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World Music CD Reviews South Asia

SADANAND NAIMPALLI & MOHAN BALVALLY

By Robert Kaye
Published January 24, 2006

Live At Trinity Club, Bombay 1967
Country & Eastern

The Trinity Club, according to this album’s liner notes, written in retrospect by Pandit Naimpalli, was attended mostly by musicians; hence if one was to perform there, they’d better be good. That was certainly the case for these two young tabla players in the mid-’60s. The recording suffers from technological limitations; its dynamic level is subdued, and one can even hear extraneous noises like phones ringing in the background. Nor are the two tablas that distinctive in their respective tonalities. The playing is spectacular, though. Both Naimpalli and Balvally perform with emotion, and the sophistication that has made Indian percussionists legendary. Sparse accompaniment (“lehra”) on harmonium and recitations by their guru, Pandit Taranath clearly inspired the men, then teenagers, that night. What makes listening to tabla records difficult for Westerners, and this disc is no exception, is that our ears usually hone in on the melodic instruments first. Yet it’s the percussionists who are the star performers, the harmonium providing only repetitive counterpoint. When one refocuses on the hypnotic tablas, this album, despite its relative antiquity, will prove thoroughly rewarding.