This educational CD-Rom can be considered in conjunction with Nimbus's
The Raga Guide (reviewed in
S&H, September 1999, Immersion
in Indian Music). It is a multi-media guide to styles, instruments,
personality and the philosophy of Hindustani music.
There are introductory sections covering its religious aims and the role
of the guru. The names of notes and scales are translated, with brief
sound illustrations. Ragas are described and particular moods attributed
to them and to individual notes. The importance of performing at the right
time of day is stressed.
There is a vast compendium of illustrated biographies of popular performers,
vocal and instrumental, present and past, which provides easy enjoyment and
a good impression of the variety of styles, and this is perhaps the most
valuable part of the enterprise. Some of these are sound only, others with
video, both of variable quality. They will be invaluable to prospective
purchasers bemused by the vast numbers of CDs of Indian music now available.
The indexing and cross referencing is impressive. There are numerous cross-links
to pursue between the main categories Forms, Instruments, Personalities,
Ragas & Talas. (There are 37 entries under the letter A alone!). Sometimes
these links will lead to a specific article, in others to just a passing
reference in another text.
It is full of assertions to be accepted as given, never convincingly described
for the uninitiated. All aspects are named and defined. There is however
sometimes a frustrating gap for Western listeners between the plethora of
names and the lack of really meaningful illustrations. This limits the
possibility to transfer theoretical information into better understanding
and appreciation of what is happening in actual concert situations. Many
of the brief sound illustrations do not give more than a snapshot impression,
and are not capable of being extended into real understanding.
For interested European listeners it is easy to become overwhelmed by a multitude
of technical terms. The real problem remains the oral teaching tradition
in India, so that with all its classified information, and computer links
around the contents, India Musica often leaves us without being able
to make real sense of what one reads and hears.
This is an attractive CD-Rom to sample and explore, but the final acquisition
of insight and knowledge available from it is limited. Perhaps the only solution,
for the few sufficiently committed, is to undergo the traditional training
under a guru?
Meanwhile, there is scope for another CD-Rom, which might combine the best
of the ideas in this one with the detailed exposition of Ragas in Nimbus's
The Raga Book, with its four CDs. I applauded the core of that enterprise,
a four minute version of the raga Alhaiya bilavi, fully transcribed
in its entirety, but wished that others of the miniature performances had
been transcribed similarly.
What is especially lacking in both productions is a visual demonstration
in real time of the rhythmic cycles of the talas. This is essential for beginners
who hope to learn to keep track of what is happening and, in particular,
to be able to appreciate those flights of fancy which singers, instrumentalists
and percussionists indulge in before returning eventually to the beginning
of a cycle, to the evident delight of knowledgeable listeners.
It would help immeasurably to have had, made visible, the hand-clapping routines,
and also to see the melodic line passing before one on screen, as is achieved
with notable success in one of the earliest classical CD-Roms (Beethoven
Sonatas Op. 22, 26 & 53, Pollini - the score passes in front of your
eyes as Pollini plays, a yellow cursor keeping your place, and you can even
edit and print it out, adding your own fingerings!)
[review Deutsche Grammophon 435 472-2].
However, as of now both India Musica and The Raga Book are educational aids
which can be welcomed and recommended as worth while purchases.
(India Musica website
Peter Grahame Woolf
Peter Grahame Woolf
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