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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Khan Plucks New Life From Classic Forms

June 10, 1996|DON HECKMAN

"The sound of Indian classical music," said Amjad Ali Khan at the start of his recital Saturday night at Occidental College's Thorne Hall, "is freedom within discipline." He then proceeded to illustrate, in considerable detail, exactly what he meant with a program of soaring improvisations carefully framed within the melodic and rhythmic structures of the classical raga and taal.

Khan plays the sarod, a stringed instrument unique to Indian music, and one of its most lyrical and articulate mediums. A distant relative of the lute and the Persian rebab, the sarod has a fretless fingerboard, allowing the player to create an endless variety of sliding pitches and vocalized effects. At one point, in fact, Khan, referring to his sarod, noted, "This is my voice."

In typical classical style, his program, one of a continuing series of Indian music concerts produced by Sadarang Performing Arts Circle, consisted of a group of ragas, opening with lengthy alaps. The alap, performed alone (except for the accompanying drone), is the most passionately personal aspect of Indian music. And Khan, starting his first evening raga slowly, characteristically took a long, leisurely path, his always appealing melodic line building to a series of gripping climaxes.

When he was joined by tabla player Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari for an even more extended ghat (or ensemble section) in a seven-beat rhythmic taal, the music blossomed into the full flower of Indian classical style, rich with rapid-fire exchanges between Khan and Namdhari, turbulent with surging rhythmic momentum. It was a rare opportunity for the enthusiastic crowd to experience the entrancing work of a world-class musical artist.

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