Brij Bhushan Kabra

Indian Slide Guitar: Raga Puriya Alap

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This superior raga performance has already gone through several reissues, more because of the sketchy nature of the original label's licensing deals than the overwhelming brilliance of the recording. Yet such quality is certainly there in this extended performance by an artist who was quite young at the time of recording, but nonetheless was able to create a commanding, intensely concentrated raga of slightly under an hour's length, music that will fill a room with its presence as if it was incense smoke from a Byzantine mass. Part of the album's original appeal was as an early example of the Western discovery of slide guitar in Indian classical music, a shoe that fit quite well in the sense that avid listeners of the former style in the west were quite often big fans of slide guitar music as well. The difference between the American country blues slide guitar style or the Hawaiian model with the work of Kabra is vast, however, musically and philosophically speaking the equivalent of an ocean voyage from Maui to Calcutta -- and back. Something of the smoothness of Hawaiian music is achieved by similar playing of the guitar in a flat position on the lap, meaning that the slide is reinforced by gravitational push, rather than nervously shaking at the side of the strings. This shaking, shimmering, sometimes even rattling, but always audible sound of the slide itself might be an important part of American blues slide guitar, as some players will argue that the sound of the slide is more important even than the notes played. The direct opposite is the case in Indian music, where one doesn't seem to detect the slide at all. What one hears is the actual pitches, articulated with a precision that is necessary and vital to the Indian modal systems; with deep listening, one will hear important differences in the articulation of individual pitches depending on their place in an ascending or descending pattern. This is just one of many fascinating details of the music, but is not mentioned in order to create an intimidating sense of technical complexity. Like brush strokes on the canvas of a master painter, these are details that can be sensed intuitively, as part of the total package of balm waiting to be smeared on the listener's forehead courtesy of this production. The slide is also used to create a portmento or sliding effect sometimes involving a half a dozen or more distinct pitches or raga tones. Marvelous from beginning to end, Indian Slide Guitar: Raga Puriya Alap is a wise choice for seasoned listeners as well as newcomers to the world of classical Indian music.

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