Sona Rupa Records

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Son of the greatest Indian bansuri flutist Hariprasad Chaurasia, Rakesh is here accompanied by l'enfant terrible of the tablas, Talvin Singh who, besides being fully versed in the classical idiom, has also embraced Techno, Bhangra and other electronica styles. Outside of very subtle synth drones instead of the traditional tamboura and some mild multi-tracking on the flute for Paul Horn-style echoes, Vira -- translated as "brotherhood" though it also means "hero" -- is a fully improvised studio performance of five traditional ragas however; "Madhuvanti", "Manj Khamaj", "Handsdhwani", "Abhogi" and "Kirwani", with the three Southern Indian examples dominating the Northern Indian opener and closer.

Less flamboyant than the late Hariprasad on his collaborations with Osho devotee Amareesh, Rakesh's mastery of the Indian traverse bamboo flute fancies more subdued dynamics and less glissandi than his father, being more reminiscent of those other masters Sachdev and Steve Gorn instead. Minimalist by virtue of the duet form and certain technical limitations due to the key-less nature of the bansuri, the fluid Free Jazz style instrumental scatting Rakesh performs on his primitive flute is thus doubly impressive, finding innumerable ways to, like Chinese food, employ the same basic tone ingredients prescribed by the raga's scale in novel combinations to extract the largest possible variety of flavors.

Like all traditional Indian music devoid of harmonies, the ragas on Vira are associated with specific times of the day or evening, linked to certain moods as a function of beat patterns called taal, fixed intervals and key notes, overall speed and the given lassitude of improvisational freedom, and the dissonant or consonant nature of the relationship between the foundation note and the raga's key notes.

The West has rediscovered the shifty magic of minimalism in certain works by Steve Reich. The East has worked those same fields for thousands of years prior, using music not as entertainment but means for the inner journey, its surrounding space or emptiness suggested by the serpentine melodic unfoldment over endless free-floating drones, not directional chords. To appreciate this music thus requires a different gesture, one that is sympathetic with its innate gestalt of hinting at empty space, the tabla tattoos more melodic and counter-rhythmic than strictly time-fixated. You either get this journey or you yawn. In either case, nothing more needs to be said - except perhaps that if you were to float down this particular languid river, you'd be carried along by two young masters of the genre.