Recharge Plus/ Anuradha Pal
Sur Aur Saaz/ Rs 295
A disciple of the great Ustad Allarakha and Zakir Hussain, tabla exponent Anuradha Pal has established herself as an outstanding and innovative percussionist in her own right. Besides accompanying Hindustani classical musicians, she has been involved with experimental music through her all-female group Stree Shakti and the fusion outfit Recharge.
Anuradha’s latest album ‘Recharge Plus’ is a follow-up to the mighty impressive ‘Get Recharged !!!!’. Featuring an array of talented musicians, it is one of the most brilliant fusion albums to be released over the past couple of years, blending styles as diverse as Hindustani, Carnatic, Indian folk, devotional, jazz, Middle Eastern, African, Latino and even western classical to create some splendid sounds.
Besides composing the tunes, Anuradha herself plays an assortment of drums here. Apart from the tabla, she uses the pakhawaj, kanjira, djembe, darbouka, udu and bongos. And though other musicians chip in with mridangam, ghatam, cajon, timbales and the traditional drumkit, the album is not dominated by percussion. Smart and judicious use of keyboards, sarangi, sitar, shehnai, violin and saxophone, among other instruments, lend a complete feel.
Seven of the eight tracks consist of Indian vocals. Strangely, all the vocalists – Sandip Bhattacharjee, Aditya Khandwe, Nanu Gurjar, Vaishali Samant and Chandanabala – have been credited together, and one wishes the liner notes had mentioned who had sung which song.
The album begins with ‘High Voltage’, which stays true to its title. Bursting with energy, it begins with percussion and keyboards, before using impeccable vocal taranas and taans. ‘Desire’, which talks of waiting for a loved one, is a nice blend of the semi-classical thumri style with Latino and jazz melodies.
‘Just One God’ is a marvellous amalgam. It begins with the mantra ‘Ya devi sarvabhuteshu’, and goes on to include some breath-taking sargams, and a stretch from Carnatic composer Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s ‘Vatapi Ganapatim bhajeham’ in raga Hamsadhwani. As a total surprise, we hear western classical snatches from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and Beethoven’s ‘9th Symphony’.
‘Seventh Heaven’ is a wonderful adaptation of the Sufi piece ‘Kadi aa mil sanwal yaar ve’, written by Farhat Abbas Shah and popularised by Pakistan’s Mekaal Hasan Band. The singing on this version is simply soulful.
On the title track, Anuradha uses raga Miyan ki Malhar. While the first half contains some melodic sarangi, sitar and shehnai, a dazzling orchestral portion brightens up the climax. ‘Cloud 9’, the only instrumental piece here, is set in the rare nine-beat cycle, and has a heady combination of Carnatic music and jazz, with a mesmerising violin stretch by Raghavendra Rao.
‘Joy’ explores the Rajasthani folk style of Maand, using a soothing sarangi and crisp vocals. The piece, which celebrates the return of a loved one, also moves between the Hindustani, Carnatic and jazz worlds. Finally, ‘Recharged by Shiva’ is an invocation to Lord Shiva, containing a good selection of devotional shlokas.
Being primarily a tabla player, Anuradha ensures that each piece contains some amount of virtuosity on that instrument, and produces some dazzling stretches. Yet, she never makes the tabla dominate over the other elements, using it for just the right amount to fit in perfectly with the nature of the compositions.
For that matter, each composition is perfectly balanced, between genres and instruments. And going by the sheer energy levels, this is an album that is bound to recharge you repeatedly.
RATING SCALE: * Poor; ** Average; *** Good; **** Excellent; ***** Simply outstanding