COMPOSERS: Alla Rakha,Zakir Hussain
PERFORMER: Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussain (tablas), Sultan Khan (sarangi)
CATALOGUE NO: NRCD 9003
That drum solos in classical Indian music so readily hold an audience’s attention is largely due to the late Alla Rakha. He came to prominence as tabla accompanist to Ravi Shankar, when he grabbed the attention of an international public by holding his own as an equal partner – so bringing prestige to his art just as Gerald Moore did for the pianist’s role in Western song, with the additional twist that Rakha pioneered rhythmic techniques and dialogue formats that have influenced every player since.
His own sons are among them, most notably Zakir Hussain, who has built even more spectacular virtuoso skills on the family foundations. From the mid-1980s to mid-1990s they toured widely together, and Shared Moments was recorded at a concert in Basel, Switzerland during this time. It’s an hour-long performance starting with a pulse which undergoes doublings of speed and a final acceleration, all of which gives the duet a sense of intense concentration.
Quiet precision and gradual accumulation are the order of the day, though the quick-fire exchanges near the end will keep the listener on the edge of his seat. Further distinction comes from their accompanist on the bowed sarangi, who is none other than Sultan Khan, one of the players to give this instrument solo status but here playing – well, not quite second fiddle, since the constant variety he brings to simple repeated phrases is a joy. He begins with a free, timeless prelude full of lyrical magic.