Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In review--Veena is Queen

Jayanthi Kumaresh
Mysterious Duality Just Me

I first heard veena player Jayanthi Kumaresh perform on collaborative recordings on Sense World Music in 2007. On rare occasions I heard classical Indian music from South India and even more rare that I heard veena recordings. In many ways, the veena resembles the sitar of North India’s classical music tradition, but the veena’s tones sound warmer and resonate deeper than a sitar. On her solo recording Mysterious Duality (Just Me), Kumaresh layers several veenas, up to 7 overdubs on the 4 tracks that appear on the recording. I thought I read somewhere that she performed on 12 veenas for this recording, but now that I look for that information I’m unable to find it.

In the press notes, Kumaresh reflects about how she wanted to bring out the nuances of the veena. “The pieces that emerged once Jayanthi found her footing move from contemplative layered arpeggios to energetic, complex melodies, from percussive grooves to dancing with shimmering tones.” I think the press notes describe the listening experience better than I can. First, I know so little about this wonderful instrument and second, I’ve never heard a recording like this one ever. I don’t even know if any recordings like this one exist.

The title track provides a full spectrum sound with deep bass resonating throughout. I find the contemporary Indian sound appealing. Strings With No Ends provides lovely textures and rich timbre and at times sounds like a band of veenas. I think the “energetic” mentioned in the liner notes derives from listening to this piece. Wandering In Dimensions moves at a slower pace while emphasizing lower tones. The veena sounds like an Indian slide guitar at times or two guitars in conversation. Again we have rich bass overtones and we are left with a powerful ending. Finally, Waiting at Dusk possesses a feminine quality, sounding like a sitar at times. I find that this song has the most pleasant melody of the 4 songs and it’s relaxing.

Mysterious Duality is going to sound bold and pioneering to a lot of listeners, even experts of classical Indian music. I applaud Kumaresh for following her instincts and allowing herself to get lost in this musical experience. I’m certain that it was one of those journeys a musician never forgets. and

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