Shivkumar Sharma, Brijbushan Kabra and Hariprasad Chaurasia’s The Call of the Valley I

1. 6. 2009 | Rubriky: Articles,CD reviews

[by Ken Hunt after G.N. Joshi] Picture a hamlet, as G.N. Joshi wrote in the original sleeve notes to Call of the Valley, nestling in the shelter of a Kashmiri valley. The story begins as sunrise approaches. Guitar signals dawn’s arrival. Santoor, the very epitome of the Kashmiri soundscape, joins in to play the early morning râg Ahir Bhairav, the first movement of the suite.

Swarmandal – a zither-like instrument – ripples usher in the second movement, Nat Bhairav. The day advances. The sun begins its climb with Joshi imagining Kashmir’s scenic splendour. Set to ektāl, tāl or taal meaning a rhythmic cycle, in this case one of 12 beats, the scene takes on colour and form. The sun’s rays dance off snowy peaks, their perpetual snow contrasting with the greenery of the wooded lower slopes. Birds sing and dart among the chinars, the Oriental plane closely associated with Kashmir. A mountain stream purls. Sheep and cattle graze. Bees make honey. It is a scene of bucolic bliss, of Mother Nature in all Her glory.

Rāg Piloo, the third movement, is set in teentâl, a 16-beat tāl. Freeze-framed like a sequence of ragamala images, the noted Northern Indian style of miniature painting, a girl is cautiously making her way to see her beloved, fearful of being spied. He feigns anger at her being late but melts, unable to sustain his teasing. Guitar takes his voice, santoor hers and the lovers lose themselves in talk. Like lovers do. Flute warns that something wrong – Joshi imagined that she detected prying eyes. She flees, promising a rendezvous that evening. Love’s labours thwarted, he remains to dwell on events and kismet.

With dusk sheep and cattle plod their way down from the alpine pastures. The faithful are gathering for prayer. Conch, mridang (a drum) and bells set the scene. The lover, hopeful that his prayers will be answered, is tense with anticipation. That devotional mood is reflected by the movement’s raga – Bhoop set in jhaptāl (a 10-beat tāl), performed dhrupad fashion, dhrupad being an austere, measured, devotional style of singing.

The couple make their way independently to the tryst outside the hamlet. Rāg Des in dadratāl (6 beats) plays. Des conjures images of the countryside. (Des or Desh means country.) They meet and walk towards the lake in the cool evening air talking now in their normal voices since there is little likelihood of eavesdroppers. It is a romantic atmosphere. The moon is mirrored in the lake’s placid waters and all is well with the world.

The moon is out. The final movement, rāg Pahadi in kaharwa (8 beats), becomes their moonlight sonata. It expresses that moment when time stands still. Joshi pictured it as them finding a dhony (or tony, a small sailing boat), gliding off and reaching celestial heights. Lost in the moment, lost in the stars, they hope that it never ends. The rest can be left to your imagination.

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