Seven Ragas in Seven Talas
The CD: This unique recording introduces seven different ragas (melodic structures) in seven different talas (rhythmic cycles) drawn from the dhrupad tradition of Indian classical music. With each raga, a vocal composition--devotional in nature, and representing the rich synthesis of Hindu and Muslim elements that distinguishes Hindustani classical music (the music of the northern Indian subcontinent)--is sung, accompanied by the surbahar, thus uniting both the vocal and instrumental dimensions of this tradition. This recording is also singular in presenting the nineteen-stringed surbahar (Indian base lute--the solo stringed instrument itself, and a comparative rarity, as the larger and deeper-voiced relative of the sitar) ) in combination with the rhythmic accompaniment of the pakhawaj (Indian barrel drum), the oldest generic classical drum of South Asia. Only a handful of such recordings exist. The seven ragas performed on this recording reflect the stages of the day in a forward progression from pre-dawn to midnight. The Artists: Shubha Sankaran is the only woman actively performing the surbahar on the global concert circuit, and the only artist focusing exclusively on that instrument. She studied instrumental music with Ustad Imrat Khan, vocal music in the khayal style with the late Pandit Shrikant Bakre, the South Indian technique of tanam with Kalaimamani Ranganayaki Rajagopalan, and dhrupad with the Gundecha Brothers. She has performed on surbahar throughout the United States, including at Lincoln Center in New York, and in concert and in radio and television broadcasts in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Australia, Europe, Great Britain, Morocco, Egypt, and Central and South America. In 1994, 2000, and 2006, she was recognized for her surbahar performance by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. She composed the music for the award-winning NPR radio series 'Passages to India,' and the award-winning 1997 BBC documentary, 'Monsoon' (available on CD); she has also been featured on NPR's 'All Things Considered.' Mohan Shyam Sharma is one of the leading percussionists of his generation. He has held the distinguished classification of an A-grade Artist of All India Radio since 1987, and has accompanied the leading practitioners of vocal and instrumental music in the ancient dhrupad style in Europe, Great Britain, the former Soviet Union, Japan and throughout South Asia. He has numerous CD recordings to his credit. The Instruments: The surbahar, a comparatively rare instrument, developed from the oldest stringed instrument of India, the rudra vina (also called the been). The surbahar is characterized by it's deep, rich voice, and has a practical range of three and a half octaves, with a wide neck, thick strings, and a single large, flat gourd. The surbahar has sympathetic strings that help to create the distinctive sound of the instrument, and employs the technique of 'bending' a note by the deflection of one of the playing strings sideways across a fret for a range of up to seven tones. The tonic (Sa) of the surbahar on this recording is equivalent to G# in terms of western absolute pitch. The pakhawaj is the dominant barrel-drum precursor to the more commonly used pair of drums known as tabla. The right side of the pakhawaj is tuned precisely to and resonates with the tonic of the surbahar, while the left side is given an additional ineffable broad-spectrum depth by an appliqué of moist flour paste.