Moon Rise Over the Silk Roadby Ghazal
The third collaboration between Persian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor and Indian sitarist Shujaat Husain Khan travels farther still along the Silk Road. Not the real Silk Road, that ancient trade route that connected China, India, and the Middle East -- but a Silk Road of the imagination, whose perfumed expanses bridge the vast traditions of Arabic and Indian classical music. Both of these deeply programmatic, highly meditative, and achingly expressive forms are embodied in the playing of Kalhor and Khan. Over three epic, largely instrumental compostions (Khan adds vocals in both Urdu and Persian), Kalhor's reedy bowing is answered by Khan's scintillating sitar runs and joined by the tabla of Swapan Chaudhuri. While these thematically unfolding pieces may feel like Indian ragas or Persian classical performances, they are closer to jazz improvizations: In fact, the first Ghazal album was recorded less than an hour after Khan and Kalhor first met. But an ever-more-sensitive partnership has developed between the two, and the lustrous MOONRISE presents some enduringly original melodies amid the enveloping atmospherics. One delight of Ghazal is that their mood music also stands up in the court of ethnomusicology; the playing of each musician, so steeped in classical training, continuously draws forth new intimacies linking the respective traditions. Another is that a music so painstakingly, studiously achieved can result in such a walloping emotional payoff. Bravo, gentlemen.
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