GOVINDA SCHLEGEL: " The Spirituality of Classical Indian Music"


Govinda Schlegel is an artist, musician and multi-instrumentalist in the genre of Classical Indian Music. We met Govinda in 2018 during one of our immersion courses with our teacher from Mysore, Arvind Pare. Govinda and Arvind are friends and they met in Mysore years ago, and this time that Arvind was visiting us in Cadiz and Govinda was in Malaga was the right time for them to meet again and for us to welcome him in our home, Govinda offered a beautiful concert at home and since then we have been caring for what we hope it will be a long lasting friendship.


He is a very sensible being, that is something you can feel as soon as you meet him, you can feel how much he cares for his music, his space for training and preparing the pieces that he will offer. He enjoys the company of friends and good food, the warmth and sunshine from mother nature, the sound of the ocean. ….it is a gift to count Govinda among our friends and the professionals who collaborate with our Project, to bring closer to westerners the spirituality of Indian Music.


It is a pleasure to bring Govinda as a guest in our next yoga retreat together with Andrea Panzer,  believe us when we say it is  worth listening and meeting Govinda Schlegel.


R.A: When was the first time you remember feeling such an attraction for string indian instruments and Indian Music?


Govinda: I was 14 years old when my dad gave me the first record player and asked me which record I would like to have ... at that time I was very fond of the music of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, etc ... and there was this 3 record Box, Concert for Bangladesh, I chose that one... a benefit concert for the flood victims of Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison (Beatle), ... and the first part of this performances was a classical Indian music-Duet with the Virtuosos Ravi Shankar (sitar) and Ali Akbar Khan (sarod), which I listened to every night , of course understood nothing, such a completely different world, alien and fascinating ... later, then in 1988, I became a disciple of Ali Akbar Khan.


  R.A: How do you remember your beginnings as a student? What memories do you have from your different teachers?


Govinda: We talk about the time in the beginning of the 80s, there was no Internet, no YouTube, records with Indian music difficult to find ... so, the first years I learned to play the sitar with books, letters and listening long-play-records, before I went to Varanasi in North India.

This magical city, unchanged since thousands of years, the Mecca of Indian Music...I had 3 different teachers there, one for the Sitar, one for the Sarod and another one for the Bow instrument Sarangi.

I had to practice for more than 12 hours a day, starting in the early morning at 5 o´clock and ending in the middle of the night.

That was really a intense time, only Indian music, lessons, practice, lessons, practice and listening to the old masters in concerts at the Riverbank of the sacred Ganges.



 R.A:  I have heard some of the string instruments you play are not easy at all to learn how to play, how challenging  has the learning process been  and what instrument (s) you will define as the hardest one (s) for you?


Classical Indian music is one of the most advanced musical systems on this planet, so learning the ragas and instruments is a complex and lengthy process ... it takes great discipline and dedication to learn the music of India. North Indian classical music, for example, has 22 notes in one octave, mostly challenging for western ears, as we only know 12 intervals in one octave.

Creating melodies means to feel not the note, but the way from one note to another...

 For me, by far the most difficult musical instrument to play is actually the bow-instrument Sarangi, but I have to say that every instrument has its challenges...and not only Indian instruments ;-))


R.A: I have also read that Indian classical music is not written , has a lot of scope for improvisation. musician can change/improvise the sequence of notes while playing the music. So it gives you as a musician and artist more freedom.

Govinda: Yes, that's right, Indian music is not played by notes read. Although there is a Notation, invented by European and Indian Music Scientists and western students, which is very good for practicing, but the music-pieces (Ragas) are never performed by the sheet played, because  the highly complex strict rules of a raga flourishes through the improvisation. Ravi Shankar said 99% of a raga is the unfolding in improvisation.

 R.A: What does music mean to you?

Govinda: For me music is the food for the soul.

Brings Joy, Bliss!


 R.A: How many hours do you spend practicing on daily basis?

Govinda: Haha, it depends, before concerts I try to practice to a maximum, like 6 or 7 hours, and normally I manage to have 3 hours daily for my practice.



  R.A: This could be a more personal question, as an artist how difficult or easy do you find making a living from your music?

Govinda: Indian music is an exotic niche in the music business, far from the show biz, not commercial and almost non-existent in the offer of the culture politics.  Sadly, in the western media, (radio, TV) the raga music plays no role ... Indian Music has nothing to do with "I love you, you love me, lets make a family .... bla bla bla ..." Nonetheless, there is a big "family", an interested open audience worldwide, but not the masses.

The way to earn a living with this kind of music is correspondingly difficult


 R.A:  Recently you have made the decisión of moving to Southern Spain for a longer period of time, why do you feel attracted to living here, what the ups and downs you find in moving to a new country with a different language and starting maybe from scratch? Do you feel welcome?

Govinda: Yes, we love Andalusia!

Every year we flew to Andalusia for a few months, why not move right here and we did that last summer. Not easy, all the bureaucratic peculiarities of Spain and learning the language, but "with a little help from my friends" and the great, extraordinary heart-open people here, we will find our way around well.


  R.A:  Could you tell us about any future projects here in Spain or abroad?

Govinda: Here in Andalusia I met and still I do meet so beautiful good musicians and dancers, it's a great honor to play and work with them.

So in a future, probably a project with the Fusion of Andalusian and Indian Scales will be worked out for a band. I'm composing pieces for a new record, preparing workshops to learn Indian Music and I will carry on to do concerts with an Ensemble.


  R.A:  I see you are also a teacher for those who have an interest in learning string Indian instruments, Is it being easy to find students here?

Govinda: Yes, there is a scene of young musicians, they are super talented, very eager and creative to learn Indian Music instruments and use the Sounds and Scales in a very experimental way, which I enjoy very much.


  R.A:  With the growing and fast interest from westerners about Yoga, Eastern philosophy, Music and everything that has to do with Eastern culture these days, how do you feel this in your career, and in your life as a musician. Does it help compare to years ago?

Govinda: The most heart-opening people I found in the Yoga-Scene, I play Raga music during Yoga lessons, I do the project "Govinda and the Singing Yogis" a Mantra, Kirtan - singing circle, I play Concerts in Yoga-Shalas...so, as long as people are interested in the Eastern philosophy...this is my audience.


R.A: Thanks for your time and we are happy to say that Govinda will be sharing his beautiful music with us in our Easter Retreat next April 2019 from 18th to 22nd at Novo Sancti Petri.


We are looking forward to welcoming all the students who want to come and share this intimate retreat with all of us. The soul Owl´s house and yoga studio opens its doors to all of you to learn, share and enjoy the journey of life.