Instrumental gems

Indian classical musicians worship their instruments as if the Goddess of knowledge, music and art, Saraswati, bestowed them to them herself. During the Monterey International Pop Festival of 1967, legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix smashed his guitar all over the stage and later burned it into flames at the finale of his performance. Another guitarist, Pete Townshend, followed suit by breaking his guitar into bits and pieces. In sheer contrast, Pandit Ravi Shankar, who also participated, lifted the sitar to his forehead as a mark of respect for the art and the instrument. Recently, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan was seen weeping when his sarod was damaged during a flight. Herein lies the divinity of Indian classical music.

Bismillah Khan – Raga Kedar (Shehnai) :  Download

Hariprasad Chaurasia – Raga Chandrakauns (Bansuri) :  Download

Amjad Ali Khan – Raga Subhalakshmi (Sarod) :  Download

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt – Raga Gorakh Kalyan (Mohan Veena) :  Download

P.S : In the last song Pandit Ronu Majumdar accompanies Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on the bansuri.

.. more instrumental music »

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A meeting by the river

East-meets-West musical experiments have often been doomed to failure, foiled by good intentions gone haywire. Many a times, attempts at synthesizing Western music’s linear qualities with the more ethereal North Indian classical traditions can result in cultural collision rather than collusion. The lack of worthy precedents is partly what made A Meeting by the River such a remarkable and ear-opening piece of music making.

American composer, musicologist and guitar legend Ry Cooder teams up with North Indian classical musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, creator of the Mohan Veena (an Indian slide guitar), to create an exquisite musical blend, with both musicians playing exceptional slide guitar. Their collaboration evokes musical elements from many cultures and styles. The musical interplay between the two is nothing short of astounding, especially considering that they met for the first time only a few hours before the recording of this album.

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Ry Cooder – A Meeting by the River :  Download

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Ry Cooder – Longing :  Download

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Ry Cooder – Ganges Delta Blues :  Download

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Ry Cooder – Isa Lei :  Download

They are accompanied by a pair of percussionists, Tabla player Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari and Ry Cooder’s own son, Joachim, on Dumbek (a Middle Eastern drum). This recording won a Grammy Award in 1994.

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Sitar, Sarod and all that jazz

In the last 50-60 years, there has been an explosive influence of Indian music, specially instrumental, in the West. Most known, the wonders of the Indian music were spread by famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin in the 1950s and George Harrison of the Beatles in 1960s. The year 1967 saw the growing influence of Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar and Sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Four years later, in 1971, George Harrison organized the ground breaking Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the first charity event of Rock, where an audience of 40,000 Westerners, new to the sounds they heard, applauded after the musicians had finished tuning their instruments. Ravi Shankar had then famously remarked, “Thank you, if you appreciate the tuning so much, I hope you will enjoy the playing more.” Ravi Shankar had already wowed audiences at the Monterey Pop Festival, and he achieved stardom at the Madison Square Garden event.

Ravi Shankar & Ali Akbar Khan – Concert for Bangladesh :  (Download)

Vilayat Khan – Raga Jhinjhoti (Sings as he plays the Sitar) :  (Download)

Later in life, Ravi Shankar was named the ‘Godfather of World Music‘ by George Harrison. In an interview Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan said of Pandit Ravi Shankar, “My greatest admiration for him stems from the fact that, here is a man who had no gharana to talk about. His father was not a musician, his guru’s father was not a musician. On top of that his guru was a sarod player. Look at the odds he beat to become the extraordinary musician he became.” While Pandit Ravi Shankar was winning the hearts of the western audiences, Sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan with his Gayaki-Ang style of Sitar playing, remained the darling of the home crowds.

Shivkumar Sharma & Zakir Hussain – Rageshwari :  (Download)

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt – Maand – Kesariya Balam :  (Download)

This era also witnessed the emergence of Santoor as a mainstream classical instrument, thanks to Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, the slide Guitar taking form of Mohan Veena due to the efforts of Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and the Tabla finally being accepted as a solo instrument due to the genius of Ustad Zakir Hussain. Indian classical instrumental music had finally arrived on the global stage. Globally, Instrumental Hindustani classical music was being accepted more than the Vocal music. The reason attributed for this is that the lyrics of vocal music are incomprehensible to people other than the Indians, hence cannot be appreciated in the true manner.

Teed Rockwell – Bhimpalasi :  (Download)

Ali Akbar Khan & John Handy – Karuna Supreme :  (Download)

A lot of experimentation is being done in instrumental music these days. The latest instrument to enter the world of hindustani classical music is the Touchstyle Fretboard (otherwise called the Chapman Stick), a sort of a slide Guitar, where strings are tapped instead of being plucked. The artist is Teed Rockwell and his new album is Hindustani Ragas. Jazz Saxophonist, John Handy is another instrumentalist who has played a lot with his Indian counterparts.

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