Asian Music and Dance

World Strings and Rare Ragas

Mid-way through this performance, it occurred to me that maybe the performers (eleven sitarists, a mandolin-player, a tabla-player, a cellist and a Kora-player), some with musical sheets, could do with a conductor. Well, it is a thought, particularly because, at times, I could hardly make out individual instruments other than the overwhelming presence of the sitars. Among other things, the conductor could have reduced their volume. 

The evening presented over a dozen pieces. Lead sitarist, Sanjay Guha and the ensemble played an assortment of ragas and folk tunes. Multi-instrumentalist Tunde Jegede presented an outstanding solo on the Kora and James Barralet played a beautiful J.S. Bach suite on the cello. At times, both combined with the ensemble.

At its best the music was a delight: while the ensemble of sitarists and mellow sounds of the cello provided a musical backdrop, Sanjay Guha weaved intricate patterns with the whimsical, fairy-like dancing sounds of the Kora. Certainly, there is much more musical territory that could, should, be explored by these artists and these contrasting instruments. 

It’s encouraging to see the London Sitar Ensemble present work at venues like the Southbank Centre. The Ensemble, supported by Making Music, provides a valuable service in giving, mostly amateur, musicians opportunities to perform to new audiences who get precious few chances to hear classical music from India. 



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