Morning Meditation

COMPOSERS: Amelia Cuni
LABELS: Navras
PERFORMER: Amelia Cuni (voice)
CATALOGUE NO: NRCD 0136

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Like most of the older North Indian forms, dhrupad is generally the preserve of male dynasties. It probably helped AMELIA CUNI that she isn’t Indian, as she was able to study with several schools of this singing tradition and to make her own synthesis, giving her recitals a curiosity factor on three fronts.

To this Western ear the timbre, the sense of scale in the long slow elaborations, and even the indefinable feel of her performances are convincing. There’s the odd frisson of an Italian accent when she recites the poems, but the sung vowels seem spot-on. Most remarkable about this live recording from Mumbai is that you can hear the home audience being wowed.

She begins a little cautiously, until her technique proves not just impeccable but spectacular: in the second raga, she suddenly shows an ability to drop seamlessly through two octaves in a single swoop, and straight back up again. It’s so quietly deft that it makes you double-take, and it draws very audible mutterings of approval from the listeners.

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The music proceeds through vast, sweeping curves of melodic intensity and eventually opens out into spirited and urgent conclusions. The issue is one of several first-rank new vocal recordings from Navras.