By Jason Serinus
Ghazal The Rain (ECM)
Exquisite, refined -- even rarified -- and above all else captivatingly beautiful. Such descriptions come to mind as I listen to The Rain, the live debut album of Indian-Iranian ensemble Ghazal.
Formed in 1997 by Shujaat Husain Khan (sitar, vocals) and Kayhan Kalhor (kamancheh), Ghazal creates music born of the interconnections between the classical traditions of North India and Iran. These traditions share many similarities in scales, modes, tunings, rhythms and approaches to improvisation. Indeed, so natural is the fit between Hindustani and Iranian music that the untrained ear would never guess that each of the album's three extended improvisations, entitled Fire, Dawn and Eternity, is based on a unique union of authentic Indian and Persian musical modes.
Kayhan Kalhor was born in Tehran. After absorbing Iranian classical and regional repertoire and styles, he studied Western classical music in Rome and Ottawa. In 2000, the year before this concert in Bern, Switzerland, Kalhor won the American Federation of Independent Musicians' Best Traditional World Music Recording for his collaborative disc, Night, Silence, Desert.
Shujaat Husain Khan is the seventh generation in a line of musical masters that includes his father Ustad Vilayat Khan. His style of sitar playing imitates the subtleties of the human voice, and is mated with spontaneously sung poetry.
The disc also includes tabla contributions from Sandeep Das. Das and Kalhor have both taken part in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project worldwide tour.
The authentic cross-cultural alchemy heard on The Rain transcends verbiage. It must be heard.
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Erika Wennerstrom • singer-