Sunday, April 11, 2010
Ragas From South India (Folkways Records,1967)
Admittedly, my knowledge of Indian music is cursory at best; derived mostly from secondary sources such as LaMonte Young,Terry Riley,Robbie Basho and latter day raga worshippers like Matt Valentine, Jack Rose and James Blackshaw. Sure I've always had a few Ravi Shankar LPs on the shelf but I've yet to dive head long into that vast sea of microtones.
This LP caught my eye the other day as I was shopping at one of my favorite local spots; Permanent Records here in Brooklyn. Ragas From South India's cover stood out as the photograph boasted two Indian musicians in what I believe to be traditional Indian dress and a sunglasses-clad woman who could have easily passed for Moe Tucker as seen on the back of White Light/White Heat.
It turns out the woman is none other than Dorothy Moskowitz, member of Joe Byrd's United States Of America group whose sole album is a crucial document of forward thinking in rock music. Upon reading the extensive notes in the original LP I discovered Ms.Moskowitz was a student of Ragas of South India's featured vocalist and Gottuvaydyam player Gayathri Rajapur and contributes tamboura with Harihar Rao rounding out the ensemble on percussion.Joe Byrd himself contributes to the liner notes with a very accessible basic explanation of the music, players and instrumentation.
With Pandit Pran Nath being the only other Indian vocalist I've listened to with any regularity I can only say the two vocal pieces are less mystical then those of Nath but no less enveloping. Whereas Nath's work strikes me as somewhat foreboding, Rajapur's voice alternates between tender yearning and pure jubilation. As stunning as the vocal ragas are, it is the second side's instrumental ragas that will transport deep listeners into a state of pure bliss. Ragas From South India is an absolutely perfect record for peaceful mornings and reflective evenings.
Ragas of South India (Folkways Records,1967)
1. Varna: Shankaraburana
2. Kruti: Bhairavi Raga
3. Kruti: Hatha Raga
4. Raga Malica With Tilana