Friday, July 27, 2007

Sublime Music from the Subcontinent

Josh--Shahid Parvez & Shashank
Sense World Music

While I have not read much research into the healing effects of classical Indian music, I would imagine that this music goes along ways in connecting both sides of the brain. On one side you have the rhythm cycles, the improvisation, and the mathematical architecture. And on the other side, spirituality, beauty, and other worldliness comes into play. It's the perfect marriage between the Hindu deities, Shiva and Shakti or the feminine and the masculine sides of the human psyche.

Other healing aspects that I can personally attest to, is that listening to classical Indian music heals problems with short attention spans. Listening to each piece from the slow and elaborate Alap section to the climatic moments which come later in the Gat (composition), section where musicians are free to improvise, teaches listeners how to focus on the moment. Then add the sensuality of the exotic instruments, the playfulness between musicians, the beauty of rapid notes alternating with free falling notes, I am surprised that more people in the West have not become fans of Indian classical music.

Today, I took a good listen to the youthful ensemble, Josh, Hindustani classical sitarist Shahid Parvez and Carnatic flutist Shashank's latest self-titled live recording on Sense World Music. I was feeling fatigue and did not even feel like crawling out of bed. So I just listened to the double disc album and an hour or so later, the fatigue had nearly faded. I thought this might happen because classical Indian music often starts out slow and dreamy as the music unfolds then gradually builds up speed and dynamics. So my heartbeat entrained to the quickening beats and I guess my blood started moving and soon I wasn't feeling too tired to get out of bed. I actually felt exhilarated listening to this sublime music.

But let's get to the actual recording which combines Indian classical traditions from Northern and Southern India, features young virtuosic musicians who have mastered and created their own techniques on their instruments. The recital which you hear on the CD is live, spontaneous and improvised as well as, performed by instinctual musicians that virtually read each other's minds. Top that off with Sukhvinder Singh on tabla and Patri Satish Kumar on Mridangam who you hear on disc #2 and who further cement the bond between the two musical traditions.

Josh marks the second recording I have heard by this ensemble and both recordings prove to be peak musical listening experiences. The liner notes call the recording of the North and the South coming together as a milestone. I believe that Josh is a milestone in other ways too, with its marriage between aquatic flute (sounds like its coming from underwater), and terrestrial sitar, finally anchored by drums from two traditions. For those seeking music where heaven and earth intersect, pick up this recording. It might just be a remedy for fatigue and lethargy. And in general listen to Indian classical ragas next time you feel fatigue. The drum duet on this recording alone, will get you up and running.

Sense World Music

Also see Cranky Crow Whole Music, "Music of India"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Songs for The Beloved: Qawwali Music

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Sufi Qawwalis
Arc Music

(Review from Cranky Crow Whole Music)

I doubt Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan needs an introduction to anyone viewing this site since this late Sufi master vocalist garnered acclaim in South Asia as well as, other corners of the world. His transcendental vocals have appeared on the soundtracks of Bollywood and Hollywood features and he performed his Sufi traditional concerts to spellbound audiences worldwide. Just listening to the four tracks on Sufi Qawwalis, Love Song, Naat-e-Sharif, Song of Praise and Traditional Qawwali will send your spirit soaring to great heights. You don't need to meditate or do anything beyond slipping this disc into your stereo.

Hailing from a long lineage of practitioners of qawwali (the Indo-Pakistan version of Sufi music which traveled to the subcontinent in the 13th Century and was transformed by the Sufi poet and composer, Hazrat Amir Khusrau), Nusrat was poised for success. And yet, similar to Hindustani sitarist, Ravi Shankar, Nusrat strayed from classical music concert halls and sacred venues to loan his vocal talents to mainstream projects. I did raise an eyebrow when I saw that Nusrat donated his talents to the soundtrack for Natural Born Killers, (it's hardly a spiritual film).. I guess what matters in the end is that Nusrat was able to bring Sufi consciousness to the world at large.

This recording offers its listeners ecstacy as they too connect to The Beloved, The Divine, God, Goddess... May Nusfrat Fateh Ali Khan's spirit live on.

Arc Music
Visit Cranky Crow's Mediation RoOM