Classical Super Group: Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Ustad Zakir Hussain

suprgroup

This is about as ‘super’ a ‘super group’ you can conjure. Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Ustad Zakir Hussain, on the same stage at the same night, creating magic that is simply unbelievable.

Opening with the popular melodious raga Bihag, especially popular in north India and even more especially by Bengali artists, Pandit Jasraj enraptures the concert hall from the opening note. His voice flows effortlessly, like the Saraswati River, only above ground and very real. There is no rush here. The simple unfolding of the mystery with Ustad Zakir Hussain sahib turning his drums into a sonic annotation. Each of Panditji’s syllable’s is met with a beat (so understated, so intuitive, so suggestive) that seems preordained.

After the opening raga and a bhajan interlude, this dynamic duo is joined by the bansuri maestro from Allahabad, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia. Again, as you’d expect from such All-Star artistes, his contribution is nothing short of elegant. The runs on the bamboo flute are mellow and heavenly, leading and darting between the singer’s words, often times leaving Jasraj himself breathless.

This is volume 1 or a double CD set which we send your way with all good blessings and wishes for the end of 2014!

Jasraj Chaurasia Hussain Jasraj Chaurasia Hussain_0001

Jasraj Chaurasia Hussain_0002

Track Listing:

  1. Raga Bihag (pt 1)
  2. Raga Bihag (pt 2)
  3. Bhajan Kafi
  4. Raga Bhairav

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Good News Story: Afghan Star

A contestant on Afghan Star

A contestant on Afghan Star

After 30 years of war and Taliban rule pop culture has returned to Afghanistan. Afghan Star-a music TV talent show- is searching the country for the next generation of music stars. Over 2000 people are auditioning and even three women have come forward to try their luck. The organizers, Tolo TV,  believe with this program they can ‘move people from guns to music’.

 

But in a troubled country like Afghanistan, even music is controversial. Considered sacrilegious by the mujhaideen and outright banned by the Taliban (1996-2001), music has come to symbolize freedom for the youth. While the conflict still ranges many of those taking part are literally risking their lives.

 

But the old guard warlords and religious elite have more to worry about than music. Millions of people watch the show (11 million watched the final–a third of the country) and vote by SMS for their cell phone for their favourite singers. For many, this is the first time they have encountered democracy: one man or one woman equals one vote.

 

This is a highly radical idea in a country that is still essentially based on a male dominated tribal elder system. For the first time young people, ethnic minorities and women have an arena in which to shine, and at last, to vote for who they want. (Liner Notes)

 

The award winning documentary Afghan Star is an unapologetic ‘good news’ story. Just what the West wants and needs to see when they look wearily upon a seeming never ending conflict that has defied every ‘idea’  and peace initiative thrown at it. Which is not to say that the filmmakers are starry-eyed and seeing things that don’t really exist.  Music has a long and deep history in Afghanistan; many Indian instruments were styled upon those brought into the country by Afghans and in more recent times most Afghan singers have received training from Indian ustads.    And so it is indeed worth celebrating a nation’s rediscovery of a part of its soul.

 

What is really nice about the music that came out of the show and film is that it is not the music of Afghanistan’s diaspora.  In the war torn decades of the 80s, 90s and 00s, almost all of the country’s musical artists fled the country and live in exile in Europe, North America and Iran.  The huge diaspora provides them with a strong and appreciative audience.  Afghan Star turns the spotlight on entirely local artists, Afghanistan born and raised. Perhaps the furthest overseas they’ve been are the refugee camps of Pakistan or the desert cities of Iran.   Coming from all the regions of the country, Herat in the west, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, Bamiyan in the center and of course, Kabul,  these young aspiring pop stars are fresh and unpretentious. Their excitement and joy is palpable. And yes, inspiring.

Setara Afghan

The music is high quality too. Afghans seem to sing with an earthy tone, somewhat broad  and open.  The arrangements are a tasteful mix of western and Afghan instruments–trumpets and rubabs; guitars as well as harmoniums.

 

I’ve not watched the full film yet, but will do so. In the meantime, this soundtrack is making me very happy. I hope it does the same for you.

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Track Listing:

 

01 Chashem Ba Rahat Dil Ba Yadat

02 Amelaket Ba Gardan

03 Police

04 Zim Zim Zim

05 Choon Darakhte Farwardin

06 Baaz Aamady Al Jaane Man

07 Laila

08 Sang Baaraanam Makun

09 I Used To Love You

10 Meeting

11 Yaar Bewafa

12 Homecoming

13 Mata Chal Ne Raze

14 Sabza Ba Naaz Mea Ayad

15 Alah Alah

 

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