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Music Review: Ragas From Dusk

Shuchita Rao

(This article is sponsored by Sounds Of India)

Ragas from Dusk – Hindustani Classical CD

Boston based soprano saxophonist Phil Scarff has released a new audio CD entitled “Ragas from Dusk” featuring Hindustani ragas Puriya, Bihag, Jaijaiwanti and Bhairavi. In addition to the classical ragas, a rhythmic song from the legendary shehnai player Ustad Bismilah Khan's repertoire adds a lilting, folk touch to the overall presentation. Bhushan Parchure, disciple of late Ustad Alla Rakha and Zakir Hussain provides wonderful tabla accompaniment. The disc was recorded while Phil Scarff toured India; some tracks were recorded in a studio while others are from live performances in Kolhapur and Miraj.

The CD opens with a slow and evocative opening alaap in Raag Puriya followed by a composition set to medium tempo 16 beat cycle teentaal. The listener is immediately reminded of the traditional composition”Main tho kar aayi piya sung rung ruhliyaan”.Through fluid movements and controlled modulation of notes, Scarff brings out the character of the popular twilight raga and creates a peaceful mood.

Two compositions in slow tempo(vilambit) 12 beat cycle ektaal and medium tempo 16 beat cycle teentaal in the evening raga Bihag are presented next. Scarff establishes Bihag quickly and traverses three octaves with ease, giving freedom to the tabla player to exhibit his rhythmic skills. The presentation of drut khyaal ends with a pleasing tihai.

A briskly paced folk tune set to 8 beat cycle keherwa taal focuses on notes in higher octave bringing to life Scraff's soprano saxophone. The foot-tapping number would be a great choice for a folk dance.  

A composition by Pandit Shreeram Devasthali in raga Jaijaiwanti set to medium tempo 16 beat cycle teentaal is featured next. Signature phrases of Jaijawanti namely the glide from Pa to Re in the middle octave and the Dha Ni Re in lower octave bring out the essence of the romantic raga.

The CD concludes with a melodious composition in raag Bhairavi set to 6 beat cycle Dadra taal.

Scarff is to be commended for his efforts to explore jazz and world music traditions in a thorough manner.  “Ragas from Dusk” is a perfect example of Scarff's wonderful capability in playing the saxophone and his dedication to understanding and mastering Indian music traditions.   

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