The sarod is an unfretted, short-necked Hindustani lute. Often carved from a single block of teak, the sarod is characterized by its wide, metal covered fingerboard and thin parchment soundboard. The instrument is laced with a complex array of melodic, drone, and Chikari strings (Chikari strings are plucked in order to accent melodic phrases and add rhythmic variety). In addition, about another dozen strings, which can be tuned to the scale of the raga being played, pass through the body of the instrument and vibrate sympathetically when other strings are played.
On Homage to Mother Teresa, sarod master Ustad Amjad Ali Khan demonstrates his relaxed mastery over this elaborate instrument in a rendition of "Rag Rageshwari." Collaborating with famed tabla player Zakir Hussain, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan demonstrates his playing prowess through gentle slides in pitch known as meend, fusillades of melodic runs called tans, and just about everything in between. Kicking off this Calcutta concert with a half-hour, non-metered solo section called "Alap-Jor-Jhala," the artist patiently unfolds the harmonic petals of this evening rag. In the duet that follows, the two maestros play off one another while moving through a variety of tempos and rhythmic cycles. Beginning with a slow ten-beat rhythmic cycle, the duo moves into a medium tempo version of the 16-beat cycle "Tintal," following it up with a fast composition in the 14-beat "Ada Chautal." They conclude the performance with a brisk and intricately faceted version of "Tintal." In a word, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Zakir Hussain's version of "Rag Rageshwari" is phenomenal. A tribute worthy of the holiest of saints, Homage to Mother Teresa is a first rate CD that underscores the beauty of the sarod and tabla. It is sure to please Indian music buffs and novices alike.