Writings about Music

Burfi and Ravi

Indian Burfi

A profusion of uncannily delectable Indian sweets at an Indian food store on the west side of Fairfax just north of Pico in Los Angeles held an even greater surprise, this being my introduction to the deserts of India. Guided there by a friend to sample the burfi and chai, I discovered cassette tapes of Indian classical music selling for two or three dollars each. Among these were recordings of Indian classical music, including an artist whose playing I had previously found elusively esoteric, Ravi Shankar, despite having begun private lessons with his senior disciple, Harihar Rao. Somehow the authenticity of the setting, combining Indian food, spices, music and attire, coalesced as a welcoming bridge to another world of experience, and for the first time Ravi's glorious music made sense to me both expressively and technically for this first time, truly a blessing, as my friend, tabla player Zakir Hussain would say! For this reason, Indian sweets hold a special place in my heart even beyond their astounding deliciousness.

The infinite diversities of flavor, color, shape and texture celebrated in the burfi confections of India have a parallel universe in the realm of sound exemplified by ragas. Here in America, we are similarly lured by myriad sweets formations while jazz standards possess musical and poetic virtues aligning exceptionally well with Indian ragas in key regards.

- Michael Robinson, October 2022, Los Angeles


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Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, jazz pianist and musicologist. His 190 albums include 151 albums for meruvina and 39 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.