Ali Akbar Khan

Traditional Music of India [1995]

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Along with Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan stands out as a musician whose work caused America and the West to pay attention to Indian classical in the 1960s. This disc combines two albums from 1965: Traditional Music of India and The Soul of Indian Music, both originally on Prestige. The re-release offers Michael Gold's informative and occasionally hilarious original liner notes as well. Akbar Khan plays the sarod, which is similar to the sitar but with a resonating body at both ends of the strings, and fewer sympathetic strings. He is accompanied by uncredited musicians on the tamboura (a stringed drone instrument) and the tabla (the paired drums with the distinctive hollow sound most commonly associated with Indian music). The remastering is good, revealing a number of music virtues and only a few acoustic defects. Akbar Khan's playing is subtle and beautiful: He bends notes effortlessly and when called upon yanks on the strings with immense force. Each raga builds stealthily from its serene introduction to its dramatic climax. The four ragas are all traditional, so there are no worries about the new age heresies he has been accused of in his later work. Lovers of the form need not hesitate.

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