliff: Yup. Oh, man. Tom Brady being publicly roasted. Drake being publicly dissed. 2024 is the year of receiving

Kyle: Nature is healing.

Cliff: yes. Oh, we love it. But okay. So, okay. What Ravi said, though, when he heard Norwegian Wood, quote, quote, quote. I couldn’t believe it. It sounded so strange. Just imagine some Indian villager trying to play the violin when you know what it should sound like.

Oh shit. Like that’s so hard, dude. Like in one sentence, he is talking about George Harrison, who again I like poking fun of the Beatles, but George Harrison was a bad ass, very good guitar player. So to just be like, Yeah, I heard George Harrison playing sitar after he heard me. It was like hearing someone play an instrument when you know that they don’t know what it is supposed to sound like.

Like, oh damn! Okay. And I think that little nugget is funny because Eventually, George Harrison would go on to take sitar lessons from Robbie, but if you let yourself tell the funny story, or the overly fuzzy story of it, it’s like, oh, the Beatles were inspired by Robbie and then George Harrison got sitar lessons and started playing sitar.

No, it was more like George Harrison fucked up on a sitar in public, and Robbie was like, would you like some lessons, so that the next time I hear you play, it sounds like someone who knows how to play the sitar. I just, like, I love every bit of that, including the fact that George Harrison then took those lessons and had a friendship with Robbie.

It’s a beautiful vignette, uh, of the slightly counterintuitive type of influence he would go on to have.

Kyle: George Harrison had no problem being humbled publicly. I’ll say that.

Cliff: So, in that I think, again, I think we can mostly gloss over here primarily because the whole narrative isn’t actually that important, but it is In a literal sense, trivially fun, uh, in some particular areas so kind of speaking around that time that was around 1965 when again, that’s when Norwegian Wood came out, uh, and so, you’re talking about the late 60s, uh, is when Robbie starts to get in, in closer relationship with, famous Western rock and rollers for the most part.

But part of how that accelerated. Was that Robby was recording at the same studio as the Byrds and David Crosby that guy Was he so he met the guru like he had the oh shit moment and went fucking crazy about it telling everyone he could just like yo this stuff is choice like Whatever. I just heard in the studio is

Kyle: it reminded me of when Dave Grohl heard Kyuss for the first time. That’s that story Dave Grohl tells all the time of like, I went out and bought a hundred copies of Blues for the Red Sun with Nevermind money and gave it to everyone that I ever ran across ever. And it’s got that vibe to it.

Cliff: And like around that same time, we’ll mention the jazz aspect in a second and we’ll have to take a couple of years step back to do that, but just finishing the quick, like little classic rock thing, like in that same little period of time, there was a, in, in, this is a bit of a double edged sword, I guess, like, I think there was some sincere influence from, you know, Ravi in indian classical music and then just a bunch of aping that started happening, too It was just like I want my guitar to sound more like a sitar without understanding anything that went into any of that but just things that you can hear quickly.

The Kinks in 1965 put out a song, See My Friends. Uh, and then that same year the Yardbirds did Heart Full of Soul. And they’re basically interpolations of Indian music and a nice little moment of trying to see what was happening when basically guitarists, blues based rock guitarists who were experimenting at that point with, you know, amplifiers and electronic guitars and all that, they started trying to, you know, Find a way to sound more like sitar or otherwise indian classical music and It led to a series of really fun and interesting, ridiculous moments, but one of them even just being that Yardbirds track that I mentioned, like, they, they tried to, they hired an actual sitar player to come and record it for them in the studio, and like, didn’t feel like they could make it work.

So Jeff Beck, and that was his first recording with the Yardbirds, uh, after he replaced Eric Clapton. So he, he had the cool task of, uh, not only being better than Eric Clapton in this band, but trying to replace an Indian classical sitar player on the track. Uh, and that is how they ended up. But that, again, that’s just like, a tenth of a tenth of a percent of the sort of Huge impact it started to have on classic rock that would that would eventually result in things like monterey pop and the woodstock festival.

Kyle: I think a lot of my hesitation with like trying to find the right inroad to talk about this music was thinking immediately of all this hacky shit, you know, just all the Todd, Chad’s and Brad’s of the sixties getting ahold of this, you know, like putting up a Bob Marley, Marley poster and all of a sudden you’re Ross Trent. Thinking about even songs that I like, like, you know, paint it black being probably the biggest example and Brian Jones playing on that or like the doors, the end, trying to simulate a raga looking back at it, it’s all very Gwen Stefani or like Harajuku girl era. It’s like, this is not, this ain’t it. Because you’re right, they, they just like the physical sounds, but didn’t try to connect with the spirit of the instrument and the why behind it. And that’s so crucial to the practice, to achieving what makes it sound truly good.

Cliff: Yeah In a sort of counterpoint or converse to that would be a bit of how Jazz was beginning to incorporate and interact with it and specifically through John Coltrane. I think John Coltrane’s interactions with Ravi not only predate George Harrison’s and the rest of the guitarists, but it also I have a curiosity about the the earth on which John Coltrane lived further into his life.

Because what was pretty interesting was he was beginning to, he already had expressed a sort of, not a sort of, a respect for Ravi and a reverence for what he was doing musically, which just on its own is like, if you have John Coltrane’s attention, I don’t know what sentence comes after that. But.

In 1961, Coltrane had already started performing with tamburas backing and then on Africa Brass in 1961, he tries to replicate the tabla, the hand drum, by having two different upright bass players imitate the overall sound of tabla together. And they would not necessarily, or they did not go on to collaborate or do anything in particular together, but, you know, before John Coltrane died two things worth saying.

One is, like he said explicitly, I collect the records that Ravi makes and his music moves me, which just any amount of study of John Coltrane will lead you to understand he would not have said that. Unless he meant it that way. But secondly, like just an anecdote. He named his own son Robbie There was a connection he met the guru and wanted to be musically connected and so that’s why it interests me to some degree like Some of what will kind of close on the way Robbie’s influence turned in the later 60s I am curious about that turn If John Coltrane had still been, uh, with us on this planet at that particular time.

Curious if that would have changed or moved anything.

Kyle: Yeah, don’t, don’t tempt yourself with the what if Kurt Cobain were still alive exercise that so many

people around our age are tempted to do.

Cliff: So I think

Kyle: Uh, this, this music and the practice of mindfulness should remind you like all jokes aside about where that could have gone the practice of this could remind you like you, you cannot change the conditions here. Here we are. Do not entertain hypotheticals. I

Cliff: Fair point. So okay, so then let’s, so then the non hypothetical, which is cool to round this out and then we’ll talk about what to do next if you’ve connected with something in this episode, which was our last exercise, which is really cool, honestly. So the turn that it kind of took instead. Robbie’s influence, popularity, however you kind of want to describe it, skyrocketed.

He played Monterey Pop in 1967, which I have literally studied that as a historical moment in time, so I’m very familiar with all of it, but like, this is the moment where like, Jimi Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire and like, The Who had just been the loudest band to ever exist on record just prior to this festival happening, and a whole, just, it was a, Huge cultural moment and

Kyle: talked about it pretty extensively. It’s a crucial part of Otis’s story, right?

Cliff: Yes,

absolutely. Man, it’s hard to imagine that

Kyle: Like, so a lot of like crazy cultural confluence with around this thing

Cliff: Yeah But suffice it to say you can probably envision what the audience looked, seemed, felt like in 1967 Yeah, and just like, I tend to forget this, but like, there was a period where like, acid was not illegal, so, see, the thing that your eyes just made, see, we’re in an audio format, but your eyes did that, and then mine did that recently when I read it, and I was like, what, in my brain, it’s never not been illegal, so that, it, yeah, that sort of changes some of my perspective on a very particular moment in time, uh,

Kyle: like a, like a cultural third rail to,

Cliff: yes, um,

Kyle: you know, the, the precipice over which the conversation starts to alienate the weekend warriors, you know, somebody that you could very easily pass a joint you say acid and you separate the men from the boys, so to speak.

Cliff: Yep. So he played Monterey Pop along with a lot of other folks. Uh, and again, this was kind of famously the place where the audience started cheering after they got done tuning their instruments together. And he said, if you liked that, you’re really probably going to like what we’re about to play. It’s just like it. Even that little moment starts to bring you to like, oh, this, this dude must have been of two minds already. Just like, what have I done? What am I doing and what have I done? But, he was well received because shit is tight, man. Like, people on acid don’t know or don’t not know what awesome Indian music sounds like.

So, like, all that was fine, but Ravi’s experience of that was, Interesting. So a quote from him that I think really sets us up to like, try to close the book or the chapter on this as best we can with a sense of reverence and like optimism. So he said, in talking about Monterey Pop Festival, quote, I was shocked to see people dressing so flamboyantly.

They were all stoned. Um, to me, it was a new world. I liked Otis Redding. I liked the mamas and the papas, Peter, Paul, and Mary, because they were very soothing. Then I saw Jimi Hendrix. I saw how wonderful he was at the guitar, and I was really admiring him. And then he started his antics, making love to the guitar.

And then, as if that was not enough, he burned the guitar. That was too much for me. Okay, it’s funny and we can laugh, but then I also want you to hear the last part of this quote really specifically. Okay, he said that was too much for me in our culture. We have such respect for musical instruments. They are like part of god Oh Okay I bet you didn’t have a great time at monterey pop festival And like and then he would like he performed at woodstock and he fucking hated it He hated it. and that helped me bring a little bit more out from this album, too. Because I don’t read that as just like regret or dismissal or really anything overly negative other than, oh shit, I forgot that this person was from a totally different planet, it feels like, because of how far our cultures can be separated and how ignorant we can be of one another what we think about things in general. And so all of a sudden I had a little bit more clarity to see this guy who’s like, I think he probably was really happy and pleased and said so that he influenced Western music and brought Indian classical music to new places and shared his gift with a lot of people and did a lot of really amazing stuff.

And on the other hand, There must be a bitterness to seeing something that you feel is sacred being extracted and exploited as Americans are so want to do right in front of your fucking face, right at the moment where they’re yelling back at you. You’re very important to us and all of our musicians are very inspired by you.

Like, well, why can’t any of you take this seriously for like 30 seconds?

Kyle: Yeah, I loved reading about that. He Didn’t make demands of his audience in a Miles Davis way or like he didn’t antagonize them, but strongly gently encouraged Them to meet him at that level of reverence. There’s that pretty famous interview from 67 with krla where he Basically talks about like what you do on your time is your business, but like don’t don’t show up slammed to my show. the the music is intended to intoxicate you and fill you with those feelings, but It’s been handed down from a religious background over literal centuries, like it traces back to 5000 BC pretty clearly. So don’t, don’t trivialize it by treating it like a Phish show.

Cliff: so we did our best we did our best to like really get the heart of this thing across to anyone within the sound of our stupid voices like There’s as we always tell you there’s there’s fucking magic in music like positioning yourself to receive it is awesome There’s a ton of stuff to discover and you can do it with a record like this seriously, no matter how Literally, it feels to you in this moment, if this is your initial exposure to Ravi, to Indian classical music, to whatever you don’t have to feel bad about the sense that it feels foreign.

There’s nothing wrong with it. I think even, even reflecting on like Ravi’s words that we just shared, it’s like, he, he, He’s not criticizing anyone for wanting to hear his music. There’s no problem in that sense. Like, what he wants you to do is connect with it differently because it’s being sent differently.

The intended resonance is a sober audience who’s focused for hours at a time. Not necessarily the, the people who are there to just like literally feel the vibrations as they’re having more of a esoteric internal experience in, you know, amongst themselves all at once. And like, it’s a directional thing that someone else wants you to experience.

Um, but you can enter into that with a little bit of practice, even if you’re not good at it.

Kyle: Happy birthday Ravi Shankar, you would have loved Coachella. You

” The people, they are in tents. Why? They do not leave each night. Why? Why is this?” so let’s close out this way because I love doing this now. This is my favorite way to put an end on this thing. So like, if something just connected with me through any of this, Kyle, what should I start doing next? Or what should I look for next? Or what are like, any things I can set my brain towards?

Kyle: talked about the resonance and the foreignness, like the two feelings I think that you could be left with. Thank you. after these recordings. So if you’re seeking the resonance, seek the seekers. I think the two disciples in their literal music or in their spiritual approach, who can probably offer you the most here are John Coltrane or Philip Glass, who we haven’t touched on, but, um, wonderful, tremendous composer of mostly known for minimalist classical music.

Glass’s attitude about. Ravi Shankar’s impact on him, it like sent me in the direction that I want to go. So I would simply say on the note of resonance, if you want more tuning fork-y type stuff Glass himself said, Ravi Shankar opened the door into a new world of music for me. He told NPR this when he was releasing his memoir, Words Without Music which I also immediately cued on my tablet.

he said that the encounter was Shankar, and they eventually collaborated on, unlike Coltrane a record called Passages. The encounter with Shankar meant the discovery of a wide panorama of musical traditions that until then had been unknown to Glass. India to begin with, but soon his curiosity and desire for exploration took him into Chinese Taoism, its Japanese Shinto variants, the native peoples of Australia and other culture territories that expressed their worldview through music.

The door opened by Shankar led to a wide and diverse road That made Glass take that step that few of us can, and along which we could for a moment cease to look at the world from our own criteria, our way of thinking, to contemplate it at least partially from other parameters. Glass said, I think one of the reasons that I wrote so much music in my life is because I met a lot of interesting people.

As if raising to another scale, that of creativity in the imagination, the well known saying that each person’s head is a world in itself.

It opens the door to worlds within worlds. Like, seek the dimension of resonance, both in music that you already think you love and in music that seems completely foreign to you, and use that as a vehicle to connect to more people. I work in a global role now. with people in like 14 countries and the easiest way to understand who they are and where they’ve come from is the vocabulary of music because it comes naturally.

Use music to seek resonance in the world around you and try to grow your world as a result. And on the foreignness note, like straight up legit. If you live in the Western world, study India, the music and the country.

Cliff: Plus one.

Kyle: It’s like the scale of it is almost incomprehensible. Yeah, it is the seventh largest country by geography.

It is the most populous country in the world, overtaking China in the past few years, 1. 4 billion people on the subcontinent, but not just a lot of people represents 100 languages, more than 700 tribes and every major religion in the world. People look differently, they speak differently, they think differently.

They live on a landmass that has every geography and climate imaginable, deserts, rainforest, mountains, you know, Everest and the Himalayas, it’s all there. And the geography leads to different cultures. And we talked about Hindustani versus Carnatic music, the two types of Indian classical music represented in the three ragas on this record.

India’s huge and it’s the marble on the cat in uh, in men in black that like contains the whole universe. It is a microcosm of everything. And not only is there the classical music tradition that continues to inform modern styles, But there are all these modern styles you know, filmy Bollywood music or music for Indian film makes up 72 percent of India’s music sales.

Imagine a world in which Hans Zimmer and Trent Reznor scores were three quarters of all all music sold in America. Like that’s an unfathomable thought. And then there’s DJ music to your point about electronic music and dance being part of the resonance. That’s a huge part of the culture in a number of different ways.

And then, Pop mixes old and new traditions and Western stuff. There’s cool metal bands coming out of India. So there’s all sorts of Western influence being like refracted back into there. But. There’s just so much going on that, like, if you start at Ravi and you want to become a Ravi scholar, just expand it to the diversity of India and, like, spend a little while being mad about how little you were taught about the Eastern Hemisphere, sort of in general, in American schools but, like, let, let the Bill Nye the science guy, um, Part of you activate where you just, you want to go learn everything that you possibly can and go to the library and check out encyclopedias and all that sort of stuff.

Cliff: I love it. I would, the only thing I would add to that at all as another starting point, or maybe I should say one that could translate into live music, especially locally for people in the West try a weird genre of music that you think is potentially aligned with what is trying to be accomplished here.

So drone is a good example, but I just want to be clear. I’m not telling you Go to a random noise show. Okay? I, if you are not experienced

Kyle: you like Ravi Shankar, you might like Merzbow.

Cliff: and maybe you do, okay? But, Don’t, don’t take stabs in the dark from, like, local bands. I’m saying, Especially if this is not your usual cup of tea Hit, hit someone that’s known for doing this well. A sun show. I would include like Godspeed You Black Emperor, even though they’re a little bit more on the sort of ambient side, like, they are literally playing in a semicircle towards each other, their resonance is involved in what they are doing as well.

And so, these are a little bit more directly spiritually descended from the, that idea of resonance meditative music over long periods of time that people are supposed to experience quietly. trying to go to one of those and beginning to use whatever skills you may have developed through listening to this record and applying it to that setting because yes, there are bad drone and noise bands, um, shoegaze happened, but you can begin to you’ll, for lack of a better term, you’ll start to see the guru.

In certain bands like you’ll go. Oh, oh, no. Okay. They know what they’re doing I feel like I may not like it. It may be abrasive but I I see a thing that’s happening here and it feels different than other things that I have seen and felt before from other bands and like Those are the moments that you’re looking for.

Kyle: Man, I love that so much. There’s such a satisfying feeling in, well, that wasn’t for me, but I learned something tonight, or I really appreciate that that exists. You and I were texting feverishly a few weeks ago when I went to Big Ears in Knoxville, and that is the spirit of Big Ears. It is the pinnacle for my money of anything that I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world in terms of just growing yourself and your world.

Like that is the purpose, to have Big Ears, to listen. And if there were ever an artist who embodied the spirit. Of what that festival is getting after, it would be Ravi Shankar.

Cliff: 100 percent. Thank you, Ravi.


We’ve curated an entire year’s worth of albums to spin, one for every single day.

If you’ve listened to TuneDig, you already know these 366 picks span history, genres, and cultures. Each day presents an album that’s fundamentally different than the one that came before it, and the one that comes after.

Original "Bitches Brew" Art

To celebrate the endless creativity of Bitches Brew—and especially its famous album artwork—TuneDig partnered with two incredible Atlanta-based artists to create one-of-a-kind, handpainted gatefolds.

With the spirit of the original art in mind, each artist brought their own vision to life. These pieces will spark conversation for any jazz fan.

Each piece includes a new vinyl copy of Bitches Brew. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to the artist, so take this opportunity to support the arts in the raddest possible way.

Seriously. There’s literally only one of each. Make it yours. 😎

TuneDig Episode 53: Ravi Shankar’s “Three Ragas”

Ravi Shankar lived one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary lives, bearing witness to—and making—history all around the world. To many (especially in the West), he personified an extraordinarily complex style of music and the cultures from which it was borne, and he worked hard to make it look easy.

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TuneDig Episode 52: Alain Goraguer’s “La Planète Sauvage”

Gather ’round, sommeliers of the strange and crate-digging boogie children, for something “Strange! Frightening! Fascinating!” awaits. The soundtrack to Cannes 1973’s Jury Prize-winning film is a dazzling, surreal, avant-garde hymn to cosmic knowledge and compassion and a secret handshake among real heads. If you’re after a trip to a new dimension, here’s your one small step for man.

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TuneDig Episode 51: Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”

Marvin Gaye’s well of soul power ran mighty deep, and deep into his career, he pulled up a bucket of ice-cold, silky smooth champagne called “I Want You.” Come for the lush instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and Leon Ware clinic; stay for the stories. For our return from hiatus, we observe a titan in his element, reflect on the pain that built him into one, and consider how to reconcile our feelings when complicated messengers deliver beauty to our door.

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TuneDig Episode 50: Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”

Before uniting one nation under a groove, the lysergic lords of chaos in Funkadelic harnessed wild lightning into an amulet called Maggot Brain, bestowing the bearer with raw, dark power stronger than any force known to man. Between reaching our 50th episode and coping with the “maggots in the mind” of today’s universe, it felt like the right time to free our minds. We hope y’all’s asses will follow.

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TuneDig Episode 49: Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda”

The story of Alice Coltrane — an accomplished bebop pianist from Detroit who transcended into something far greater before walking away from public life altogether — is a glimpse into what it means to be truly free. Alice’s masterpiece "Journey in Satchidananda" is a cosmic dance that sparked creation from destruction. And in a time when we’re all desperately searching for a spark of meaning and hope, Journey abides abundantly.

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TuneDig Episode 48: Heart’s “Little Queen”

Take a moment to appreciate Ann and Nancy Wilson, who kicked down the doors of rock ‘n’ roll’s boys’ club with their peerless guitar work, soaring soul vocals, and tight songcraft. 1977’s Little Queen — an oft-overlooked gem in the classic rock canon — offers a snapshot of those elements at their most urgent and pure, powered by the Wilsons’ simple motivation (as described by their producer): “It was a war.”

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TuneDig Episode 47: Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra”

When you think of “electronic music,” what comes to mind may not be a genre you deeply love — hip-hop, house, new wave, or even dub reggae — but all of it owes some debt, scientifically or otherwise, to Tangerine Dream. Dig in with us as we study a prime example of the band’s brand of effortful innovation, where they patiently and persistently labored at the cutting edge of electronic technology to open a portal to new worlds in our minds.

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TuneDig Episode 46: Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR”

Did you catch one of 2021’s biggest albums, or like us, did you almost overlook it? If you have any expectations of pop music, "SOUR" will likely subvert them. Teenage dream this is not; it’s an exquisitely universal portrait of a weird time to be alive.

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TuneDig Episode 45: Fela Kuti’s “Expensive Shit”

The story of Fela Kuti — one of the most famous people on an *entire continent* passionately struggling to liberate power to more people — is absolutely one worth deeply knowing, regardless of whether you find yourself drawn to Afrobeat or (cringe) “world music.” But once you know it, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Fela and Afrika 70 as their revolutionary grooves rewire your brain in magical and meaningful ways.

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TuneDig Episode 44: Meshuggah’s “ObZen”

Meshuggah’s ObZen—an artifact of human creativity pushing the limits of what’s possible—will quite literally make you hear music differently. If you’re looking for a new musical adventure, and especially if you don’t think you like “heavy” or “weird” music, consider this your sign to push past your comfort zone.

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TuneDig Episode 43: mewithoutYou’s “Catch For Us the Foxes”

A misunderstood wise man once said “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds.” In our most personal and vulnerable episode yet, we do some seeking through the lens of songs that fill us with the bravery and sincerity to love ourselves and others fully. Dig deep with us as we fish for words about our tiny place in the universe and dance with gratitude for our ability to do so.

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For lifelong headbangers and the musically curious alike, a new podcast from TuneDig is here to push your palette with aggressive, abrasive art. Each short, fast-paced episode offers (1) a new metal, punk, noise, or experimental release we recommend, (2) a related playlist we’ve curated, and (3) a heavy issue to consider and an organization doing something about it. Join us in the void.


TuneDig Episode 41: Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”

Let’s be clear: "Bitches Brew" is a challenging record, even to some of the best musicians in the world — but all of them say it’s worth the investment. It’s the kind of trip that, even if we *could* draw a map, it wouldn’t take you there. Let go of the need for meaning and enjoy the ride with us. We can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised where you end up.

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TuneDig Episode 40: Fiona Apple’s “Tidal”

On the heels of one of 2020's most acclaimed albums — Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters — we revisited Apple’s debut Tidal and wound up working to extract ourselves from the mostly male gazes that made its reception … much different. We arrive at a question much like writer Jenn Pelly had: “People would constantly prod Fiona on how an 18-year-old could write songs as mature as these ... Why did they not ask instead how she became a genius?”

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TuneDig Episode 39: Death Grips’s “The Money Store”

The modern world is accelerating beyond our control, shaping our reality in ways we can’t yet perceive or understand. Enter Death Grips, an art project capturing the chaotic energy and illustrating the absurdity of our hubris in trying to harmonize the surreal and extremely real — never more perfectly than on 2012’s prescient "The Money Store".

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TuneDig Episode 38: Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown”

Reggae music is easy to take for granted, but its impact is underappreciated and massive — in the case of dub in particular, everyone from Radiohead to Johnny Rotten to Run-DMC owes it a debt. Augustus Pablo and King Tubby together created what’s regarded as “one of the finest examples of dub ever recorded.” Join us as we dive into the culture, history, and unique engineering experiments that made it possible.

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TuneDig Episode 37: Rihanna’s “ANTI”

By every measure — sales, awards, chart-toppers, global name recognition — Rihanna is objectively as big as the Beatles ever were. In fact, ANTI is so big it’s still on the charts, a record five full years later. Take a closer look with us at “the record you make when you don’t need to sell records”, and get a taste of the true freedom that comes from focusing on your inner voice when faced with insurmountable expectations.

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TuneDig Episode 36: Son House’s “Father of Folk Blues”

All American music traces back to the blues, and deep at the root sits Son House. That the recordings on "Father of Folk Blues" even exist is something of a gray area that cuts to the heart of the great American myth, but wherever you land after hearing these stories, you’ll find that what matters most is what the great Muddy Waters once said of House: “That man was the king.”

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TuneDig Episode 35: Melvins’s “Stoner Witch”

The futility of describing the Melvins has stretched critics in the direction of absurd words like “Dadaist” for nearly 40 years now. They’ve belligerently flogged any attempt to pinpoint their essence simply by being themselves, but "Stoner Witch" remains a reliable mall directory for the Melvins’ vast and wild discography. Grab yourself some pretzel bites.

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TuneDig Episode 34: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

We should talk about Dolly the way we talk about Prince. Her extraordinary kindness and unique kitsch both make her universally loved, but what gets left out of the conversation is the very thing that made her famous: the music. Join in as we focus attention on the sonics and songwriting of the low-key masterpiece "Jolene".

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Kyle and Cliff

BONUS TRACK: How We Got Here

We got a bunch of interesting listener feedback in our off-season, and it encouraged us to shed some light on why we do things the way we do ‘em. Also, we reflect on our first writeup, which was ... interesting.

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We're Cliff (right) and Kyle (left). We’re two dudes born and raised in ATL with day jobs in tech and sustainability, respectively.

We met in middle school, and in one way or another, music’s been the thing that’s kept us close for the two decades since — whether it’s sharing and talking about new music (like this podcast, except in our texts or over beers), going to shows, or working with our favorite record stores to help them survive and thrive.

We started TuneDig as a little art project that connects us more deeply ourselves and to the world through the infinite gift of music. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations, let us know what you think, and share discoveries of your own.

More About TuneDig

TuneDig began as a little something called MusicGrid.me, which we created after realizing there was no place online to directly exchange music recommendations with your friends. Our aim was simple: to make rating albums simple, useful, and social. We got some love from places like MashableWiredEvolver.fm, and Hypebot. We managed to foster conversation between music lovers, get thousands of reviews, and meet great people.

Along the way, we realized that record stores were an essential part of the music lovers’ community. After many a conversation about how we could helpfully connect them to the people who loved them, we began helping them leverage technology to create new revenue streams and embrace streaming services without giving up what’s unique to them: expertise and curation. (Long live the counter clerk who knows exactly which record will be the right introduction to jazz fusion!)

TuneDig is our vision to connect music lovers with the music they love, because no matter how much has changed in the way we discover and enjoy music, recommendations from people you trust and respect will always be the best way to find new music you’ll dig. With this podcast, we’re channeling the spirit of trusted curation pioneered by record stores, and bringing you something to take you deeper into music you can love.