27 January 2010

The Malkauns Identity sounds like a Bollywood thriller. No no...

"It has been said that Malkauns [Scale: C Eb F Ab Bb] is a raga for becoming a complete human being," writes sitarist Amit Chatterjee in the booklet of his Singing String CD (broadcast next week). "Though simple in structure, it expresses the extraordinary state of being, particularly being human, an incarnation where the heavenly and earthly qualities converge."

Kohlberg's stages of moral development
, anyone? Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg suggested individuals pass through six (maybe seven) stages of moral development, from "blind egoism" through to "morality of cosmic orientation". Can music be your guide through these levels of being? And if music affects the individual, it must affect society, right? Somehow, I figure, even the cosmically-oriented retain the foibles and weaknesses of human nature.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 9:30am

1. Raga Koushiki (rec. 1996)
Rash Behari Datta - sitar, unknown - tabla
The Art of the Indian Sitar
ARC Music, EUCD 1384
(I'm pretty sure this is Malkauns, with an added 5th. I've got to listen a little more carefully.)

2. Raga Sampooran Malkauns (rec. 1991)
Kishori Amonkar - voice, Sultan Khan - sarangi, Balkrishna Iyer - tabla
Music Today, CD A-91006
(Malkauns with an added 5th and 2nd. It's a little like stumbling on Bach's solo violin suites for the first time, Hindustani classical vocal: challenging listening for the uninitiated.)

Set #2 - 9:30am - 11:00am

3. Mrdangam solo in adi tala (rec. 1990)
Trichy Sankaran - mrdangam [double-sided drum], Lalitha Sankaran - tanpura, Andrew Timar - finger cymbals
Laya Vinyas: The South Indian Drumming of Trichy Sankaran
Music of the World, MOW120
(Nothing like a lively mrdangam solo to get the sludge moving in one's veins.)

4. Raga Malkauns (rec. 1990)
Ajoy Chakrabarty - voice, Sultan Khan - sarangi, Samar Saha - tabla, Biresh Roy - harmonium, Loveleena Labroo - tanpura
Navras Records, NRCD 0011
(Ajoy Chakrabarty hot-dogs it, demonstrating how pitch changes result in different ragas.)

5. Raga Malkauns
Vijay Raghav Rao - bansuri flute, Alla Rakha - tabla
Ravi Shankar Presents Native Flute Music of India
Legacy International, CD 482
(Malkauns is kinda spooky. The Raga Guide says "superstitious musicians describe it as a raga with supernatural powers, and some believe that it can attract evil spirits". Who said that personal growth was a walk in the park? Tune in next week for Malkauns Part II.)

20 January 2010

You think the Phrygian mode is useless? (Some wag has called it the Friggin' mode, in Western music anyways, with its pathological B-avoidance. See The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.) Well listen up.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 9:30am

1. Raga Bilashkani Todi (rec. 1991)
Rais Khan - sitar, Sultan Khan - sarangi, Sabir Khan - tabla
Together: Rais Khan & Sabir Khan: Sitar & Sarangi
Audiorec Classics, 766032 1032-2
(A jugalbandhi, or duet, described as "one idea speaking through two pairs of hands". Apparently, this is hard to pull off. Basic scale of this morning raga is the Phrygian mode (C Db Eb F G Ab Bb), with 6th and 3rd scale steps the most important pitches. The "mood [is] of delighted adoration in a gentle, loving sentiment".)

2. Raga Bhairavi (rec. 1988)
K. Sridhar - sarod, K. Shivakumar - violin, G. S. Sabri - tabla, Camilla Hale - tanpura
Carol, 2306-2
(Another jugalbandhi. Basic scale of Bhairavi is our old friend, the Phrygian mode, with the flexibility of adding foreign, non-scale passing tones. 4th and 1st scale steps are the most important pitches, but there seems to be some disagreement about this. "Wide range of emotional expression... most suited to expressing the poignancy of separation".)

Set #2 - 9:30am - 11:00am

3. Talavadya Kacceri (rec. 1990)
Trichy Sankaran - konnakkol [voice], mrdangam [double-sided drum] & kanjira [tambourine], Andrew Timar - finger cymbals
Laya Vinyas: The South Indian Drumming of Trichy Sankaran
Music of the World, MOW120

4. Raga Miyan ki Todi (rec. 1994)
Kamalesh Maitra - tabla tarang, Trilok Gurtu - tabla, Laura Patchen - tanpura
Tabla Tarang: Melody on Drums
Smithsonian Folkways, CD SF 40436
(Dig the basic scale of the morning raga Todi: C Db Eb F# G Ab B with flatter than usual Ab, Eb and Db. What do you make of that, two islands of chromatics separated by a big-ish minor third? Again, 6th and 3rd scale steps are the most important, echoing the earlier Bilashkani Todi. Coincidence? Note this extraordinary instrument: the tabla tarang, a set of up to 16 drums arranged in a semi-circle around the performer and tuned to the scale of the raga. If engineering can be beautiful, this recording is beautifully engineered.)

5. Raga Bhairavi (rec. 2008)
Amit Chatterjee - sitar
Fragile Moments
Rageshree Music Institute, CD RMI 114

13 January 2010

All Desh, all the time. I am, in the original sense of the word, an amateur of Hindustani classical music. Others have written more informatively about today’s featured ragas.

The melodic framework of each raga is carefully thought-out. A creative deviation from the rules gets you a related, but entirely different, composition. Today we start in Desh/Desh Malhar (which may or may not be the same raga) and move to Jaijaivanti with lashings of Eb.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 9:30am

1. Raga Desh (rec. 1990)
Amjad Ali Khan - sarod, Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari - tabla, Asawari Pawar - tanpura
Touch of Class
Audiorec Records, ACCD 1009
(Ascent is pentatonic: C D F G B (C). Descent is scalar: C Bb A G F E D C. Lots of legato passages. Playtime: late night.)

2. Raga Desh (rec. 1996)
Snehasish Mozumder - mandolin, Subhem Chatterjee - tabla
Mandolin Dreams: Indian Mandolin & Tabla
Latitudes, LT 50605

3. Raga Desh Malhar
Aashish Khan - sarod
Rainy Season Ragas
Chhanda Dhara, SNCD 70394
(So what exactly is the difference between Desh and Desh Malhar? The latter has a more florid ascent and descent, and plays fast and loose with B-natural/Bb. Playtime: Rainy season.)

Set #2 - 9:30am - 11:00am

4. Raga Jaijaivanti (rec. 1999)
Asad Ali Khan - rudra vina, Mohan Shyam Sharma - pakhavaj [double-sided drum], Zaki Haider - tanpura
Nimbus Records, NI 5601
(Sorry, I misled you: this is an older version of Jaijaivanti with no Eb, but it does share some phrases and other characteristics with Desh. The rudra vina is striking in its low register, resonating with the gonads to an extraordinary degree. This performance is the North Indian equivalent of a late Beethoven string quartet.)

06 January 2010

It's time for another long raga by Ravi Shankar.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 9:00am

1. Ravi Shankar: Raga-Mala (Sitar Concerto No.2) (1979-80)
Ravi Shankar - sitar, Zubin Mehta - conductor, London Philharmonic Orchestra
EMI, CDM 7243 5 67102 2 1
(Raga-mala ("a garland of ragas") begins appropriately with Lalit, the sunrise raga. Sunrise today at 8:26am BTW. Ends with the rainy season raga Mian ki Malhar. Dig the wind, thunder and rain.)

Set #2 - 9:00am - 11:00am

2. Ravi Shankar: Inside the Kremlin (rec. Moscow 1988)
Ravi Shankar's Indian Ensemble, Ashit Desai - conductor; Russian Folk Ensemble "Boyan", A. Polietaev - conductor; Chamber Orchestra of the Moscow Philharmonie, Valentin Jhuk - conductor; Government Chorus of Ministry of Culture of USSR, V. Poliansky - conductor
Ravi Shankar: Inside the Kremlin
Private Music, 2044-2-P
(Indian and Russian musicians, the "meeting of musical people from vastly different cultures." Mixed results, but overall worthwhile.)

3. Raga Hameer (rec. 1979)
Ravi Shankar - sitar, Alla Rakha - tabla, Mrs. Jiban & Mrs. Widya - tanpuras
The Spirit of India: Ravi Shankar Plays Ragas
Deutsche Grammophon, 447 532-2
(Mood: sportive, heroic, associated with thunderstorms and battles. Playtime: Early night. So says Raga Guide.)