Tarun Bhattacharya

Raga Basant Mukhari

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The featured instrument on this album is the santur, which is a kind of hammer dulcimer of Islamic origin. In Muslim countries it has long been a classical instrument, but in India it only recently made the transition. Although it has the drama of the European cimbalon, in Tarun Bhattacharya's hands, at least, it has none of the harshness of timbre of the Western instrument. In fact, Bhattacharya coaxes from the santur an unbelievable variety of strokes, trills, arpeggios, bent notes, and runs. Instrumental voice is a matter of taste, of course, but the sounds on this album are far more amenable than the sound of India's traditional classical instrument, the sitar.

Bhattacharya plays two ragas on the disc. The first (about 67 minutes) is "Raga Busant Mukhari." Perhaps it's due to Bhattacharya's outstanding technique (complemented in the second and third movements by Bikram Ghosh's wonderful tabla work), but the raga is riveting almost throughout.

The second piece, "Raga Mishra Todi," at nine minutes, is clearly filler (and very generous filler at that, since it makes for a total of 76 minutes). It is a miniature gem, complete and sparkling. This is a wonder-disc and both beginners and advanced collectors should rush out and get it.

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