Mohammed Sharif Khan

Anthology of World Music: Pakistan I

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The venerable Mohammad Sharif Khan here performs a few pieces on the sitar. While the album claims to be showcasing the music of Pakistan, the music performed here is really North Indian classical at its essence. Then again, much Pakistani classical music is of course the same as Indian, the only distinctions being political ones. Khan hails from the Poochwala gharana (in Pakistan, of course), which brings some slight differences into play between his playing style and that of other performers. These differences aren't really so noticeable as one might imagine, but they're there nonetheless. Khan starts out with the early-morning "Raga Nur Ghara," a mixture of ragas "Asavari" and "Bhairavi." The highlight here is in the gat portion of the raga, where he goes on an outstanding virtuosic run for some time through the scales. After this, he moves to the late-night "Raga Darbari," rather a more exploratory style being taken on as he moves through the notes of the mode more carefully. There's still some play and speed here and there, but it's taken in spurts between more careful passages. Taking a more Pakistani-specific course with the program, the final track is an improvisation on sitar of Punjabi folk themes. "Mahaja" and "Hirr" are explored in much the same way as the classical pieces, but with a more emotional approach -- a bit less technical. It's somewhat striking music, with some outstanding skill applied to what would usually be presented as a peasant folk song. For the musicality of Khan alone, this album is worth hearing. As a representative of the music of Pakistan, it leaves a good deal of ground uncovered. Nonetheless, it's a worthwhile listen for Indian music fans and curious newcomers alike, to see the parallel development of the art form end up in such similar form after the political enmities between the countries.