Off-Ramp | Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Peter Shenshoel's Album of the Week: Pannalal Ghosh

Every week, KPCC engineer Peter Stenshoel brings in an LP from his varied personal collection.


Humid Minnesota midsummers -- without air conditioning -- concoct contexts of densely heightened senses. Southern California gets plenty of heat, but nothing like the reality-tilting humidity of the deepest Midwest. And, while I can’t say I miss it, there are times humidity is advantageous ... like when you're listening to Pannalal Ghosh’s wooden flute. 

Pannalal (1911-1960) was the genius who popularized bamboo flute as a solo classical instrument in the storied realms of Hindustani (North Indian) classical music. Raag Yaman and Raag Shri, each spanning a side of this disc, are evening ragas, their scales considered to best resonate at night. I can vouch for hearing these mysterious, moody, sinuous tones on a humid summer night, as light outside magically dims, and feeling as if I were walking the streets of Bombay or New Delhi.

For a time Pannalal wrote music for Bollywood films, but the changing fads of the medium appealed to him not, so he devoted his remaining few years to concertizing. Though he died young, Ghosh opened the door for world famous bamboo artists like Hariprasad Chaurasia. I sincerely hope my favorite flautist will not be forgotten.