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Reviewed by:
  • Raga: Rasa, That which Colors the Mind
  • Gordon Thompson (bio)
Kartik Seshadri . Raga: Rasa, That which Colors the Mind. Kartik Seshadri (sitār) with Bikram Ghosh (tablā) and Rāgini Desai and Penelope Custer (tamburas). New York: Traditional Crossroads (80702-4325-2), 2004. Two compact disks. Forty-page booklet. Produced by Harold Hogopian. Engineered by Michael Schulze. Liner notes by George E. Ruckert. Recorded during a performance in Finney Chapel, Oberlin Conservatory of Music on 23 November 2002, and at Strongsville Presbyterian Church, near Oberlin, Ohio on 24 November 2002.

Disk One:

"Rāg Jog" (ālāp, jor, and jhālā; gats in Rūpak Tāl)

"Rāg Mishra Piloo" (āocār ālāp and gats in Tīntāl).

Disk Two:

"Rāg Bilāskhāni Todī" (ālāp, jod, and jhālā; gats in Jhaptāl and Tīntāl)

"Rāg Bahār" (āocār ālāp and gats in Tīntāl and Ektāl).

The legacies of India's master musicians and teachers dominate our perceptions and appreciations of modern performers. We hear and watch their students, noting the carefully copied ornaments, techniques, and modes of interpretation (if not mannerisms) and compare them to our memories of their origins at their prime.

One of the best-known students of Ravi Shankar performing today, sitarist Kartik Seshadri has toured extensively and uses concerts as opportunities to inculcate in his audiences his interpretations of the art of north Indian classical music. Like his teacher, Seshadri has taken up residence in Southern California, in the student's case, teaching at the University of California, San Diego. (Shankar set up a private school, Kinnar, in Los Angeles in the 1960s.) The performances on this disk are good illustrations of how well Seshadri has learned the style of his teacher, both in terms of playing style and in repre senting the music; Shankar has been, in addition to an influential sitarist, an educator of Western audiences. Indeed, Pandit Shankar has played a significant role in defining the modern model of the constantly touring virtuoso who spends a signifi cant amount of time in Europe and North America, teaching for periods and nurturing audiences.

One of the first aspects of Kartik Seshadri's playing that strikes the listener is how much he has internalized the playing style of his teacher. The quick slides and ornaments as well as the use of a bass string on the sitar distinguish both Pandit Shankar's and Shesadri's ālāps (the un-metered performance of a rāg). Shankar championed the innovation of the bass string as well as a style that emphasizes quick percussive strokes of the kind heard in Seshadri's gats (the metered portion of the performance and the composed melody that defines [End Page 147] it). Part of the recording also has Seshadri talking to the audience about Indian culture and music in a way that was appropriate for an early Shankar concert in the West.

One of Seshadri's choices for this performance—"Rāg Jog"—is especially appropriate given Shankar's fondness for this rāg and its appearance on one of his first LPs, Three Ragas (ca. 1969). On that recording, Shankar manages to squeeze into a 28-minute recording a complete ālāp (with an ālāp, jod, and jhālā) and two gats with variations in slow and fast Tīntāl. Seshadri's performance also is about 28 minutes long with a complete ālāp, but he endeavors to render only one gat with variations (in the seven-beat cycle, Rūpak Tāl). Shankar perfected this kind of condensed performance in which, not only do we get an overview of the rāg both in an un-pulsed (ālāp) and pulsed (jod and jhālā) framework, but two or more metered compositions with improvised variations and fills. Some of this is true also of Shankar's fellow student, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan's performances; but Shankar developed a unique way of playing that Seshadri has learned to near perfection.

However, the similarities between the recordings go beyond the performance. Shankar often enlisted others like Harihar Rao to write notes...


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