The Rain

COMPOSERS: Ghazal
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: The Rain
PERFORMER: Ghazal
CATALOGUE NO: 066 627-2

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The meeting of equals that is GHAZAL has been developing for several years – unusual when so much cross-cultural work is based on single tours or guest appearances. It has the advantage that Persian and North Indian music diverged from common ancestors and have many compatible features.

While both lead musicians are at the top of their professions – the sitar-playing son of Vilayat Khan, Shujaat Husain Khan, and a star of the Persian fiddle, Kayhan Kalhor – they are free of the rigidity that can afflict inheritors of tradition, and have reached far into each other’s worlds.

For their latest album they offer three pieces recorded live in Bern, following a format of slow, free introduction and quicker section with tabla. It’s the way one player’s improvising sparks off the other’s that gives Ghazal its excitement, quite distinct from duet styles within either tradition; the bias leans towards India, but Kalhor is so different from an Indian violinist, more on-the-note and revelling in virtuoso string-crossing like a Western concerto soloist, that he draws his colleague along unexpected paths.

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The final minutes, however, are tediously padded out with more animation than substance; their third album, Moon Rise over the Silk Road, remains their most radical and absorbing.