World Music Review Print



West Meets East: Hindustani Vocal Music

August 23, 2008 - Cary, NC:


Paul Horn's 1968 recording album from the Taj Mahal Inside created not only fascination for, but a cultural bridge to India. Since that time Americans have flocked to hear Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka (who recently played in Raleigh). And in the Triangle, we are fortunate to have in our midst, a wonderful resource to expand our cultural horizons. The Indian Classical Music and Dance Society (ICMDS) presented music performed by vocalists, Padmabhushan Pandits Rajan and Sajan Mishra along with Subhen Chatterjee, tabla, Snatan Goswami, harmonium, and Anita Kulkarni, tanpura.* The recital took place at Green Hope High School.

Also known as the Mishra brothers, Rajan and Sajan were taught by their father Pandit Hanuman Prasad Misra and their uncle Pandit Gopal Prasad Misra. Acclaimed as "... foremost exponents of the Benares style of singing," they have traveled across the United States, sharing the Khayal form of Hindustani classical music. Silver-haired, yet spry, they project a huge vocal range, sing with beautiful ornamentation, and in unison, they resonate like the sitar. With delicate hand gestures and gleaming smiles, they delighted the audience, and mesmerized this listener. They sang four raagas ("Sudhkalyan," "Tappa," "Nand" and "Durga") as well as a devotional song, "Bhajan" (by Guru Nanak). Beautifully performed, they are meditations that free one's mind from the mundane.

Subhen Chatterjee, an eclectic tabla player who has performed with Americans Paul Horn and David Crosby as well as the Calcutta Quartet, has received accolades from the Washington Post and Economic Times et al. A cultural ambassador, he participates in WOMAD (World Organization of Music and Dance) an organization started by Peter Gabriel. Providing sensitive accompaniment, his communication with the players and listeners, coupled with an infectious smile, drew the audience closer, creating an intimate, sacred space. He plays with the confidence of a virtuoso soloist and at the same time with the finesse of a chamber musician.

Harmonium player Sanatan Goswami performed with dexterity, providing the drone and echoing melodic rifts resulting in a rich, colorful texture. He plays the instrument, which unfolds from a large yellow box, with complete concentration and with great joy. Despite its checkered history (imported by the British) the instrument's mellow, earthy sound took me by surprise. Sri Goswami impressed me with his quick responses and improvisatory expertise.

John Cage's student, Gita Sarabhai, said that music "[is to] sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences." This recital gave me a deeper understanding of how that might be so. To find out about other opportunities to experience Indian music and dance, please visit www.icmds.org.

*Edited/updated 9/19/08.