Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of India

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An album attempting to cover the multiplicity of styles available in Indian music. Given the enormity of such a task, it's amazing that Rough Guide managed to compile it into a single album at all. Of course, there are plenty of omissions to be had with such an endeavor, primarily in the folk end of the spectrum. The album starts out with a Bollywood classic, as Asha Bhosle's "Aaj Ki Raat" is taken from the original recordings for Anamika. Later in the album, Carolene performs "Thee Thee," another Bollywood number from the legendary A.R. Rahman with an aesthetic strongly reminiscent of Weather Report in many ways. The carnatic aspects are covered by N. Ravikiran on the chitra vina, as well as the "queen of melody" M.S. Subbulakshmi in a performance from the 1941 film Savithri. Classical Hindusthani music is supplied in quantity by exponents such as Sultan Khan on sarangi and Zakir Hussain on tabla in an adaptation of a Rajasthani folk song, and Kamalesh Maitra on his instrument of choice, the tabla tarang array. Sultan Khan shows up again later in the album in a jugalbandi with sitarist Ustad Rais Khan. The Rajasthani mode played upon by Sultan Khan and Zakir Hussain shows up again in fuller force as the Rajasthani troupe Musafir performs a rather noisy, but rather more authentic Rajasthani folk song toward the end of the album. Brass instruments abound in the transplanted tradition of off-key brass playing that's taken the world by storm since the Ottoman Empire's days, and is shown to its most jubilant, if almost cacophonous end in the work of Dharat Brass, and then to its most refined in the next track as Kadri Gopalnath uses the saxophone to adapt a classic carnatic kriti to a new instrument. Along the lines of innovation, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt provides a number on his namesake instrument, the Mohan vina: a Spanish guitar slowly transformed over time into a fully Indian instrument, but with the ability to make short runs in a Spanish method as desired. Also innovative is the Baul love song, performed here by Subhendu Das Bapi and Baul Bishwa. The song and instrumentation are purely traditional, but the manner of rhythm accompaniment is a step toward the European house/club scene, as performed to excellence manually on Indian percussion. While a few of the notable names in Hindusthani classical music are absent, there isn't really room for them with the multitude of other acts that are present on the album. For an overview of the multitude of styles available in the wide, wide spectrum of Indian music, this album makes an excellent step in the right direction for newcomers and those wishing to make good additions to their existing collections.

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