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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East

Baluji Shrivastav

By Jeff Tamarkin
Published January 14, 2008

Classical Indian Ragas
ARC Music

Most ragas probably sound more or less alike to listeners unschooled in Indian classical music. A sitarist establishes a melodic direction and a mood, a tabla player and perhaps another instrumentalist or two join in, the piece intensifies and the improvisational interplay becomes more complex finally, it builds to a climax, and then it’s gone. The casual listener is satisfied if the music is some combination of soothing, hypnotic, spiritual and exotic. Baluji Shrivastav, who is blind, is said to be a master not only on sitar, but on the surbahar (bass sitar) and dilruba (another stringed instrument) and, judging by the five undeniably charming ragas herein, he most probably is. The pieces are all enchanting, intricate and lush, with the uncontested highlight being the 27-minute “Raag Shahana,” built around an extended, hushed low-pitched drone that takes its sweet time going anyplace, but leaves you drained when it gets there.