Wednesday, October 28, 1998

Eastern Classical Exchange

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 1998 at 12:00 AM

The ghazal is a lyric form of poetry. Widespread throughout Arabia, Persia and Turkey, particularly in the 13th and 14th centuries, it derives from an Arabic word for love-making, thus its meaning as "love song" or "love poem." That it's now the name of a musical collaboration between North Indian and Iranian musicians, major improvisers all, is only fitting, since this project proposes a kind of transcultural brotherly love.

North Indian classical music being the more familiar -- to Westerners -- of Ghazal's antecedents, the sounds of the sitar and tabla at first seem to dominate. But the ancient Persian kamancheh, or spike fiddle, haunts the mix throughout, reminding us of the deep historical connection between these two cultures. It also suggests that the historic spread of bowed instruments throughout Asia and Europe carried with it feelings of introspection, joy and devotion -- which appear in early European music, before violin playing lost its quality of gutsy fiddling. Those are certainly the moods on this disc.

Ghazal includes Kayhan Kalhor (Iran) on kamancheh; Shujaat Husain Khan on sitar and vocals; and either Swapan Chaudhuri or Rafiuddin Sabri on tabla; with Ravi Kumar and S.P. Bahlla on percussion (India). They're all wonderfully transfixed players, who fill this recording with a continuous string of revelations. Husain Khan's tender, loving vocals, Kalhor's plaintive fiddle and the sensitive, melodious approach to rhythm of both tabla masters -- these and more bring a sigh of illumined pleasure to the throat.

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