A monsoon at the South Bank
This live recording of sarod (bass lute) maestro Amjad Ali Khan at the Royal Festival Hall in 2002 gives those who missed it a chance to hear undoubtedly great performances of two very popular ragas, ‘Miyan Ki Malhar’ and ‘Desh’. As Neil Sorrell points out in the informative booklet, both are traditionally evening ragas and so are eminently suited to an evening concert – as well as making a very satisfactory musical pairing.
The real bonus on this disc, apart from Amjad Ali Khan’s intelligent and emotionally engaging exploration of the material, is the use of the pakhawaj alongside the usual tabla accompaniment. This large barrel drum is usually associated with the strict dhrupad tradition but here its deep, powerful tone seems to give a majestic sweep to the performance, especially during ‘Miyan Ki Malhar’. Unusually, the pakhawaj (here played by Fateh Singh Gangani) joins the sarod during the jor section of the raga. This is generally an unaccompanied improvised passage that, in contrast to the alap that precedes it, has a sense of pulse. But the addition of the drum gives it further drive and urgency – it’s an innovation apparently favoured by Amjad Ali Khan’s father.
After the wonderfully austere presentation of the alap-jor-jhala of ‘Miyan Ki Malhar’, the performance of ‘Raga Desh’ has a quite different feel. The gats (compositions) are almost dance-like in places and, again, there is some splendid playing by Fateh Singh Gangani – this time joined by the highly impressive tabla of Rashid Mustafa.
Songlines, August/September 2008