The Essential Collection

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia

Tambura Players
Krishna Joshi, Uma Mehta
Tabla Player
Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari

About this album

Hariprasad Chaurasia is one of India's most famous musicians, having in recent years become as much part of concerts and recordings in the West as in India. He was born in 1938 in Allahabad, the some of a wrestler. He was inspired by the flute playing of Prasana Bholanath at the age of twelve and began learning with him. Later he learnt from Annapurna Devi, daughter of the great Allaudin Khan, who taught through the medium of the voice.

The vocal priority is important for all instruments of Indian music, but the shared reliance on the breath makes it particularly relevant to the flute. The North Indian flute, known as bansuri, is a relative newcomer to the classical concerts, and owes its acceptance to Pannalal Ghosh. That master showed how the instrument, so simple in construction, is capable of the most delicate nuances as well as the most dazzling displays of agility.

Hariprasad Chaurasia has developed all kinds of new techniques to keep his instrument at the forefront of Indian music. He has made recordings and concert appearances all over the world, as a soloist, with other Indian musicians, most notably with the santhur maestro Shivkumar Sharma, and in collaborations with such Western musicians as John McLaughlin and Jan Garbarek.

Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari is based in the U.K. and is one of the most
talented of the new generation of tabla players. He was trained in the powerful Banaras style of tabla playing by its greatest living exponent, Kishan Maharaj. He is much in demand and has accompanied many other leading Indian instrumentalists, including Ravi Shankar, Ram Narayan, Amjad Ali Khan and Buddhaditya Mukherjee.

This recording is from the second half of a recital given in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on 28 April 1996. It is customary to follow the opening item of a concert with music in a lighter mood, as is evident throughout this recording. Hariprasad Chaurasia chose two ragas, which can be related not only through their mood and time of performance but also through their predominantly pentatonic structure and actual names.

Raga Durgawati
This is a new creation by Hariprasad Chaurasia. It maintains the characteristics of its parent raga Durga, which is pentatonic, using the notes sa re ma pa dha. There used to be another version of raga Durga, omitting the re and pa but including the ga and both ni, but this is now too rare to compete with the normal version. In raga Durgawati, however, one of those notes is present: the flat ni. Its frequent use, mainly in descending phrases, is what really distinguishes this raga from the usual raga Durga.

In a short alap which introduces the raga, Hariprasad Chaurasia conjures up all the typical phrases of raga Durga, inflected by this additional note. In keeping with the more relaxed mood he then goes straight into a fairly brisk gat in the favorite Teental.

Raga Mishra Shivaranjani
This is again a variant of a pentatonic raga. Shivaranjani, a raga 'pleasing to Shiva', has the notes sa re ga-flat pa dha. The prefix mishre is usually added to denote a mixture of other melodies. At the end of concerts short pieces allowing this freedom are ideal to create a more informal atmosphere. They are often referred to as dhun, as in this case. This suggests a light piece with the character of a folk tune. Only certain ragas may be used and they are the ones, which permits the freedom to add notes. So, in raga Mishra Shivaranjani, the natural third is almost as important as the flat one, and a touch of the flat seventh can be heard.

A short alap establishes all these features and, as in the previous item, most of the performance is taken up by the gat section. Just as there are certain ragas associated with dhuns and other light pieces, so there are taals with the same character. The lilting six-beat Dadra is thus an appropriate choice in this performance.


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