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North Indian classical music has had a small but important part of concert life in the West more generally, and in the United States in particular, for around fifty years now, with the worldwide popularity of the late Ravi Shankar and of the late Ali Akbar Khan, the latter making his home in California from the late sixties on, where he founded a college of music which continues its activities to this day. India has contributed more than 1.6 million immigrants to the USA, with the largest targets for Indian immigrants being California and New Jersey, which between them account for almost a third of the Indian diaspora in the US. Nevertheless, even North Carolina has a noticeable Indian community, and can be proud to host a talented musician in teacher and sarod artist Gaurang L. Doshi, based in Winston-Salem, who performed at the welcoming Recital Hall of UNC Greensboro to a large audience. The concert started later than announced, due to the bottleneck for ticket-buyers at a box office evidently unable to deal with the throng of music-lovers (a blemish on UNCG’s commitment to the arts – the School of Music should take measures to see that this does not recur). Once the event got underway, there was an extensive section devoted to showcasing Doshi’s students – something that was well meant in theory, but unwelcome in practice, since students playing at this rudimentary level are rarely heard at professional concerts with paid admission. Better to have a separate event.
Once Gaurang Doshi appeared, the concert moved to an entirely different level. Doshi is a skilled master of the fretless sarod (he remarked that it might be better to play the instrument in the dark, since no frets mean no guidance in the placement of the fingers on the neck), able to play both soulful slow melodies and virtuoso complex rhythms. The conclusion of the first half featured Rag Malkauns, a night raga using only five notes (tonic, minor third, fourth, fifth, minor sixth), with a slow introduction (alap) and two gats (accompanied, in rupak tal and teen tal, seven beat and sixteen beat cycles). Tabla player Robin Sukhadia was a lively and sensitive accompanist.
Two numbers after intermission featured Sukhadia’s father, Rajen, on tabla, and Doshi’s daughter, Anusha, in a jugalbandi (duet) first on a folk tune, and next on Rag Mishra Shivaranjani. Anusha held her own among the older musicians, and one may imagine that she will join the next generation.
The evening closed with the duo of Gaurang Doshi and Robin Sukhadia in Rags Charukeshi and Kirwani, the latter of which moved through increasingly rapid gats in teental to a brilliant conclusion. Thanks to UNCG for providing a venue for this absorbing and moving music.