David Rothenberg and R.A. Ramamani
"The single drone gives a ground to all sounds," says David Rothenberg about the essence of classical Indian music. "And the beat makes you think that your movement has some kind of order". Rothenberg makes his point with "Raga Amrutha Varshini" from this cross-cultural collaboration recorded the 6th World Wilderness Congress in Bangalore in October 1998. The raga begins with a drone and then R.A. Ramamani's voice joins the drone on the same note. She holds the note a long time, rises slightly from the drone tonal center and then falls back. Then she rises slightly, this time singing the note with a melismatic flutter, and then falls back to the drone center. A third time she rises to the same note and then falls back, this time rising quicker and falling back quicker adding a sense of forward motion as she is joined by the mridangam, the barrel-shaped drum essential to South Indian music. "Raga Amrutha Varshini" is all push and pull (vivadi/samvadi in Indian music). The "pull" or samvadi notes melt into the drone. The "push" or vivadi notes create the tension against the drone. In this particular raga, the vivadi notes are themselves simple and so absolutely perfect they seem to hang there in musical space just as if nature intended them to be there. The forward movement of the raga takes shape through the increasing beat patterns of the mridangam. This delightful raga is a perfect example of how rhythm responds and reacts to a melody.
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