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Chords & Notes

This week at Music World...

In Concert Pandit Basavaraj Rajguru

HMV, Rs. 70

PANDIT BASAVARAJ Rajguru, though very well known all over India, has not been as widely recorded as the other famous Hindustani musicians of Karnataka.

"He was a very unassuming man," says disciple Nachiketa Sharma, who now lives in the U.S.. "He didn't think twice before coming on stage and accompanying a very junior artiste like me on the harmonium." (Incidentally, Nachiketa Sharma runs a school in California in memory of his guru.)

Born in Yaliwal near Dharwad, Rajguru first learnt from Pandit Panchakshari Gawai of the Gwalior gharana and then from several masters of the Kirana and Patiala gharana. His music is said to be a blend of three styles. He was honoured with titles like Padmabhushan, and was fabled as a treasure house of an incredible number of compositions. Rajguru died in 1991. Bangalore has an active organisation, Rajguru Smriti, keeping his memory alive.

Lahari has released two Rajguru tapes, one with his vachanas and another with raga Sarang. I hear a small label in Davangere has also released a tape of his raga music. But otherwise, Rajguru has not been as accessible as his contemporaries Bhimsen Joshi and Mallikarjun Mansur. The four-cassette compilation that HMV released some time after his death is nowhere in sight. Is In Concert one of those?

This much is mentioned: HMV acquired this recording from music lover Madhav Nayak Puttur. Apparently, this is not a studio recording, but that in no way reduces the impact of Rajguru's music. The production date is given as 1993, which means it was released posthumously, two years after the maestro's death.

In Concert features three ragas. Side A has the morning raga Bhatiyar. The vilambit ek taal composition "Barani na jaaye" is followed by the drut teen taal composition "Jago jago pyare". Side B begins with raga Alhaiya Bilawal, in which Rajguru again sings a vilambit ek taal composition followed by a drut teen taal composition.

Both these ragas showcase Rajguru's erudite and masterly way with the ragas. He sings in E (white three), a key that is considered too high by most male vocalists. This adds to the high-octane feel of his music.

The shortest piece on the tape, "Ho raja mathura", is set to a rare raga called Jogiya Asavari. This is the highlight of the album, as far as I am concerned. The Lata Mangeshkar favourite "Bhool gaye savariya" is based on raga Jogiya. To that song's gentle sadness add the pining of raga Asavari, and you should get an idea of the magic of this composition. Rajguru's singing is an absolute treat, especially in the way he brings in the Asavari element into his Jogiya passages (the second, third, and seventh notes of the two ragas vary). This is a delicate lament for lost love.

Tunes of the Dunes

Ninaad, Rs.150

THIS TWO-volume offers satisfactorily long, and not truncated, stretches of folk music from Rajasthan. Many "folk" albums take tunes from the folk repertoire and then have professional sessions musicians from the film industry prettifying them into keyboard-tabla songs. Tunes of the Dunes is not one of those albums: it presents the real tones of instruments such as the satara, morchang, kamaycha, and pyaledar sarangi.

The satara is a double-duct flute, where one of the ducts apparently provides the drone while the other plays the melody. The morchang, called Jew's harp in English, is also commonly used in Carnatic music, and what the Rajasthani musicians do with it you can hear on Volume 2 of Tunes of the Dunes. In fact, you can hear less polished but not in the least less pleasing snatches of ragas - such as Khamach and Sindhu Bhairavi - that you hear regularly from classical musicians. The dissonances in fact add hues that ears tuned to classical polish might actually find fascinating.

The musicians on the album are Meharudin Khan, Sakar Khan, Firoz Khan, and Gazi Khan. On your music rack, you can keep this next to the excellent two-volume Folk Music from Rajasthan that Music Today has brought out.


Music Today, Rs. 55

GULZAR AND Vishal Bharadwaj had worked earlier in the film Maachis, which Gulzar had also directed. Ishqa Ishqa, a non-film album with the catchline "Sing with Sufis", brings them together again. This time around, Vishal sets Gulzar's Sufi-inspired poems to music.

Rekha, who sings all eight numbers on the album, seems influenced by Asha Bhosle. As for the orchestra, Vishal uses keyboards, drums and a bass guitar, and they create a texture that brings to mind A.R. Rahman's song "Ramta jogi" from Taal. Not that Vishal is incapable of his own stuff, but he creates that sort of contemporary, popular film feel for these love poems. I liked "Chingari" on Side B and found most of the other tunes predictable. Gulzar's fans may want to pick this up for his poetry.


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