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“.
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.
A reader contacted me recently to request a refreshed link to an album by the iconic kings of Pakistani qawwali, the Sabri Brothers. This album and write-up was posted 6 years ago but for those of you have missed it I highly recommend you download this music. It’s one of the brothers best.
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]
Born in 1929, Girija Devi is a living legend, and one of the few remaining maestros of the Purab ang gayaki tradition of the Benaras gharana. Although renown and revered as the Queen of Thumri, she is equally at home with the traditional 18th century style of classical khyal singing as well as the poetic semi-classical styles like thumri, dadra, tappa, kajri and chaiti.
It was her father Ramdev Rai who inculcated a deep love of classical music in his daughter. At the tender age of 5 Girija Devi began taking music lessons from teachers like sarangi player Pt. Sarju Prasad and Pt. Srichand Misra. Girija Devi’s very first music recital took place in 1949 at the Allahabad branch of All India Radio. Her brilliant renderings of light classical music went on to capture audiences’ hearts worldwide. Girija Devi is also an accomplished composer, and has composed…