Rahul Sharma Akaash Review

Live. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Turn it up and shut off all distractions...

Chris Moss 2005

The santoor is a dulcimer-like instrument with ancient roots in Persia.It has been used throughout Indo-Europe, from China and India where it was introduced as an accompaniment to Sufi verses to Hungary and Romania, but it has never achieved the popular status of the sitar.

Perhaps it's too lethal for the mass market. For when Rahul Sharma hammers away on his box of 90 taut strings, he seems to be plucking the very soul out of the instrument. As on his well-received debut on the same label, 'Native Signs', he is playing live to an audience that is first teased by the ragas and then whipped into near frenzy by the surges and dives of the instrument. The name "santoor" means "one hundred strains" and, while on a first, superficial listening, there might be a common percussive clang to the tracks, turn it up and shut off all distractions and you begin to hear the rippling moods and messages in this entrancing, edgy music.

John Ball's detailed sleevenotes take virgin listeners through the symbolism of each stage of the live show recorded at the 12-day Saptak Music Festival in Gujarat in 2004. However, beyond the ethnology there's an appealing openness in the performance, and a commitment to pure sound that will thrill fans of ambient music and the more leftfield artists featured in Wire magazine. As well as functioning as a percussive pulse, the santoor can be stroked and pulled to emulate the human voice, with elision between tones and almost no vibration.

In similarly visceral vein, Shafaat Ahmed Khan plays a tabla that sounds like an extension of his limbs. The taps and trills sound like the evocations of a stoned beatbox supremo, yet this is a highly scripted, rhythmically structured and technically complex genre.

For almost a decade now, Rahul has been accompanying his father and mentor, Shiv Kumar Sharma, refining his talents in jugalbandi (duet) performances.A faintdisdain for a narrow purist approach to tradition has been passed down from father to son: this recording is proof that the son is master of his own voice, and a force for renewal and experimentation in the classical Indian music scene.

Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. If you choose to use this review on your site please link back to this page.