About Nate Rabe

Reinvention is life.

Water Lily Acoustics Series Volume 7: L. Subramaniam and Larry Coryell

When you listen to this record you should keep in mind that it was recorded with just two microphones and recorded in a house of worship. It is one of the wonders of Kavi Alexander that in an industry awash with digitised gadgets of every description, massive mixing boards, Auto Tune and the rest, he manages to produce a quality of sound and clarity that leaves most recordings in the dust. With the very minimum of equipment and an abhorrence of modern recording practices, he is rightly acknowledged as one of our time’s recording geniuses.

“This session is a rather mystical result of a chance meeting with Kavi in Sweden in the summer of 1981, combined with my 20-year friendship with Mani, with whom I’ve performed and recorded many times. When I was hanging with Kavi, we spoke of doing something creative together–but first we had to go through some rather heavy karma before I was ready. I had no idea that Kavi and Mani knew each other until the recording date, which took place in the middle of the night inside a beautiful Spanish-style church somewhere in the vicinity of Santa Barbara, California.

This was an exceptional session, as far as I am concerned, in that the compositions were conceived on one day and were recorded the very next. Everything was done without regard to editing and the ‘polished perfection’ of the recordings that so often dominate the airwaves these days; it was, simply, write the pieces and record them. On some of the titles I played guitars I’d never played before. Considering the circumstances under which this recording was made, I am very pleased with the results. What we did was a true slice of creative reality and because of this I admire all of what was played. If is ‘spontaneous’ you want, you definitely have it on this recording. I want to say its always a pleasure to work with such a great improviser/composer like Mani, and Kavi did a great job on the sound. I hope the listener enjoys what we did. Peace. Larry Coryell“.

LS and LC

Water Lily Acoustic Series Volume 6 Ali Akbar Khan

Kavi Alexander and Water Lily Acoustics had a special relationship with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. This is the second volume of the sarodiya’s music that the label released.

Kirwani is a musical scale in Hindustani classical music. It is an Indian raga specially suited for instrumental music. The scale is the same as the harmonic minor in western music. There are shades of Pilu in Kirwani.

This raga is a south Indian raga, assumed to have originated from the Carnatic system of music. It is a sampoorna raga which means the raga has all seven swaras in its scale. Songs in Kirwani raga have a melancholy, heart-rending and sentimental feel. It is a harmonic minor raga with moods of love, devotion and sadness. Ideally it is performed at midnight….a moody, sad time indeed for many of us.

This raga is used in a great number of bhajans. (More on Indian ragas)

01. Alap

02. Vilambhit Gat

03. Vilambhit Gat (pt 2)

04 Drut Ghat


Water Lily Acoustics Series Volume 5 L. Subramaniam

Dr. L. Subramaniam is India’s violin icon. He has recorded, played and composed a substantial variety of music including Karnatic (south Indian), Western classical, jazz, world fusion and world music. Dr. L. Subramaniam has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Yehudi Menuhin, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Herbie Hancock, Larry Coryell and Ravi Coltrane.

Lakshminarayan Subramaniam was born July 23, 1947 in Madras, India. His career as a childhood prodigy brought him into contact with the greatest musicians and he soon imposed himself as a master of the violin. At a very young age, he was honored with the title Violin Chakravarthy (emperor of the violin). Very few musicians can boast of such diverse repertoire and collaborations, or even such mind-boggling techniques. Till date, Dr. Subramaniam has produced, performed, collaborated, conducted and released over 150 recordings.

Dr. L. Subramaniam is the only musician who has performed/recorded Karnatic Classical Music, Western Classical Music, both orchestral and non-orchestral, and also composed for and conducted major orchestras, collaborated with a wide range of some of the greatest musicians, from different genres of music including jazz, occidental, jugalbandis with North Indian musicians, world music and global fusion. He has established himself as a force that is strongly Indian, but universal in nature and approach. (read more)

Friends of this blog will not need to be reminded how much I love carnatic violin playing. And that there is probably none better at it than Dr. Subramaniam.

So nothing more to add here. Another utterly scintillating hour or so of music here. Enjoy!


Water Lily Acoustics Series Volume 5: Jie-Bing Chin, V.M. Bhatt and Bela Fleck

I had skirted my way around this particular album for several years. I like the idea of it. I love bluegrass music and Bela Fleck is one of the genre’s most accomplished but also most creative and adventurous players. Of course, my admiration for and love of Pandit V.M.Bhatt is long established. But I wasn’t sure about the Chinese fiddle. Some Chinese music I dig but don’t ask me to tell you much about it. And some Chinese music I just don’t get. I love fiddles/violins in all their varieties but somehow this combination of American Appalachian (via West Africa), ancient Chinese and very modern neo-Hindustani classical music seemed just a bit too strange.

Well not for the first time in life, my conviction about something proved to be a house of cards. Rather than sounding like the cat fight I imagined it would, this music is some of the most beautiful and well balanced I’ve heard. Though brought together for the first time for this album Mr Alexander knew what he was doing.

Bela Fleck’s banjo opens the proceedings with a soft but strong tone and soon Bhatt sahib is sliding his hands over the strings of his modified lap guitar, the mohan veena, in swirls and streams of sound. The Chinese erhu played by Jie-bing Chen fits perfectly in the melody like something so right. What could have ended up grating, out of sync and forced actually works. And not just works but moves the listener to a quiet and attentive and totally pleasureable space. A whole new beautiful sound structure and atmosphere is born. Each of these masters could have tried to dominate the set by grabbing the spotlight for their instrument but they are all working together in that rarely found exercise of respectful collaborative creation.

Please don’t judge this book by its cover. Trust the music. Trust Mr Kavi Alexander. Trust the musicians. Trust Ma Kali.


Water Lily Acoustics Series Volume 4: Imrat Khan

Continuing with this series (sorry for not posting daily for this series; life is full on at the moment) I share a moody, atmospheric recording by Ustad Imrat Khan.

Mention the name Ustad Imrat Khan to any young Indian classical music lover, and chances are the reply will be, “Imrat Khan sahib? Oh yes, Ustad Vilayat Khan’s younger brother, the surbahar player.” But Ustad Imrat Khan was much more than just the younger brother of an iconic musician. He was also one of the finest instrumentalists of his time, an innovator, composer, great teacher, and the inheritor of the surbahar playing tradition of the five-generation-old Imdadkhani gharana.

Largely forgotten by a younger generation of listeners, he is a musician whose impact can be discerned in the instrumentalists of today. For one, the fact that he was as fine a sitar player as surbahar player was deliberately underplayed by his mother, Begum Inayat Khan, who was keen that the legacy of her late husband Ustad Inayat Khan be carried forward equally by both her sons, Vilayat and Imrat. From an early age, Imrat was encouraged to practise only the surbahar, on which he was trained by his uncle Ustad Wahid Khan.

Imrat was only three when his father died, so his gurus were his maternal grandfather, Ustad Bande Hasan Khan, uncle Ustad Wahid Khan, and brother Ustad Vilayat Khan. (Read full article)

Ustad Imrat Khan

Ustadji’s preferred instrument was the surbahar.

Surbahar appeared on the Indian musical scene in the early years of the nineteenth century around 1830. Although its basic structure resembled that of the sitar, it was much bigger in size and also possessed a number of features different from those of the sitar. It is said that the musicians of Seniya lineage were not supposed to teach the been or rabab to any outsider. Thus, the students, who were talented but did not belong to this bloodline, could not learn this style. According to some scholars, beenkar Umrao Khan of Lucknow, who belonged to Tansen’s tradition through his daughter’s lineage, had a large sitar made and named it surbahar, to teach the alap and jodalap of dhrupad anga to his favourite students. Ghulam Muhammed was one of them.

The surbahar had a relatively small span of life. It remained popular from the middle of nineteenth century until the beginning of the twentieth century. (read more)