Sony Nad’s Legends Forever series is a welcome development.
Gems of IndiaSome of the CD covers from the Legends Forever series.
Technology may have wrecked our lifestyle, spoiled our posture, encouraged piracy, and irrevocably affected the guru-shishya tradition. But if there is one good thing we can thank technology for, it is that recorded sound has acquired a longer lease of life. Technological advancements have spelled better and better news for music enthusiasts. As methods of recording, preserving, copying and broadcasting music improve, even the line between tangible and intangible heritage blurs. Now we can savour the ineffable drama of the moment and preserve it for posterity too. For those who collect such gems, Sonynad, the classical music label of Sony BMG, has come out with a whole treasure house. Legends Forever, a classical music series, features a range of stars of the 20th Century.
The series includes maestros who are still with us and those who have passed on. Among the latter are the late shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, tabla wizard Allah Rakha and the tragically short-lived sitar exponent Nikhil Banerjee. The featured sitar concert of the maestro is the one he played at the Law Auditorium, University of Chicago, in 1984, two years before his death in 1986 at the age of 55. A full fledged concert, the performance elaborates the raga Surdasi Malhar, with an alap and jor are followed by a Masitkhani gat in Teen tala and a drut gat in Teen tala. Tabla is by Abhijit Banerjee.
The recording of Allah Rakha features the Ustad with his illustrious son, a star himself, Ustad Zakir Hussain. Zakir also features in other albums, including the santoor concert with Shiv Kumar Sharma, and a live recording of a Kathak recital by Pandit Birju Maharaj.
The series evokes some nostalgia, not only for the ustads who are no longer on this earth but also for the heady ’70s and ’80s, when Indian classical music was making waves in the West and across college campuses of India. Many of these musicians were moving into the limelight after years of struggle and taking their place as idols for young and old alike. The cover pictures also showing them all looking young — Abida Parveen looking slim with short hair, Rashid Khan before his hair turned white, and Hari Prasad Chaurasia before he lost so much of his, to name a few.
Chaurasia’s and Sharma’s partnership that caught the public imagination with their hit LP, “Call of the Valley” is celebrated with “The Valley Recalls”, a live recording of the duo’s special thematic concert of compositions like “Peace”, “Love”, “Harmony” at the Nehru Centre, Mumbai, in 1995. Pandit Jasraj’s devotional fervour is immortalised in the album featuring “Om Namo Bhagawate Vasudevaya”, “Gopalaniranjanam” and others.
Diamonds, they say are forever. So are gems like these.
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