Hariprasad Chaurasia: Raga Bageshri

COMPOSERS: Hariprasad Chaurasia
LABELS: Navras
WORKS: Raga Bageshri
PERFORMER: Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute), Vikku Vinayakram (ghatam), Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari (tabla)
CATALOGUE NO: NRCD 0043 DDD

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Go to any concert of North Indian classical music now and you will be surprised by the stacks of CDs laid out to lure you. Collections of full-length performances have arisen to fill the display space. The Nimbus and Navras catalogues are expanding at speed, with the latter dominated by live recordings from London, reflecting its current status as a world centre for performance to match the Indian cities.

Most exciting of this batch, though, is flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia’s Festival Hall encounter with two percussionists, one of them a South India intruder. You wouldn’t know that as Chaurasia calmly unfolds his raga in glowing low flute tones, staying spacious as he sends out tendrils of decorative melody.

Later he delivers a quick-fire variety of attack that Western players have not yet discovered, the tongue as subtle as the tabla player’s fingers. The real fun begins when the tabla sets up in duel rather than duet with the booming ghatam, or clay pot. North and South India are usually musical worlds apart, but this is a quick-thinking and often witty display of cross-cultural interplay.

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In contrast, Chaurasia’s latest studio offering for Nimbus moves ahead faster in a more anguished and, at first, introverted raga, furiously controlled in its virtuosity. He relaxes in the filler, a catchy and lilting folk-based piece.