Resurrecting a Raga
The CD: This recording is unique in two aspects. First, it presents the rare combination of the Indian surbahar (Indian base lute--the solo stringed instrument itself, and a comparative rarity, as the larger and deeper-voiced relative of the sitar) ) and the pakhawaj (the Indian barrel-drum) in a performance based in large part on the ancient dhrupad tradition of vocal and instrumental music; this combination is available on only a handful of recordings anywhere in the world. Second, it introduces the raga Hans-Shri, essentially lost in the modern performance tradition, and to our knowledge, previously unrecorded. The Artists: Shubha Sankaran is the only woman actively performing the surbahar on the global concert circuit, and the only artist focusing exclusively on that instrument. She studied instrumental music with Ustad Imrat Khan, vocal music in the khayal style with the late Pandit Shrikant Bakre, the South Indian technique of tanam with Kalaimamani Ranganayaki Rajagopalan, and dhrupad with the Gundecha Brothers. She has performed on surbahar throughout the United States, including at Lincoln Center in New York, and in concert and in radio and television broadcasts in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Australia, Europe, Great Britain, Morocco, Egypt, and Central and South America. In 1994, 2000, and 2006, she was recognized for her surbahar performance by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. She composed the music for the award-winning NPR radio series 'Passages to India,' and the award-winning 1997 BBC documentary, 'Monsoon' (available on CD); she has also been featured on NPR's 'All Things Considered.' Mohan Shyam Sharma is one of the leading percussionists of his generation. He has held the distinguished classification of an A-grade Artist of All India Radio since 1987, and has accompanied the leading practitioners of vocal and instrumental music in the ancient dhrupad style in Europe, Great Britain, the former Soviet Union, Japan and throughout South Asia. He has numerous CD recordings to his credit. The Instruments: The surbahar, a comparatively rare instrument, developed from the oldest stringed instrument of India, the rudra vina (also called the been). The surbahar is characterized by it's deep, rich voice, and has a practical range of three and a half octaves, with a wide neck, thick strings, and a single large, flat gourd. The surbahar has sympathetic strings that help to create the distinctive sound of the instrument, and employs the technique of 'bending' a note by the deflection of one of the playing strings sideways across a fret for a range of up to seven tones. The tonic (Sa) of the surbahar on this recording is equivalent to G# in terms of western absolute pitch. The pakhawaj is the dominant barrel-drum precursor to the more commonly used pair of drums known as tabla. The right side of the pakhawaj is tuned precisely to and resonates with the tonic of the surbahar, while the left side is given an additional ineffable broad-spectrum depth by an appliqué of moist flour paste.