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!


Modern Saraswati: Susheela Raman

I love Susheela Raman‘s music. Some of the most vital, on the mark and exciting pop music being made. Shades of Kate Bush, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Dylan and P.J. Harvey come together to create a distinctive powerful sound that is entirely her own.

I’ve shared her music in an earlier post and cannot recommend her highly or urgently enough. If you don’t know her music perhaps this mixtape will help you understand what I’m talking about.


Way Down South: Carnatic Music Mixtape

Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

My earliest idea of India was south India. At the time I was born in Madurai, a historic and spiritual city near the tip of the sub-continent, my family lived in a small provincial town in the northern part of Karnataka State. In my first 6 years the family moved between Gadag (Karnataka) and Madras (Chennai). Summer holidays were spent in the Palani Hills town of Kodaikanal where my older siblings attended an American boarding school.

My taste in curries ran toward sambar and rasam. Snacks were dosa and idli. Thick milky sweet coffee was more common than tea. Christmas holidays were spent on the beaches of Karwar or Mahabalipuram or Pondicherry. I learned Kannada along with English.

When I was 7 my father was transferred by his employers to North India. To the equally holy and historic city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Though I was too young to form any opinion about what this meant I do recall considerable anxiety within the family, especially my two older brothers who protested loudly. No one wanted to leave our familiar surroundings in the South and head more than 1500 kms north to what sounded like a completely different country. We’d have to forget Kannada and Tamil and pick up Hindi. The food was different. The mountains were steeper and more dangerous. And we would have to say good bye to all our friends.

As it turned out I loved the north. I learned Hindi (and later Urdu) and fell hard for the popular culture of Hindi films, north Indian sports like gulli danda and kabaddi and spent what seemed like years trekking around the Garhwal Himalayas. I spent my entire primary and secondary school years in Allahabad/Mussoorie and finally moved to the States to attend University in 1975.

Though North India was the part of India I became most familiar with, I never lost my South Indian roots. I always loved the food and visited friends and familiar places as often as I could. In 1977 I spent a year back in Madras with my parents who had been re-transferred back once more. Though I loved many things about the south I have absolutely no memories of south Indian music. To the extent that I had any awareness of Indian music as a lad it was Ravi Shankar and Bhimsen Joshi or Lata and Hemant Kumar.

When I started listening seriously to Indian music as an adult I found my ear was very much tuned to Hindustani (northern) music rather than Carnatic (southern). It has been a slow process to understand and appreciate the quite different sonic world of Carnatic music. And by no means do I fully ‘get’ it yet. Thankfully, I still have a few years left (hopefully) to grown my appreciation but there have been some learnings thus far.

First, I absolutely love the way south Indians play the violin. There are so many incredible violin players (some of which I’ve included in this collection) who can make the instrument sound so soulful and so at home in a variety of settings (jazz, classical, folk). Second, the south Indians are tireless explorers. They collaborate and adopt anything that comes their way. They’ve pioneered the carnaticisation not just of the violin but of the clarinet, saxophone and mandolin as well. In the diaspora south Indians like the pianist Vijay Iyer and saxman Rudresh Mahantappa are at the forefront of contemporary jazz. Third, in their classical singing there is a deep but different (from khyal) beauty. Something altogether unique and original. I don’t have the words yet to describe it.

I’ve put together this collection of several tracks I’ve enjoyed over the years. There is plenty more which may come one day in a second volume but I hope you enjoy this. It has classical flute, violin and singing. It has fusion. It has jazz/rock. It has qawwali (in Tamil). It has sublime depths. It is wonderful music.


Masterwork: M.L. Vasanthkumari

M.L. Vasantkumari

Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari (popularly referred to as MLV) (3 July 1928 – 31 October 1990) was a Carnatic musician and playback singer for film songs in many Indian languages. [Full biography here]


Track Listing:

01 Raga Bhairavi (Viriboni)

02 Raga Hamsadhwani (Gam Ganapathey)

03 Raga Suddha Saveri (Daarini Telusukonti)

04 Raga Saveri (Ragam Tanam Pallavi)

05 Raga Chenchurati (Sundara Mooruthi Mukhya Praana)

06 Raga Lalit (Stanzas From The Ashtalakshmi Stotra)

07 Raga Shivaranjani (Ugabhoga & Emanelli Kaananendhu Kela Beda)

08 Ragamalika (Paayum Oli Nee Enakku)

09 Ragamalika In Tamil (Oru Tharam Sharavanabhavaa Enru)

MLVasanthakumari NCPA