An Exploration of Indian and Irish Music
Collaborative Concert of Indian and Irish instrumental folk music
Review of the concert at Dolgellau Music Club season in Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor Hall, with Simon Kohli on Sarod, Ben Walker on Uilleann pipes and Irish flute, Chris Knowles on Celtic Harp and Irish Bouzouki and Tapan Roy on Tabla, Friday 3 April 2009. Written by Ben Ridler
‘Different’ was the word on many lips after the final concert of the Music Club season in Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor on Friday 3rd April – a cautious reaction implying neither approbation nor dislike. This was understandable perhaps, given that as Simon Kohli himself put it the combination in one programme of Irish and Indian music was ‘an exploration’. The audience as a whole seemed happy to join Simon and his three fellow musicians on this journey, and applauded them warmly for their expertise and inventiveness.
The programme began with Ben Walker introducing, and inflating the bellows of, his Uilleann (‘elbow’) pipes, on which he proceeded to play a beguiling three-part sequence of slow air, slip jig and reel – The Bright Lady, O’Farrell’s Welcome and The Holly Bush. In the home of Sesiwn Fawr this was familiar and accessible territory. Less so was that of the next item – a spring Raga called ‘Bahar’ played in Alap style by Simon Kohli on the sarod. A member of the sitar family, this beautiful 26-stringed fretless instrument has a teak body, goatskin belly and at the peg end a brass bell for amplification. (This function is now mainly fulfilled by discreet use of a sound system; the requisite drone sounds are also augmented electronically.) A wide range of beautiful sounds can be produced, and Simon exploited these to the full. As in the Irish sequence a progression took place from slow to quick, which gave an overall shape for listeners. The challenge lies in the lack (from a Western point of view) of clear points of focus, so that it can be hard to pace one’s listening, as it were; if you can tune in to this more diffuse, mantra-like way of experiencing music, the rewards are great.
Chris Knowles’s Celtic harp now juxtaposed a haunting Gaelic air, Taimse Im Chodladh, followed by Miss Hamilton, the only surviving piece of Cornelius Lyons, a contemporary of the better-known Carolan. Tapan Roy on tabla joined Simon Kohli on sarod to bring the first half to a close with a faster version of the Bahar raga in ‘Drut Teental’ a 16-beat rhythmic cycle.
A high spot of the evening followed the interval as Tapan Roy expounded the unique language of his tabla (a very special pair of drums), amazing (and amusing) the audience with his virtuoso display of spoken and drummed syllables. The climax was ‘Rela’ (‘railway’), a superb evocation in rhythm of the ever-changing motion of wheels on track (with a final cry of ‘Station’!) Ben and Chris then combined for another Irish sequence. The ‘exploration’ proper involved all four musicians at once, first in ‘The Broken Pledge’ and ‘My Love is in America’, and then (with sarod, tabla, flute and Irish bouzouki) in ‘Bhairav’, one of the best-known ragas. Ben Walker on flute here took wing, adding in his improvisations a real sense of new music being born.
This show is now available for bookings for Arts Centres and Festivals. A complete demo of the show is not available, but demos from each individual musicians and the Indian and Irish duo performances are available as the show largely consists of these performances.
Storytelling Show – Ragata presents
The Thousand Petalled Lotus Flower and other stories (for adults/mixed audience)
The Crow and the Chickpea and other stories (for children)
Brochure for Storytelling Show