Ghazal is an ongoing collaboration between Kayhan Kalhor, an Iranian kamancheh (a vertical, four-string fiddle) virtuoso, and Shujaat Husain Khan, a sitar master. This is Ghazal's third album in what has turned out to be an entirely successful fusion of two ancient classical musics: Persian and Hindustani (north Indian). By successful I mean that the casual listener not necessarily well-versed in the subtleties of either tradition can appreciate and enjoy the results. On one hand, the two streams, although developed separately in parallel, have a great common basis in the primacy of improvisation, leading to a very natural collaborative framework. On the other hand, the distinct differences in the built-up repertoire of ragas and other prescribed patterns call for a common denominator, which, perhaps, lead to a performance that is more accessible to the ears from other traditions. No doubt it is the particular skills of these two great players (accompanied by Swapan Chaudhuri on tabla) and their growing familiarity with each other that has produced such satisfying results. Track 1, "Fire in my Heart," is especially evocative of the Silk Road of the title, with a loping rhythm suggestive of a moving caravan, the intensity slowly increasing around a simple melodic motif, building up to a climax driven by some geography of desire. -- John Cho
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