Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saving America: Raga Darbari and Bansuri

Loyal followers of and visitors to the Washerman’s Dog will have seen the video clip of President Obama and Gov. Romney debating who is better placed to integrate the wonders of Hindustani and Carnatic classical music into the culture and economic life of the United States.  Both candidates expressed an admirable depth of understanding as well as sensitivity to some of the finer points of the Indian classical tradition in their responses. But as is to be expected, the Democrat President emphasised that no economic or social recovery could take place without a true understanding of the raga. In particular he held up Raga Darbari Kanada as being a pinnacle of achievement which needed to be more fully appreciated by Wall Street and Main Street alike.  That he promised $17.5 billion for the promotion of the bansuri (Indian flute) in next year’s budget underscored his seriousness.

The Republican Romney opposed this position, placing priority on the complex taals of Indian percussion as the ultimate saviour of American culture. While he was able to impress the moderator (and himself) with the rapid annunciation of several rhythmic patterns his protestations that his familiarity with a variety of Indian drums fell a bit flat.

It was a fascinating debate, indeed, and after considerable reflection I have come down in the Obama/Democrat/raga camp.  And as evidence of the truth of this position I offer tonight a choice selection of the raga played by North and South Indian flute maestros, as well as several renditions of the wonderful Raga Darbari, but vocally and played on the sarangi.

Here’s to a cultural awakening and economic recovery in the USA!

            Track Listing:
Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia

01 Raga Ahir Bhairav [Hari Prasad Chaurasia] The greatest living proponent of the bansuri, referred to by President Obama in his response, plays the exalted morning raga Ahir Bhairav, one of his personal favorites.

Pt. Ram Chatur Malik

02 Raga Darbari Kanhra - Alap [Pandit Ram Chatur Malik] the Don of Darbhanga Dhrupad, Ram Chatur Malik presents a master class in how to sing this grave raga, played deep into the night. Darbari is considered to be one of the more difficult ragas to master, and with the potential for profound emotional impact.

T.N. Sitram

03 Kalalanerchina - Deepakam [Prapancham T. N.  Sitaram] An ancient Thyagaraja ragam from South India played by the blind flute guru from Chennai.

Ustad Sabri Khan

04 Raga Darbari - Jhala [Ustad Sabri Khan]. Representing the Sainia gharana and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, Ustad Sabri Khan plays a difficult raga on a cantankerous instrument—sarangi.

Pt. Jasraj

05 Raga Darbari [Pandit Jasraj]. One of India’s outstanding vocalists renders the mighty night raga Darbari with style and power. Ustad Zakir Hussain accompanies on tabla so Mitt Romney should be pleased!

06 Raga Bhupal Todi [Hinmanshu Biswas and Dulal Roy] The Bengali duo of Biswas (bansuri) and Roy (jaltarang) wind up the concert with a stunningly artful Raga Bhupal Todi, another morning raga.

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