Live from the Streets and Temples of India’s Holy City
The Sounds of VARANASI by Srdjan Beronja


Angie Lemon

ARC Music Media Relations


"The Sounds of Varanasi is a unique collection of field recordings and original music made by Serbian composer and musicologist Srdjan Beronja between 2001 and 2011. The Sounds of Varanasi brings the atmosphere of this great holy city to life, exploring music that was born and lives in the streets, temples and river banks of Varanasi performed and played by hitherto unknown musicians, wise men and singers.


The Sounds of Varanasi includes field recordings from the steps of the Ganga river as in Dasaswamedh Ghat Ganga Aarti, music of devotional love sung to deities in temples as in Paayal Ki Jhankaar Baraniya and also a prayer recorded in a narrow alleyway beside a temple dedicated to the goddess Sita and Lord Rama – Sita-Ram.


While there are polished studio recorded ragas and recitals on The Sounds of the Varanasi, there are also some surprising sounds on the field recordings such as crickets in the background, chirping green parrots, monkeys and the sounds of ceremonial bells, drums and shankh shells which are used in Hindu and Buddhist rituals. Wedding Drums also features an authentic wedding with drums and laughing children.


The musical director of The Sounds of Varanasi is Serbian composer, percussionist and writer – Srdjan Beronja – who travelled over 100,000 miles researching and recording traditional music from India, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey to Israel. Srdjan studied classical Indian tabla and music in Varanasi and while he performs on the frame drum on the sixteenth track, the music is wholly performed live by local Varanasi musicians.


Varanasi is one of India’s colourful sacred seven cities, or 'sapta puris' as they are known in Hindi, which include Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kanchipuram, Ujjain, Dwarka and Varanasi. Varanasi – also known as Benares, Banaras or Kashi – is considered the holiest of India’s seven sacred cities situated as it is on the banks of the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh in northern India. As Varanasi is to Hindu mythology, so is the music on The Sounds of Varanasi a reflection of the devotion and culture of its people.


Just as the holy city of Varanasi is associated strongly with the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, many of The Sounds of Varanisi are steeped in a world belonging to Hindu deities and worship. For example, Paayal Ki Jhankaar Baraniya is a devotional romantic love song associated with Lord Krishna and his consort the goddess Radha, while Dasaswamedh Ghat Ganga Aarti celebrates the main ghat or holy steps in Varanasi that lie on the sacred river Ganga – supposedly created by Lord Brahma. Legend has it that Lord Shiva was the founding deity of Varanasi and also inspired the music and dance of this holy city.


While Varanasi has given the world the iconic sitar player Ravi Shankar, the shehnai or double-reed oboe maestro Bismillah Khan and the vocal music singer Girija Devi, within the city walls are many unknown Indian classical musicians, who have now been skilfully recorded and presented to the world for the first time in field and studio recordings on The Sounds of Varanasi. Out now through ARC Music."


- Angie Lemon

(ARC Music Media Relations)