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RAGA JAIJAIVANTI  Asad Ali Khan, rudra vina, with Mohan Shyam Sharma, pakhavaj Nimbus NI 5601 (76 mins)



The world of Indian classical music is easily accessible to enjoyment, even at a superficial level, and no-one should fail to begin to explore it.

Raga Jaijaivanti, to which this CD is devoted, is built around a major diatonic scale, with the sixth avoided in ascent and the seventh flattened in descent (not so different from what happens in our melodic minor). Its leisurely exposition develops through slow alap and jor towards a faster climax. After an unhurried hour of solo vina playing, Asad Ali Khan, said to be the last exponent of an ancient devotional khandarbani dhrupad style, is joined by Mohan Shyam Sharma on the double-headed pakhavaj drum, for a characteristically slow and noble composition in a 14 beat Dhamar cycle.

The rudra vina, belonging to the family of tube zithers developed throughout more than our whole millennium, is less familiar in Indian classical music than the sitar. It is now an endangered species, the last great vina (bin) makers having recently disappeared. Since the 19th Century the vina has had a large flat ivory bridge, seven metallic strings and some 23 frets, often made from the breastbones of vultures! Individual timbres result from subtle balances of tension and response of the strings. Ustad Asad Ali Khan's instrument, with two large gourd resonators, produces a distinctive and, to my ears, very attractive bright, buzzing sound.

Recorded in December 1997, this is one of the latest studio recordings released in the Nimbus Indian Classical Masters series. All are recorded impeccably and presented with loving care. They are supplied with comprehensive illustrated notes about the instruments, the musicians and the music. There are earlier recordings on the rudra vina by the revered Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. I had been privileged to hear him perform with inner calm and concentration in Paris, in the company of a huge, rapt audience; a frail old man soon to die, an unforgettable and moving experience. Zia Mohiuddin Dagar plays a larger instrument, improved to obtain a deeper, mellow tone (Nimbus NI 5276 & 5402). These CDs are recommended unreservedly as offering delight and solace to all with open ears.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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