Perhaps you’re not really into Indian classical music. Too interminable. Too obscure. Too boring.
If so, you’re probably not a regular visitor to this blog! 🙂
But hey, here is a bit of something to try.
It is a jugabandi (roughly, but not really accurately translated as ‘duet’) between sitarist Ghulam Hussain Khan and sarangi nawaz Munir Khan.
Ustad Munir Khan (1926-2011) was the son of Ustad Nazir Khan (1882-1975) from whom he learnt both sarangi and vocal music. He was born in Sikar, Rajasthan, and to my knowledge he is the eldest sarangiya of the Sikar gharana who has left solo redordings. His playing was somewhat less strident than that of other well-known Sikar players such as Sultan Khan and Liaqat Khan. He was learnt for some time from Ustad Amir Khan whose influence can be clearly heard, especially in the slowly unfolding barhat of vilambit khayal.
Munir Khan was for decades one of the most in-demand sarangiyas in Delhi, accompanying many great singers including Alladiya Khan, Vilayat Hussain Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Mallikarjun Mansur, Nisar Hussain Khan Ashiq Ali Khan and Amir Khan. Munir Khan‘s younger brother was the highly-respected superb tabla artist Ustad Faiyaz Khan (1934-2014).
The repetoire here are the ragas Bhairavi, Bihag and Shankara. The reason I commend them to those who struggle with Indian classical music is the Khan sahibs run through these as though they were running to catch a bus. The pace is brisk and never slacks. But if they are somewhat unorthodox in speed they remain masterful and enjoyable players. You will find, as I constantly do, wondering how did those 40 minutes pass so quickly. While you may be left with a slight feeling of wanting more, this is a rcord I’m sure you’ll come back to again and again.
Here’s a different sort of jugalbandi. London’s Talvin Singh tabla adventure seeker and Kolkata’s firebrand sitar/zitarist, Niladri Kumar, come together to create a chemical reaction that stimulates and soothes at the same time.
Kumar’s unorthodox approach to the sitar is evident from the opening bars of the opening track when he announces his arrival with a riff worthy of any number of rock anthems but which for some reason brought Layla to mind. Niladri Kumar is of the restless seeking generation of today, in no way inclined to settle down in one groove or gharana or genre. Rock, film scores, fusion jazz as well as proper classical ragas are his calling cards, and to help him in his cause he has transformed the 20 string sitar into a 5 string zitar. Throughout this album you’ll have yourself wondering ‘how did he do that?’ I picked up acoustic guitar and banjo as well as the aforementioned rock swirl.
Talvin Singh needs no introduction at this mature stage of his career. His tabla work defined the Asian Underground sound and his collaborations with everyone from Bjork to Souixie and the Banshees attest to his artistic leanings. He is one of my favorite percussionists. He has not just ‘mastered’ his instrument. Rather his instrument and he are one; indivisibly they explore the lesser known regions of Beauty.
Together is the title of the album and this leads back to the idea of jugalbandi. This is a conversation between intimates. Sometimes in the bright early part of the day and others in the depths of night. Kumar’s sitar/zitar sometimes asks the question and at others Singh’s tabla is poised, ready to filibuster, it seems, until the sun crawls above the horizon.
I apologize for the track ‘Ananta’ which is corrupted and which I noticed too late. But all others on this fine record will give you pause, joy and peace.
In Indian classical music there is sub-genre known as jugalbandi. This is a setting in which two equally accomplished musicians, either on the same or different instruments, play together in a competitive, call and response mode. Each performer is given the opportunity show off his skills as a leader, a creative mind and as a follower. But throughout the performance neither musician is the accompanist. Both are equals and yet neither is the lead. The jugalbandi is to be appreciated for the sangam (confluence) of two sounds and two skill-sets working together to make a unified piece of music. It is a true duet.
Pramod Gaikwad comes from a family of musicians that specialize in the shenai (Indian clarinet). He began study at the age of 7 and within 3 years was performing publicly. He is ranked as Grade A by All India Radio and performs across India and the world.
Milind Tulankar plays the wonderfully melodious jaltarang. Music is made by filling a series of cermaic bowls to various depths and striking the edges with a light wood mallet. Similar in sound to the gamelan of Bali and Java, the instrument has a heavenly smooth and soothing effect.
Tulankar who was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Award in 1999 is considered one of India’s best propents of the jaltarang. In addition to the jaltarang he has studied under the tutelage of sitar maestro, Ustad Shahid Parvez.
In addition to the two key performers the tabla accompaniment is superior as well on this record that I’ve been listening to non-stop of late. I’m not certain when Raga Madhukauns is to be played but this is music for any time (purists, be damned!) Especially a chilly winter afternoon that is darkening and wet.