Writings about Music
Three Suns: Anindo, Swapan and Zakir
Hearing and comprehending the staggering musical outpourings of tabla artists Anindo Chatterjee, Swapan Chaudhuri and Zakir Hussain is like staring directly at the sun, but in this instance the effect is both healing and stimulating. I know there are those who actually advocate staring at the sun, but I tried once, and was unable to continue.
Comparing these prodigious musicians to the sun seems apt because their music spawns trillions of rhythmic, timbral, and even melodic progeny that splinter off in innumerable musical vortexes. Suns also because even though they are contemporaries, and play the same percussion instrument, their musical profiles are so differentiated from each other that they seem like different solar systems.
Zakir Hussain's gharana (school or tradition) is closest to the ancient pakawaj tradition, and he synergizes a bracing earthiness with a keen awareness of myriad present-day musical cultures outside of South Asia, while building magnificent cathedrals of sound comparable to historic architectural marvels. His prana could power a starship.
Anindo Chatterjee possesses an uncanny deftness and elegance that conjures images of nanotechnology as an art form. The range of sounds he might summon at a moment's notice range from a thundering herd of elephants to the glint of moonlight on a beloved's hair. His imagination and facility seem to go beyond human capability.
Swapan Chaudhuri unleashes a controlled sonic fury that could overpower an army, and the intelligence behind the onslaught would bring a world champion chess player to his knees. He elevates to the level of the divine both subdued and complex passages, as if we were hearing the breathing of Vishnu.
Encyclopedias would do well to include the images of tabla players under Forces of Nature, in part because words are superfluous in beginning to describe and explain the power and beauty of the North Indian classical tabla tradition. And other Hindustani and Karnatic drumming traditions are equally developed and profound, being beyond the focus of this writing and my personal knowledge.
One hears an all-encompassing and transcendental symphony of rhythms, melodies, harmonies, timbres, and emotions when master Indian percussionists play, illuminating elements of the Divine and the Human at once. One moment you are on Mount Meru, and the next you are standing in the middle of a breathtakingly colorful and vibrant Calcutta, New Delhi or Bombay street scene.
- Michael Robinson, March 2012, Los Angeles
© 2012 Michael Robinson All rights reserved
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).