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What would happen if some of the most talented musicians from across the world explored music with similar scales but performed through different systems of music? Would they sound different?
This is the quest of Indian musician/composer Chitravina N Ravikiran. A master of the 21-string fretless instrument, the chitravina, Ravikiran gathered a group of expert musicians from India, Brazil, USA and China for, Rays And Forays. The result of this intense and in-depth collaboration in comparative scales - music of similar notes but rendered in different styles - is fascinating as well as richly entertaining.
Destined to be a milestone in improvisation and comparative music study, Rays And Forays is a truly unique presentation of 'world' music. In his quest for more creative efforts in the world fusion arena - as opposed to simple one-line pieces drifting around or off in the name of improvisation - Ravikiran has created a project that offers greater understanding, appreciation and practice of all the musical systems involved.
The artists - percussionist Glen Velez, pianist Jovino Santos Neto, mrdangam drummer Poovalur Srinivasan, Qiu Xia He on the Chinese pipa, Harishankar on the kanjira (tambourine) and Ravikiran - tackle some very intricate compositions. They have made a concerted effort to study the music and then re-create them with ingenious interpretation.
The production's nine tracks include well-known and exclusively composed pieces from different countries in various moods, tempos, melodies and rhythms, embellished with pure melodic, melo-rhythmic and pure rhythmic improvisation. Most of the CD was recorded in Seattle, USA, with a couple of tracks done in Madras, India. The tracks stretch the boundaries of Indian, Chinese and fusion with its percolating warmth and energetic approach.
Leader Chitravina N Ravikiran has established himself as one of the foremost performers, composers, teachers and ambassadors of Indian Carnatic music. His accomplishments extend back to being the world's youngest public performing musician ever. At the age of two, he stunned audiences in India by identifying and demonstrating over 325 ragas (melodic scales), 175 talas (rhythm cycles) and answering technical questions. Trained by his father, maestro Narasimhan, he commenced his career as a vocalist at age five. At 12, he switched to the chitravina, and once played a non-stop 24-hour concert in 1985. He has since performed across the world in a variety of settings including as a guest of the BBC Philharmonic. World music aficionados will recognize Ravikiran from his work with V.M. Bhatt and Taj Mahal on the CD, Mumtaz Mahal on Water Lily Acoustics.
The other artists on Rays And Forays are just as renowned. Glen Velez has been an in-demand percussionist for over twenty-years on hundreds of recordings. Qiu Xia He was born in Baoji, China, but now resides in Vancouver, Canada. She leads a Chinese group called Silk Road Music and the worldbeat ensemble, Asza. Rio de Janeiro-native Jovino Santos Neto was a member of Hermeto Pascoal's band for 15 years before he emigrated to Seattle where he is active in projects from Native American to jazz and chamber music. Poovalur Srinivasan also comes from a family of musicians. He learned the double-headed barrel drum mrdangam from his father P. A. Venkataraman. Madras-native Harishankar has accompanied all the leading names in Carnatic music and is known for his breath-taking speed on the kanjira.
As Chitravina N Ravikiran and his fellow musicians enlighten and explore, it is only appropriate this Naxos World CD is titled, Rays And Forays.
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Easy-listening Piano Classics: French Composers