Jugalbandi for a New Time: Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar

Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar

Talvin Singh and Niladri Kumar

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.


Track Listing:

01 River

02 Pink

03 Mirror

04 Ananta

05 Together

06 Jogi

07 Play

08 The Bliss

09 Threads

10 Joy



A Battle of Equals: Jugalbandi

Battle of Kurukhestra

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.


Track Listing:

01. Madhuvanti – Bandish – Teentaal

02. Madhukauns – Bandish – Teentaal

03. Dhun Dahra

04. Durga – Madhyalaya – Jhaptaal

05. Dhun Bhairavi