From the five-hundred-year old musical history of the Sufi Fakirs of Bengal to the virtuoso musicianship of Calcutta's guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya and Carnatic violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, this Rough Guide explores India's ancient musical traditions and acoustic roots.
'Every track on this CD deserves to be played on repeat until they are all etched, beat for beat, into your memory' **** Songlines
Modern day India vibrates with amplified sound ringtones, radios, the blast of a horn from a passing rickshaw. Along with the rest of the world, technology has changed the sound of India, it has made it louder and quite literally turned up the dial. Bollywood producers have long embraced synth strings, cranked-up electronic beats and auto-tune voicings. Alongside this glorious simmering, acoustic music seams up the cracks, often the protector of ancient instrumental traditions and the instigator of new ones. This Rough Guide offers a curated collection of contemporary acoustic Indian music.
Noor Alam is a Sufi Fakir from Bengal, a group of musicians and Islamic spiritual practitioners who have preserved a series of esoteric teachings on breath, sex, asceticism, philosophy and mystical devotion. Sufi Fakirs are also the guardians of an ancient standard of enigmatic songs about love and humanity, underlining their central belief that salvation is found in the present moment and within oneself rather than in a conceptual heaven.
The Indian counterpart to Fakir tradition is that of the Bauls. Paban Das Baul's loopy groove 'Kaliya' is taken from his album Music Of The Honey Gatherers. On that record Paban performed songs from the trail of the honey gatherers - wandering Baul singers from the very eastern end of the Indo-Gangetic plains.
Jyotsna Srikanth is a Bangalore-born violinist and is one of the foremost Carnatic musicians of her generation. Also manipulating string textures, but this time on his own especially modified guitar, Calcutta's Debashish Bhattacharya is heard on introspective piece 'Ras Tarang'.
Of course, many foreign musicians have been attracted to India for its music and two of the tracks on this album chart such journeys. Rafiki Jazz are a truly international band with member's nationalities spanning four different continents. Singer Sarah Yaseen approaches with her 'Sufi-soul' style influenced by qawaali and ghazal tradition. 'Har Chand Sahara' is a rendition of a devotional song popularised by Pakistani playback singer Nayyara Noor with lyrics based on the poetry of the late Shohrat Bokhari. The closing track 'Esquisse' features Guillaume Barraud, a French flautist who studied under Indian master Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia for five years. Guillaume's meditation here matches Indian flute wanderings with jazz guitar punctuations and drums.