Master Kanaiyalal

Singapore: Raga Mood

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This album of violin and tabla duets presents an enticement to learn more about the Singapore music scene. On the surface this seems like a classical Indian session, and indeed the music is based on theories at least superficially similar to classical Indian raga, in that there are set scales that provide the mood as well as technical backbone for the instrumentalist's variations. However, the music of the skilled players featured here also seems influenced by American free jazz of the John Coltrane school, although his music was so highly influenced by Indian classical music that the result is a highway upon which it is hard to determine which cars are coming and which are going. A friendly female voice announces each raga, and there is usually a brief setup of the piece's scale or mode involving some kind of electric keyboard. Then the players tend to launch into themes and variations, tending to start at a level of intensity and speed which Indian classical players tend to reach after about ten minutes of building up momentum. "Raag Pahadi," in particular, has a short pentatonic theme that wouldn't be out of place on a record by Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, or Noah Howard. The violinist continually returns to this theme after each short variation is completed. He plays with beautiful tone and has a sly way of continually reinventing his sound. The tabla player keeps things moving along with a sense of time that is more swinging and propulsive than usual for this type of music.

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