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

PJPHPCUZK

Traditional Maestro: Girija Devi

Girija Devi

Girija Devi

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 several bandishes and thumri.

Girija Devi’s khyal repertoire is centered around popular ragas and she expounds these ragas with detailed attention to the subtleties of the raga grammar. Her light classical renditions follow the same approach. Despite having the license to explore and improvise her thumris and tappas are firmly grounded on the traditional style of raga development. The melodic progression in her light classical pieces is akin to the alap in a khyal, with clearly defined sthayi and antara sections, within which she weaves a brilliant interplay of poetic, melodic . and rhythmic elements. In her renditions of tappas—a fast paced genre of semi classical music—despite the total architectural freedom available in the genre, she adopts a steady ascent and progression. Graceful melodic contours enhanced by elongated notes (meend) are used to communicate the musical essense of the piece.

Girija Devi was decorated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1978, the Padma Shri in 1973 and the Padma Bhushan in 1989. She has served a long stint as a guru at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata and continues to guide students even today. (liner notes)

0886443340770_600

Track Listing:

01 Khyal in Raga Bilaskhani [Teental]

02 Hori in Raga Mishra Kafi [Deepchandi taal]

03 Chaiti in Raga Kalingada Mishra [Addha Taal]

04 Bandish Thumri in Raga Bhairavi [Teental]

05 Tappa in Raga Bhairavi [Addha Taal]

G…D…

Jewel of India: Ustad Bismillah Khan

 

Ustad Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan though no longer among us , continues to hold a position of rare stature and respect among music lovers in South Asia and across the world. The honors bestowed upon him are also rare. One of only three musicians to be awarded the highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, by the government of India (the other two: Ravi Shankar and M.S. Subbalakhsmi). When he and the country were very young, he was invited to play his shehnai, at the Red Fort to mark the occasion of Independence from Britain. He maintained this honour for decades, delighting fans each August 15 with a live concert, broadcast throughout the country.

Born into a family of court musicians in Bihar Bismillah Khan nearly single handedly transformed the Indian oboe, shehnai, from a folk and ceremonial instrument into a full fledged member of the Hindustani classical orchestra. During his career he travelled far and wide promoting not just the shehnai, or Indian classical music, but inter-communal harmony and the transcendency of music generally.   In 1986 I had the pleasure to hear him in a concert in Lahore’s Alhamra Art Center, a concert I will never forge

The wonderful album we share today is from a performance in the UK. It is simply intoxicating in its beauty and completeness and balance between shehnai and accompanists.

Bismillah Khan Bismillah Khan_0001

Track Listing:

01 Raga Shuddh Kalyan [Alap]

02 Raga Shuddh Kalyan  [Gat in Vilambit Ektaal]

03 Raga Shuddh Kalyan  [Drut Teental]

04 Raga Shankara [Alap]

05 Raga Shankara  [Gat in Ektal]

U B K

Voice in Paradise: Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar

Dear readers and friends,

I find myself in Suva the capital of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. Business has been the reason but the weather has been absolutely stunning. Clear blue skies, sparkling and bobbing bougainvillea of all hues, glimmering seas lapping against green mountains and temperatures that never dare reach above 24C.

While I am heading home to my family tomorrow morning early, I find I do not want to leave, for this is truly a little bit of Paradise.   Alas…

The only singer who can match the beauty of this place at this moment in time is the wondrous Kishori Amonkar.  I’ve raved about her voice (as have many many others) in other places and so will not repeat those things.  And indeed, a voice and vision such as this is not enhanced by flowery words. Rather one needs but silence and letting go to feel the full force of her genius.

Bula!

cover

Track Listing:

01 Raga Bhoop – Khayal Vilambit Teentaal – Prathama Sur Saadhe

02 Raga Bhoop – Khayal Drut Teentaal – Jabse Tumeesana Laagalee

03 Raga Binna ShadJa – Khayal Vilambit Teentaal – Odd Jaa Re Kaagaa & Drut Teentaal – Anganaa More Aajaa

+++

Hindustan Echoes: Ashraf Sharif Khan Poonchwala

Chitral

Chitral

It begins with a river.

 

From high peaks in Afghanistan and Tibet two river, one blue and majestic, the other the colour of grey mud, snake their way down to the plains of Punjab. At a small town known today as Attock these two rivers, twisting and churning, crash together.  For some time they run side by side like hurt lovers, rubbing shoulders yet keeping a safe distance.  With each bend one jostles the other, pushing and testing the limits but not wanting to give in return.  The conflict continues for long stretches, each struggling for dominance, but in the end the one destroys the other.  The water falls quiet and swoops grandly over the plan, moving with purpose toward the ocean. From the clash of these two mountain torrents a new and truly great river is created.

 

The Indus River that is born in such violence is the mighty waterway that gave rise to an ancient civilisation more than four thousand years ago in the fertile lands of what is now western India and southern Pakistan.  Indian civilisation is not the oldest on earth. Sophisticated human settlements have been found in Egypt and Mesopotamia that pre-date those of the Indus Valley.  But for long centuries these civilisations disappeared from the scene and when they re-emerged they were something new and different.  The cultural accomplishments of their earlier incarnations were forgotten until rediscovered in modern times.  The civilisation that developed in the watershed of the Indus River, however, is the most continuous culture humans have ever known. Not only the roots of what has become Hinduism but much of what the world identifies as distinctly ‘Indian’ are clearly traceable through the millennia to the great Indus Valley cities of Harappa and Moenjendaro (now in Pakistan).

 

Continuity does not imply stagnation or uniformity. The culture of the sub continent has changed almost continuously and is mixed up with the ways, philosophies and languages of all the neighbouring regions; each raider bringing in his saddlebag something to leave behind, each mass migration of people adding a new layer of complexity.

 

The lands watered by this river came to be referred to in ancient Sanskrit texts as Sindhu.  Persians who much later colonised what now Pakistan called this country Hindush, exchanging the ‘s’ for a softer ‘h’.  Greek geographers, borrowing from the Persians, spoke of a river called the Indos and called the country through which it flowed, India.  Arabs knew of a place where the people worshipped a plethora of gods; they called this place Hind and its inhabitants Hindus.  By the 10th century, when Central Asian chieftains began to turn their attention and armies to the task of taking possession of the land fabled for its treasures and exotic ways, the country was known as Hindustan.

 

And from that land has sprung many beautiful gardens of culture and art, among the foremost, being Hindustani music.  Ashraf Sharif Khan Poonchwala, the son of Ustad Mohammad Sharif Khan Poonchwala is in the line of exceptional musicians who have cherished the music and understood with the ear of the soul, as well as the ear of the body, what these beautiful melodies and compositions are trying to say to us.  He is the ninth generation of his family’s musical maestros.  South Asian (Hindustani) classical music is the result of a unique synthesis of Hindu and Muslim traditions transcending the distinctions of caste, creed, religion and language.  Music, and this music, is one of the ways through the present difficulties.  With full honour and appreciation that this is a distinctive voice from a particular culture with the full flavour of its homeland, the music is rooted so deeply, it is able to grow high and wide and become a universal experience as well. (Liner notes).

IMG_0375

IMG_0374

Track Listing:

01 Gujri Todi

02 Jai Jai Vanti

03 Marva

04 Bhopali

05 Pilu

06 Bhairavi

****