Summer is almost over, so you can just say goodbye to beach music. It won't be long before the Christmas carols start playing in the malls. The idea of music for a specific season goes back thousands of years. Now an ancient tradition in India that pairs music to season and even time of day, a tradition tied to nature's rhythms, is taking root in a most urban place, Manhattan.

NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas has more.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: A typical Saturday night for a music fan in Manhattan might involve grabbing some dinner and going to a show. You hang out there for an hour or two, enjoy the music, and then leave, right? But what would happen if the musicians onstage took turns soloing for an hour or more apiece, and you wound up staying until dawn?

SAMIR CHATTERJEE: People in New York City stay up all night anyway on Saturday nights. Why not give them a better reason to stay up?

TSIOULCAS: Meet Samir Chatterjee. He's a tabla player and every spring, he invites musicians from India and elsewhere to come to New York for marathon concerts that start in the early evening and last all night long.


TSIOULCAS: Chatterjee's originally from Kolkata, India. When he moved to New York City in 1994, he came with all the passion and energy of a newly-minted New Yorker. And he quickly figured out that Manhattan might be just the right place to give new life to an ancient Indian practice.

CHATTERJEE: You know Indian music is not entertainment. It's an offering.


TSIOULCAS: In north Indian classical music, there's a tradition that certain ragas, or melodic scales, are meant for certain times of year, like the monsoon season or spring, and that other ragas should only be played at certain times of day or night.

Musicians say that the way that ragas' scales move up and down evoke very specific moods called rasas. These rasas literally, the juice or the taste of the music, can inspire feelings like peacefulness, romance, joy, courage, or even fear or disgust.

At Chatterjee's midtown Manhattan center for Indian classical music, vocalist Samarth Nagarkar describes a raga he sings at dawn.

SAMARTH NAGARKAR: It's called "Bhatiyar." And this has a lot of elements of the freshness that dawn brings with it; there's a certain sleepiness, there's a certain freshness at the same time.


TSIOULCAS: Another vocalist, Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik takes us into bright sunshine of late morning.


MITALI BANERJEE BHAWMIK: (Singing in foreign language)

TSIOULCAS: Then the mood turns romantic when Sanjoy Banerjee sings a love song in a raga meant for the moment when afternoon gives way to dusk.


SANJOY BANERJEE: (Singing in foreign language)

TSIOULCAS: Finally, American Eric Fraser plays the bamboo flute, called the bansuri, in a late-night raga.

ERIC FRASER: It's mysterious and can be, sometimes even maybe described as bewitching; that free spirit of the deep night, of maybe even time for a little mischief.


TSIOULCAS: Over the course of Samir Chatterjee's all-night concert in Manhattan, he and his colleagues perform ragas only at the times they are meant to be heard.

CHATTERJEE: What we have experienced growing up in India, staying up all night - first of all, that commitment to stay up all night for such a noble purpose itself is a rewarding experience. And second, the opportunity to experience the transition of the ragas from the evening, through late evening, midnight, and then morning; how these ragas, the changing frequencies, the texture, everything, you know. How these things are affecting your physiology and the people who are around you, how they're also responding.

TSIOULCAS: But in India, that experience is being lost, says Peter Manuel, a professor and an accomplished sitar player. Just as here, modern life there means that most concerts take place in the early evening.

PETER MANUEL: So those early and mid-evening ragas get overworked, and at least half the repertoire, which is the late night ragas, the early morning ragas, the mid-morning ragas, and the afternoon ragas - you really don't have much occasion to hear them. And it's too bad, because that's a lot of ragas and some of the best ones.

TSIOULCAS: And that's why playing these neglected ragas in New York City is important, says Samir Chatterjee, because they help nurture some ancient knowledge - not just about music, but about the workings of the universe.

CHATTERJEE: To our understanding, this system was developed at a time when human beings had a better relationship with nature. When human beings were capable of telling what time of the day it is without looking at the clock, or it will be raining in seven days.

TSIOULCAS: And cultivating that awareness through music might even make missing sleep worthwhile.

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

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