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World Music CD Reviews South Asia


By Derek Beres
Published September 23, 2005


The classical Indian raga has very strict sonic parameters in terms of everything from instrumentation to times of day it is supposed to beplayed. Within that box there is an emotional stamp each performer uses as an aural trademark. On Sangita (literally, “singing together”), vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay and guitarist Vincenzo Mingiardi make three ragas completely their own. Much like American jazz scatting (and possibly gospel howls), words are elaborated and stretched or non-existent as the tonal inflections translate to the long passion of this singer. On the opening 20-minute “Twilight,” an early evening raga, Bandyopadhyay’s tanpura (droning instrument) creates an allusion of shadows as her vocals pass gingerly through darkness. The key to much traditional Indian music—something these players capture—is the fine line between melancholy/yearning and inspiration/fulfillment. By the time the closing bhajan (devotional hymn) “Prayer” ends, you’ve experienced 48 minutes of lucid sleeptalking.