Indian classical music belongs to the masters, the older performers who've spent years becoming virtuosi on their instruments. Rarely is a young performer acknowledged as great (one exception is U. Srinivas, who was acknowledged as a master on mandolin at age 21). Niladri Kumar isn't a master yet, but he's one of the brightest young sitar players in a long time -- in fact he and Anoushka Shankar seem to be the modern leading names on the instrument. Kumar has no name connection to help him, but his talent is eloquent enough on this disc. He tackles the evening raga "Raga Kaunsi Kanada" with delicacy and plenty of thought. His alap, where the musician improvises, works around and through the melody in intriguing ways. He also offers something of an innovation, exploring the idea of harmony, a concept generally missing from Indian music, and this certainly sets him apart from the majority of his peers in an interesting exercise that generally works. Vijay Ghate helps on tablas for some of the raga, and it's obvious that there's a remarkable musical connection between the two. Between the raga and the folk melody that makes up the rest of the disc, Kumar shows a wide range, both technically and emotionally, definitely marking him as a sitar master of the future.
by Chris Nickson