Asian Music and Dance


Around the time that I was delivering the final drop-ins for my India chapters in the Europe, Asia & Pacific volume for what would be the third and final edition of the Rough Guide to World Music, there was a bloom of new talent working in East-West fusion forms emerging. Among the new names were Arun Ghosh, Nataraj, Zoe Rahman, Idris Rahman, Samay, Shastriya Syndicate and The Teak Project. There was no telling, naturally, who would stay the course.

Three years on from the book’s publication in 2009, acoustic guitarist Giuliano Modarelli has emerged with a solo album amusingly titled Englobed. That said, its name also carries a vague echo of the Leeds, Yorkshire-based band that Modarelli co-founded, in that Samay’s 2008 album was called Songs for a Global Journey. Italian-born, he is a graduate of the Leeds College of Music. The album’s dedication goes to his teachers, the sarodists Buddhadev Das Gupta (spelled ‘Bhuddhadev’ in the notes) and Das Gupta’s pupil Prattyush Banerjee.

Recorded at ATA Studios in Leeds by Neil Innes – alas not the Bonzo Dog and Rutles Neil Innes – in 2011, Englobed opens with a faithful interpretation of rāg Bhimpalasi track encoded as a two-part performance. It starts with Alap which Modarelli plays solo (naturally) before Bhupinder Singh Chaggar joins in on tabla for track two entitled Jhaptaal. Modarelli’s approach here is thoroughly classical in orientation. The same applies to the still finer, pathos-engendering three-part interpretation of rāgam Charukesi called Charukeshi Jugalbandi on which the santoor player Kamajeet Ajimal acts as the foil of the jugalbandi (‘duet’) title.

Listening to Modarelli’s graceful, sensitive playing is to be reminded how far Western guitar has come in a Hindustani context – or an applied Hindustani context, given rāgam Charukeshi or Charukesi being a borrowing from the Southern art music tradition. In February 1967, when John Pilgrim made a private recording of the influential British guitar player Davey Graham performing She Moved Through The Bizarre/Blue Raga (eventually released as After Hours at Hull University, 4th February 1967 in 1997), Graham’s attack was deeply impressionistic, with no pretence of keeping ‘in rāg’. The common ground linking Davey Graham and Giuliano Modarelli is that both are deliverers of deeply personal interpretations.

Graham also experimented with oud and sarod, so another, admittedly slightly tenuous link to Graham is Modarelli’s deployment of Sura Susso’s kora on Cora (a fair amount of brainstorming went into that title, no doubt) and his oud sonorities on guitar on Arab Spring. Both are slighter, more, well, impressionistic pieces. The Davey Graham I knew would have approved and applauded this album. Englobed is a promising advance in a new skin on old bones sort of way.



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