Jonathan Clark

Jonathan Clark: His Journey from Rock to Raga


“Jhonathan” (as Anand his teacher calls him) is an artist who is exploring the diverse musical traditions of the world, especially the classical and folk music of India. He was born in Northern England, close to Liverpool in 1968 and from then after grew up in West London.

Jonathan studied Industrial Product Design and qualified with a PGCE at Goldsmiths College London which followed with a career of 16 years Teaching (Secondary DT) Design in London. He continues working as a designer maker and teacher, recently running a pottery studio, and besides studying Indian music, continues to renovate and build with his partner and friends in Groningen, NL.

Anu (Tanpuri) and Jonathan (Sitar)

Influences.
Jonathan developed a broad interest in music from an early age and has usually been surrounded with musicians. He began playing guitar and since childhood has listened to folk: of Pentangle and Dylan, he travelled with the singing of Joni Mitchel, and chilled out with the classic rock from The Byrds; And then came the influences from George Harrison and The Beatles, the instrumentations that came from Brian Jones of the Stones, and soon after that became enamoured with the jazz improvisations from Jeff Beck and John Coltrane, the “on the spot” improvisation recordings from Charlie Parker and the other giants; typically those constructs that came from Miles Davis and John McLaughlin -which added further sophistication. Quite a journey!

Woodstock folk legend, Richie Havens takes up the Sitar.

“Given my influences its not much of a surprise that I”ve taken to the sitar in such a way”

First Indian ( Folk) Music Teacher.
In 1988, at the age of twenty, Jonathan visited India, on his own and for the first time, and he had a life-changing encounter with musician by the name of Rampal Bhopa, a Ravanahatha player and folk singer, from Pushkar, a temple town in Rajasthan. Jonathan first learned to play and sing Indian folk music with this ancient instrument,(the Ravanahatha) which consists of a bamboo stick, a coconut shell resonator and a horse hair bow. He was captivated by the magical echoing sound and feeling of this music.

“Meeting with Rampal was one of the few most beautiful interactions I have ever had with a fellow human being. He didn’t speak any English and yet we could communicate perfectly with the typical sing and recall method of learning so commonly used within the Indian music traditions.”

Jonathan meeting Ram Lal Bopa

“He’d just turn up at my room overlooking the lake, smile, sit down, light me up a beady and then away we’d go into his magical world…sometimes for hours…i don’t think I even paid him any money…in fact I’m sure I didn’t as I was surviving on virtually nothing in those days, and whatever i did have the monkeys often swooped!” . “I remember returning from India a completely changed person. I even had begun to walk differently with little steps..like an ascetic. I think my parents were a bit worried so my new look and my echoing Sarangi playing wasn’t exactly encouraged…so I went back to Uni., perhaps with my tail slightly between my legs.”

Later Jon returned to Pushkar with his 3 year old son and partner, Wanda. He searched for Rampal but unfortunately the man had passed. However in his place the Bhopa caste was still found to be very much alive; still living out there in the desert camps, and for a few weeks the lessons continued with Rampal’s nephew: ”Ram Lal” Bhopa, some thirty five years in the passing.

The Ravanahatha, made and played by Ram Lal Bhopa.
Rampal Bopa

The Benares Connection.
Since this encounter with playing Ravanahatha and singing Indian Folk Jonathan continued to travel in India, and in other parts of the world, but he did not come across the classical Indian music tradition again until 2013. He arrived in Varanasi after trekking in Nepal. He was astonished by the rich musical culture of the city, where every street and corner had a music shop selling sitars or tablas, and where concert halls and musicians were abundant. He bought his first sitar, a Murchana, which was made in Calcutta from around 1946-50. It had a beautiful warm sound, and was an easy choice. Here he met Anand Kumar Mishra, who then became his main music teacher and guide. Since then, he has returned to Varanasi several times, learning more about the sitar and its history, as well as collecting and restoring other sitars. More recently Jonathan has also been learning from Anand’s uncle, Pt. Batuk Nath Mishra, a famous sitar player and composer. Batuk Ji lives in Rishikesh and Dharamshala during the hot season. Batuk is an expert in the vocal style of sitar playing, which mimics the human voice with the instrument.

Pt Batuk Nath Mishra (Sitar). Santosh Telulkar (Tabla)

A musical Journey
Amongst other arts and activities such as; pottery, sculpture, painting, and school teaching, Jonathan has persistently held world musical traditions and other cultures (and their spiritual beliefs) in very high esteem. He is now reaching out more seriously to share his music journey with others. He believes, as many do;
“Music is the key universal language that can help us all to touch, transform and change our world, our planet, hopefully toward a more meaningful and respected place”.


“Life is a journey of many types, it’s certainty is within its music; and it is its’ discovery that is what matters.”

Kashmir, Nagin Lake , Srinigar , J&K India. 2023

In Search of the Best Sitar Maker in Kolkata.
On a recent foray in the heart of midtown Kolkata inside a blisteringly hot afternoon Jhonathan was looking for the very famous workshop where he thought he may find out where they made the famous Hiron Roy Sitars. (Hiron Roy and Sons). Hiron Roy and Sons you may not now be able to find but it was on this search that he eventually ended up in a small grotto of a workshop, situated on a busy, bustling, bell ringing road junction. The shop is called Heman & Co, and also is a world famous instrument making company, making and repairing instruments for all of the best Artists of the world, western and Indian alike.


It was here that the renowned instrument maker Ratan Sen Heman met Jonathan.


“I know you love the Sitar. You really love Indian Ragas, but you will never be a good sitarist. I can tell these things. From what you have told me your teacher is not a real teacher, and he is not a real guru and your instrument is no good. You know,…. you need both.- ”.

Ratan Sen Heman. Making and repairing instruments for the best from around the world, from both East and West.

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