Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rajasthani Slide Guitar: Kabra and Bhatt

Brijbhushan Kabra

I referred to these two artists in a recent post as being the very early pioneers of Hindustani blues.  Not  many sonic links with southern United States can be discerned in their music. But both men, like the many giants of the American Blues, have mastered the art of playing slide guitar. In this instance an appropriately (to the Hindustani classical musical scale) modified Hawaiian guitar played, like a pedal steel, face up, and resting on the lap.

The Call of the Valley came out in 1967. I remember a thick EMI India vinyl copy appearing in our small family music collection around 1970. I loved it from the first time I heard it. Indian classical music to me was still a mysterious, esoteric and not very interesting world. But this album was something different. It didn't pander to 'pop' or 'western' tastes and maintained its basic classical music integrity. But it was far more accessible than Ravi Shankar. The flute sounded like the ones I heard played by locals in the lonely mountains where I attended boarding school. The record introduced me to the santoor which has, along with the oud,  remained one of my favorite instruments ever since. The third instrument I mistook for a sitar. Only many years later did I learn that it was in fact one of the first mainstream recordings of Brijbhusan Kabra India's slide guitar pioneer.

Call of the Valley has gone on to reach an 'iconic' status. Bob Dylan and other rockers are said to be fans.  The authoritative online font of all musical knowledge, All Music Guide, advises: If the newcomer buys only one Indian classical recording, it should be Call of the Valley.

Track listing
1.  Ahir Bhairav/Nat Bhairav
2. Raga Piloo
3. Bhoop Ghara
4. Raga Des
5 .Raga Pahadi
6. Ghara/Dadra
7. Dhun Mishra Kirwani
8. Bageshwari

Listen Here.

Meeting by the River came out in 1993 and won a Grammy Award.  And indeed, like Call of the Valley, this is a classic.  Vishwamohan Bhatt took the slide guitar of Kabra to the next level by modifying its strings and body (slightly) to create the mohan veena.  Ry Cooder, one of the world's most accomplished and elegant and inquisitive guitarists teamed up with Bhatt to record this amazing duel simpatico.  The four tracks give each guitarist ample opportunity to express themselves and weave an intricate and ornate recital. The final track, Isa Lei is one of the most beautiful pieces of string bending you'll ever hear. Promise.  

Track Listing:
1. Meeting by the River
2. Longing
3. Ganges Delta Blues
4. Isa Lei

Listen HERE.

1 comment:

Apurva Bahadur said...

This is wonderful. Many thanks for sharing Ajnabi. Apurva from Pune, India.