Ghazal – The Rain (ECM 1840, 2003)
Shujaat Husain Khan – Hawa Hawa (World Village 468022, 2003)
Ghazal, a duo comprised of Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor and Indian sitarist Shujaat Husain Khan, have created nothing short of a masterpiece with The Rain. The two have put out some fine work previously, most notably 1998’s Moon Rise Over the Silk Road (Shanachie), but this live
recording taken from a 2001 performance in Bern, Switzerland captures all the nuance of their Persian/Indian fusion to near perfection.
The northern India Mughal period in which Hindustani and Persian music most closely influenced each other is long past, but the imprint remains indelible and the music of Ghazal brings it richly to life. Through three gorgeously extended tracks, the kamancheh and sitar pave the way for each other, taking
turns leading the way along a sonically scenic improvised path and frequently merging and melding with astounding intricacy that never puts showing off ahead of making beautiful music (though there is some well-deserved razzle dazzle toward the end). Joining in on tabla is Sandeep Das, and the elegant gallop of his playing adds a rhythmic rise and fall that compliments to just the right degree. Khan’s occasional vocal passages provide a kind of soothing narration, reflective of the inner peace and refreshment that the music sparks.
Don’t put off obtaining this disc for too long, because believe me, you’ll want it in your
collection. In addition to his work with Ghazal, Shujaat Khan has his current work, Hawa Hawa, due to be released September 9th.
While it won’t thrill every cell in your body like the Ghazal release, there’s still much to love about it. Khan presents his roots–the folk traditions of north India–in the form of these songs
celebrating love, longing and everyday life. The sitar work sparkles with warmth and power in this folk setting, achieving an intimacy that sitar in its more familiar classical setting often keeps at arm’s length. Khan’s singing is likewise down to earth, sounding like equal parts wise storyteller, gypsy
troubadour and Sufi mystic.
A foundation of swaying percussion drives the songs gently forward, punctuating the vocals and sitar in accordingly elegant fashion. The vibe is mellow from beginning to end, but thanks to Khan’s humble passion and inherent talent (he comes from a long line of master musicians), it never gets tiresome.