Sunday, June 7, 2009

Musical Migrations─Music of India, priceless gems from KUSP's LP archives

My friend and colleague Gypsy Flores asked me to fill in for her on Saturday to do her world music radio show Musical Migrations, KUSP FM, Santa Cruz. Gypsy is leaving the area, and we wish her well. She and her great show will be greatly missed.

The playlist for Saturday's show is here, and can currently be heard on demand via The KUSP Music Show Player in the Global category. It will only be available till next Saturday (June 13, 2009).

I started with a duet between Ry Cooder, playing bottleneck guitar, and V.M. Bhatt on vina, a plucked string instrument of India, from an album called A Meeting by the River.

This led me to mine KUSP's dusty LP archives in search of my old classical Indian favorites from when I hosted the world music shows, Ringing True and Sound in Time in the early 80s.

Hariprasad Chaurasia, classical bamboo flute master

In fact, Hariprasad Chaurasia's performance of "Raga Madhuvanti" was something of an epiphany for me. It was playing on the radio (KUSP, of course) once while I was sleeping and the serene heavenly sounds entered my dreams: that was the beginning of my deep appreciation of non-Western music.

I followed Raga Madhuvanti with an ethereal duet by vocalists Lakshmi Shankar and Nirmala Devi.

Lakshmi Shankar and Nirmala Devi
I found a teeny-tiny image
of their album on Odeon
titled "Sawan Beeta Jaye"


A few minutes into the song, a persistent mondegreen in the Hindi text takes shape in my brain as "I've got a gold chain." Listen for it!

More Indian flute follows, this time played by Himangshu Biswas, in duet (jugalbandhi) with Dulal Roy playing jaltrang, literally "waves of water", an instrument comprised of tuned water bowls hit with wooden sticks.

Milind Tulankar demonstrates the Jaltrang

I wanted to present Indian music on a wide variety of instruments, and I soon realized I could easily fill the whole two hours this way. My next selection was another jugalbandhi, this time for violin, played by Professor V.G. Jog, and shehnai, played by its foremost exponent, Bismillah Khan. The shehnai is a reed instrument with a sound very similar to the renaissance shawm.

Next, Pandit Kamalesh Maitra performs Raag Deen Todi on the tabla tarang, several tuned drums arranged in a circle like the jaltarang.

Pandit Kamalesh Maitra playing tabla tarang,
tuned and arranged in a rag scale.

Himangshu Biswas, whom we heard earlier playing the bamboo flute, performs an untitled dhun on the santoor, distant ancestor of the hammered dulcimer, produces a shimmering sound.

Santoor players, with stand or without

Next, South Indian saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath delivers a vigorous rendtion of "Anathudanu Ganu─Raga─Singla".

I ended the show with a few vocal selections from the 4-disc An Anthology of South Indian Classical Music, including to brief invocations to Lord Ganesha and the Goddess Saraswati.

LP's sporting the Odeon label and the Nipper the Dog logo of His Master's Voice provided much of the material for the show . Bulky and dusty, it is sad to see vinyl treasures suffer neglect and destruction these days, so kudos to KUSP to hanging on to much of its LP collection. There are many rewards for those who take the time to dig through them.

After 1945, Direct EMI—His Master's Voice exports to the USA,
where the HMV label was owned by RCA Victor Records,
bore pasted-over Odeon stickers.

His Master's Voice is a famous trademark in the music business,
and for many years was the name of a large record label.
The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting
of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone.
In the original painting, the dog was listening to a cylinder phonograph.

I hope you enjoy the show!

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