Sanjeev & Karuna
Compact Disc: Times Square Records 9016
By Srajan Ebaen
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In the 12th century, Mughal rule on the Indian subcontinent introduced the Persian language Farsi to its own indigenous tongues. Since the Arts and poetry were of vital interest to the refined tastes of the Mughal courts, a new language called Urdu arose whose primary means of expression was through poetry. Considering its advent, it shouldn't be surprising to realize that the raw sound of Urdu itself is one of melodious beauty, quite unlike the many guttural tongues that are better suited to military orders or scientific descriptions than romantic expression.
The most popular form of reciting Urdu poetry nowadays is by way of song, particularly the romantic love song called
Inspiration Unfolding is dedicated to bringing the Urdu-based Ghazal to a larger audience with seven recitals spanning an average of 10 minutes. These compositions put to music verses by some of the genre's most beloved grand masters like Ameer
Khusrau, Mirza Ghalib and Siraj Aurangabadi, and three more contemporary successors, Faiz Ahmad
Faiz, Akbar Hyderabadi and Siddiqua Shabnam.
Occupying the opposite pole of filmi sensation R.D. Burman's lively pop compositions, Sanjeev & Karuna's ghazals are slowly meandering, serpentine melodic meditations mostly devoid of the tabla's rhythmic underpinnings but accompanied by the calm grandeur of the bowed Sarangi and filigreed guitar. The overall mood is mystical yet not heavy, and the translated lyrics give further indication of the gently intoxicated subject matter:
"G-d Himself was presiding over a gathering in a place beyond reality, the prophet Muhammad was the central illumination of the assembly where I was last evening…"
Ameer Khusrau commemorates a celestial journey on which his spiritual master took him, to a gathering of great saints.
"I do not know what that place was where I was last evening. All around there was a dance of undoing ecstasy in this place I was last night…"
The songs on Inspiration possess great sweetness and gentleness, shared equally between the Baritone register of Sanjeev and the warm Alto of Karuna as they undergo the cyclical unfolding of the verses in the elastic vein of Indian vocals mimicking the quartertone fret board undulations of its stringed instruments. These songs breathe organically while the expansive melodies unfurl and arch between pauses only to retreat again, stimulating the kind of sensation one derives from sitting by the shore and getting absorbed in the endless procession of breaking waves and the silences between them.
Equally suitable as ambiance for contemplation or background music for a candlelit special dinner affair,
Inspiration is clearly Indian in character but devoid of the bottomless depth of raga -- more sophisticated mellow pop than deep introspection - and thus easily appreciated by listeners who find Classical Indian music too challenging or trying. If the latter describes you, give Sanjeev & Karuna a try. At worst, you'll get hungry for Indian food, at best, you'll fall in love - and neither is a bad reaction at all.