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Music Review - Quintessential

Dr. Aditya Kasarabada

(This article is sponsored by Sounds Of India)



Tabla: Ustad Sabir Khan, Pt. Mahadev Indorkar, Pt. Sadanand Nayampalli

Released Worldwide by Times Music

Available At :
www.indiaclub.com / 856 224 9310
Shrimathi’s / 510 548 6220

Why do we listen to music? For as long as we have existed, our existence has blossomed into life nourished by subtle expressions that transcend sources of elemental survival. Music is that universal language which transforms subsistence into lively experience. As organisms seek vital sources of nourishment to grow into creatures of unlimited potential, so do we thrive on music to realize the bounties of life.

QUINTESSENTIAL by Pt. Vijay Raghav Rao is an album that opens a door to the variegated pleasures of Indian classical music. It is replete with new pleasures for the purist in us, and it is a shimmering example of the best in its tradition for those of us with diverse, eclectic tastes. Renowned worldwide as one of the greatest flautists ever, Panditji imbues this album with a refined sensibility that rises above the parameters of its own culture, and speaks eloquently of it to everyone, everywhere. After listening to the album, one keeps going back to it - artfully laden as it is with three distinctive Ragas representing emotions as immediate and disparate as romantic love, yearning or blissful meditation.

The liner notes of QUINTESSENTIAL are illuminating. Writing in the first person, Panditji dwells on why he makes music. It allows him to resonate with that ultimate work of art  - life. He sees abiding similarities between music and the principles of creation; between the notes of a Raga, and the genetic code. In words as simple as they are elegant, he defines the notes of each Raga - inasmuch as they might represent a genetic sequence, and the emotions it may generate when performed as stipulated – akin to traits one may inherit as a result of a genetic code. Indeed, QUINTESSENTIAL as an album blossoms into a pulsating, lively work of art with throbbing emotion  on the seemingly logical exposition of such thought.

Notwithstanding artistic motivation, the performances stand by themselves as the best examples of art as entertainment. Raga Jansammohini pulses with surprising permutations of notes that stimulate. A Raga belonging to both the Carnatic and Hindustani traditions, it is fresh and vibrant in its impact. Ustad Sabir Khan adds deft luster with his Tabla. Panditji plays the Raga Maru Behag to plumb its infinite possibilities – lilting cadences span three octaves: now pensive, then exuberant, the performance spans the breadth of emotive appeal. Pt. Mahadev Indorkar paces the exposition with sensitive, understated Tabla accompaniment. The album ends with a meditation-like exposition of the rarely heard Raga Bairagi Bhairav. Panditji’s flute fills the tracks with quiet, majestic resonance, perhaps conveying a sense of union with sublime omnipotence. Pt. Sadanand Nayampalli plays the Tabla understanding more than what meets the ear.

It is not often that connoisseurs of Indian classical music come across an album that satiates our quest for surprise and inventiveness even as it stands as an eloquent statement of the best in its art. QUINTESSENTIAL is one such masterpiece.

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