Golden Strings of the Sarode is guaranteed to appeal to audiophiles. It is recorded using what is known as the Blumlein Arrangement, which creates a unique acoustic atmosphere. And it was recorded in the deeply resonant interiors of a church in Berkeley, California. But even if the only thing you care about in an album is the music, buy this one for the sheer beauty of Aashish Khan’s sarod strings.
First produced by tabla player Zakir Hussain’s label, Moment Records (the artiste also accompanies Khan here), the album was nominated in the World Music category at this year’s Grammy Awards. It has now been released in India by Music Today. And even if it is purely Indian classical music, it is easy to see why it could appeal to global audiences.
Khan is the grandson of Baba Allauddin Khan and the son of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, with formidable traditions and reputations to live up to. While the music in Golden Strings is consistently appealing, the second raga, Bhimpalasi, is outstanding. The afternoon raga has a subtle melancholic and romantic air to it which made it a favourite of film composers. It is among the first ragas taught to learners because it has a simple scale, but an evolved musician can open up amazing layers. Khan says he learnt it from his grandfather when he was a young boy and worked on it over the years. Here is a truly splendid rendition. The first number is Lalita Gouri, a rare raga that evokes the quality of an Indian dusk and the last, Bhairavi, which is the standard concluding raga at concerts.
It is not often that an album places the accompanying artiste centre stage. But the ties between Hussain and Khan go beyond that of a sarod player and accompanist. The tabla wizard started his career abroad with Khan. Between the two, they have created a memorable album.