Various Artists

North India: Instrumental Music - Sitar, Flute, Sarangi

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The five volumes in this Unesco-sponsored series are devoted to the concepts of modal music and improvisation as applied in various nations around the globe. Naturally there should be more than a pit stop in India, where the tradition of classical music composition and improvisation based on modes is like a culture unto itself, one that was able to reach halfway around the world and insert itself into horrible pop songs such as B.J. Thomas' "Hooked on a Feeling." Other types of international modal music had to wait until decades later to become part of American pop consciousness via rap and techno sampling. Of course, such affected use of world music has its immediate limitations, the main one being the complete lack of the kind of musical power that a full performance contains. By devoting a record each to vocal and instrumental music from the north of India, the label guaranteed that the ragas included would not have to be abbreviated, something that might have been terrible. This album is a good place to start for the novice in Indian classical music and an especially fine alternative to just picking up another disc by one of the world-famous Indian recording artists. Three different instruments are represented, so there is flute and the exquisite sarangi as well as the sitar that B.J. Thomas, the Fab Four, Donovan, and so many other pop artists liked so much. And of course there are the drummers, the real muscle of Indian music. Nizamuddin Khan and Kedernath Batt are the two featured tabla drummers, the latter man supporting the efforts of sarangi player Nazir Ahmad as well as the twin flute concoctions of Bhola Nath and Niranjan Prasad. It is the sound of these flutes and "Raga Puriya Kalyan, Ekatala, Tintala" that might just be the highlight of this cooking set, since the sound of the Indian flute in the right hands is about as good as it gets musically. But those seeking more driving sounds will enjoy the interplay between sitarist Ghulam Hussain Khan and his partners, full of rapidly executed rhythmic combinations and fluttering phraseology.

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