The history of the guitar in India goes back many many years. Perhaps it was the Portuguese who came to India looking for ‘Christians and spices’ in the 15th century who first introduced the instrument into the region. In the early years of the 20th century a Hawaiian guitarist, Ernest Ka’ai, toured India to great acclaim. In his wake that shakey mercurial twang of the guitar made its way into the aural universe of Indian music. It was a sound that lent itself to the popular and light music of the cinema and if you listen carefully to almost any ‘upbeat’ Hindi film song from the 60s onwards, you’ll hear some very accomplished licks.
|Brij Bhushan Kabra|
It wasn’t until Brij Bhushan Kabra, a Rajasthani musician from the blue city of Jodhpur that anyone seriously attempted to play classical music on the Hawaiian guitar. Kabra studied with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the internationally acclaimed sarodiya (sarod player) who encouraged him to innovate with the guitar. Kabra eventually redesigned the instrument, which he plays face up on his lap, by adding some drone and sympathetic strings. He had also raised the guitar bridge and modified the stem to hold more strings.
Many months ago, the Washerman’s Dog highlighted his most famous recording, The Call of the Valley, with bansuri player, Hariprasad Chaurasia and santoor master, Shiv Kumar Sharma. The record is probably the largest selling Indian classical/traditional record in the West and put all three musicians in the international limelight. While recordings by Chaurasia and Kumar are readily available Kabra’s output is harder to find. Tonight’s post is a beautiful, imaginative collection of folk themed-songs that evoke the western deserts of Rajasthan. This 1985 recording is (scratchy, yes, but) simply excellent. His old friend Hariprasad Chaurasia lends a hand on flute as well. EMI India re-issued this record as a CD in 1990, with an added track which does not appear on this original vinyl LP.
01. Badila Bega Aaijo (Lover's Call)
02. Bayeria (The Monsoon Wind)
03. Pinihari (The Water Maid)
04. Holi (Festival of Colours)
05. Charkho (The Wheel of Life)
06. Bidaai (The Departure)