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World Music CD Reviews South Asia

BIMAL MUKHERJEE WITH A. G. BANDOPADHYAY

By Allan Evans
Published February 15, 2006

Raga Darbari Kanada
Archive Music

AMARNATH MISHRA WITH J. MASSEY
Raga Vachaspati

Archive Music

Two new contrasting sitar recordings of musicians rarely heard outside of India have now appeared on the intrepid India Archive label. Mukherjee, who passed away some six years ago, belonged to a rare tradition: He studied with a prominent master of the veena and played the sitar under the influence of this nearly vanished proto-sitar style, in which slow, elegant and embellished lines unfurl the essence, with stark voyages to the bottom of the instrument's lowest register. One rarely hears such a style and it is probably extinct save for a few rarely encountered masters. This is a unique and welcomed debut, and one regrets that the artist is no longer with us. Mishra is influenced by Vilayat Khan's playing, paring down the line to a highly articulated vocal statement, and also studied with the teacher of Girja Devi, the most prominent thumri singer alive. As Khan is a masterly purist and thumri extends to burning emotion and erotic sentiment, Mishra's playing mixes these disparate elements. He plays with sweetness and joy while avoiding undue attention to a considerable structural grasp of the works. Both discs attest to the breadth of Indian music, the beauty and elegance of slow, deep veena playing and the heat of the moment in a vocal-like display.