Shubhendra Rau and Partha Sarothy - The Ancient Weave (CD Sense World Music)
Sitar player Rau and and sarod player Sarothy were brought together for a jugalbandi (ie. a duet) for the 2002 Saptak Music Festival in India. A day after, the were taken into the studio by the producer Derek Roberts to record this album, accompanied by tabla player Akram Khan.
As disciples from an early age of Ravi Shankar it's fitting that the first piece they work with is one of Shankar's raags, 'Raga Charukauns,' which combines Raga Charukeshi and Raga Malkauns. The opening -and unusually lengthy- Alap section is reveals a meditative quality to their musicianship. Simple, timeless and precise, they let the notes ring and entwine at their own pace. Those who are used to lengthy tonal work may well find plenty to immerse themselves within here. The Jor section picks up the pace a little to reveal a fuller sound leading to the Jhalla section, the peak of the raag. And crikey does it hit a peak!
The second part of the album is Raga Manj Khamaj, a raag always played late at night. Here they play the Alap, and Gat sections. It's performed in a more succinct way. What's interesting to pick out is the way Rau likes to swell on scales over and over. Then Sarothy picks up on that but then lets it spin into something more free.
It would be interesting to contrast the recording with the performance of the same raag by Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan.
All in all it's an exceptionally good album that's less 'flashy' than some of its ilk in the field and pulls things back to a meditative and evolving sound. This is less a work that is performed and more a music that forms from the very air you breathe. HM