Review: Baluji Shrivastav - The Art Of The Indian Dilruba
The Art Of The Indian Dilruba
|Album:||The Art Of The Indian Dilruba|
|Date of Release:||2013/05/30, 2002, 1997|
|Country of Release:||UK|
|Genre/s:||World | India|
|Sub-Genre/s:||Hindustani Classical, North Indian Classical|
|Date of Review:||2013/07/14|
The Art Of The Indian Dilruba
Baluji Shrivastav's The Art Of The Indian Dilruba was re-released on 30th May this year, perhaps long overdue, the original release having occurred in 1997 and, as far as I can ascertain, the most recent re-release having been in 2002. For an album of this caliber, the present re-release is certainly most welcome.
Moans and groans first. Over the last thirty-odd years, even before the advent of the CD, artists (or possibly rather, their recording companies in many cases?) have tended to cram as many different ragas (or more correctly, raags) onto a recording as possible, resulting in shorter and shorter performances. With few exceptions, the days when a vinyl LP would be made up of a single raag to each side, or even a single raag spread over both sides, regrettably seem largely gone. The Art Of The Indian Dilruba sadly is no exception, filling its 67 minutes with no less than five raags. A redeeming feature in this respect is Raga Sampurna Malkauns which at least is given a relatively reasonable twenty or so minutes.
My next moan concerns the svarmandal (also swarmandal, svaramandal, surmandal). Often incorrectly compared to the autoharp, the svarmandal is a zither not unlike the Middle Eastern qanun, although the latter is much more sophisticated. It came to Northern India with the Mughal emperors but, regrettably, remained a largely folk instrument in India. From the beginning of the 20th century C.E., it has been oocasionally used by some classical Hindustani vocalists as accompaniment. It is sad to see that, rather than improving the svarmandal with the features of the modern qanun, the 20th century and beyond saw a mad rush in India to adapt modern Western instruments, in particular the guitar, to Hindustani music. Instead, the last thirty or so years have seen the svarmandal increasingly used as a bit of 'ear candy' with merely arpeggiated scales of the raag being played. Most regrettably, Baluji Shrivastav falls into this trap with The Art Of The Indian Dilruba. To the classical puricist, this is indeed rather an annoying distraction.
Moans and groans done. Although not born into any established musical dynasty or even gharana, Shrivastav is a largely self-taught well respected multi-instrumentalist with a string of academic musical achievements, counting sitar, surbahar, tabla and pakhwaj among his accomplishments in addition to the dilruba featured here. Shrivastav is accompanied by Benjamin Shrivastav Shanson on tanpur, and Partho Mukherjee on tabla on The Art Of The Indian Dilruba.
The dilruba, until fairly recent times mostly associated with the older, more serious and somber classical style of dhrupad, is a hybrid instrument, musicologically described as a bowed, long-necked fretted lute. It has the goat skin covered body of the sarangi fiddle, but the fretted long neck like that of the esraj, similar to that of the sitar, and is played with a bow, like the esraj again. Unlike this, it utilises a guitar-like machine head peg-board, but like it has sympathetic strings running below the frets and main strings. It has a richer, more somber sonority than the esraj.
For the most part, the raags presented on The Art Of The Indian Dilruba should by now be fairly familiar to Western ears with a prior interest in Hindustani classical music. Even those without this should not find it too difficult to get into this material. An exception here maybe the not too often found on recordings or recital programmes in the West Raga Sampurna Malkauns, which may prove somewhat more challenging to some or even many.
Nonetheless, Sampurna Malkauns does stand out as the most appealing and most beautiful of the raags on the present recordings, aided considerably by its greater length. That is by no means to say that the rest of The Art Of The Indian Dilruba is not beautiful, it is, just that for me at any rate Sampurna Malkauns alone would be worth the price of admission. What distinguishes this raag is that Malkauns itself is a raag that uses a pentatonic scale, based on a scale similar to the Aeolian church mode (Asarvari), while Sampurna indicates a full heptatonic or seven note scale. The original pentatonic scale is hinted at here. But what makes Sampurna Malkauns even more distinguished and possibly demanding, but also appealing, is that it is one of the rare examples of modal progression in Hindustani music (a kind of modulation common in Persian, Arabic and Turkish classical music) in transforming to Bhairavi (comparable to the Phrygian mode). In Hindustani classical music this is known as parmel praveshak, or crossing from one mode to another. This may sound very confusing to a Western ear more accustomed to a Hindustani raag being performed in a single scale only, as is the norm. Indeed, it is this general absence of modal progression (as well as modal equivalence, another form of modulation) that is the single feature that most distinguishes Hindustani from Persian classical music.
Over all, The Art Of The Indian Dilruba is a beautiful and charming album in spite of the brevity of most of the raags and the rather irritating svarmandal ear candy, with masterful playing of the dilruba by Shrivastav and tabla by Mukherjee. It is also a beautiful introduction to the not too often heard dilruba, which one can only wish to be heard much more, including in the dhrupad style. This is an album that will cast a spell upon the listener and will be found irresistible, and once it has finished playing it is impossible not to start all over again. Just hauntingly beautiful.
Baluji Shrivastav's The Art Of The Indian Dilruba is a must have for anyone who does not have it already. The extensive sleeve notes in English and German make it almost mandatory to buy the CD in preference to digital download.
1. Raga Ahiri Todi (Gat, composition in Vilambit Ektaal - slow cycle of 12 beats)
Late morning raga - 15:28
Credits:Baluji Shrivastav - dilruba, tanpura, svarmandal
Benjamin Shrivastav Shanson - tanpura
Partho Mukherjee - tabla
The Art Of The Indian Dilruba can be purchased from:
Other online sources and stores
All rights reserved.