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Arts & Entertainment

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week: Man From Madras by Balachander

Album review: Man From Madras by Balachander
Album review: Man From Madras by Balachander
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

Balachander rocks! 

If all you know about Indian music is sitar-based, you owe it to yourself to discover the veena. It was Balachander (1927-1990) who really showed me how expressive the veena can be. If you don't know what it sounds like, take a great slide blues guitarist like Son House or Bonnie Raitt and extrapolate the thrill of that skill to inhabit the melodious garland of Indian ragas. Mix in rich complex rhythms from South Indian's classical tradition and you've got an exciting, emotional, and muscular treat.

Man From Madras is comprised of three compositions from one of India's greatest composers, Saint Thyagaraja. This beloved 18th Century figure is part of a trinity of Carnatic tunesmiths as big in their way as Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven are in the West. The other two, also from the 1700s, are Syama Sastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar, whose Amritavarshini, or "Shower of Divine Nectar" is featured in this post.

Enjoy a video of the twisty, turning, classical brilliance that is Balachander, the cool cat from Chennai.