“The biggest grounding force for me in my musical journey is my guru Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar and the incredible Dhrupad tradition which I am obsessed with. Deciding to play this music on the piano is like an asymptote – the closer you get, the further away you realise you are! Every record is like a postcard on fulfilling your ultimate musical intentions and this one is no exception. My attempt is to explore the expressive potential of the piano in playing this music“ – Utsav Lal
About the Album
Lal releases his sixth record of pure Indian Classical Ragas on the piano. Having gained international recognition over the past 15 years for his groundbreaking work, this record is a new direction for the pianist and features strong Dhrupad influenced raga interpretations on piano. With much more focus on the subtler nuances of raga ornamentation, resonance and development, this is Indian Classical music as it has never been heard before. From diverse influences ranging from the Persian piano playing tradition of Morteza Mahjoobi, the genre bending piano playing of Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou and extended techniques of Helmut Lachenmann, the music of Utsav Lal represents a truly unique and original voice on the piano.
The record features solo piano rendition of two beautiful Indian Ragas in their traditional Alap Jod Jhala form. Both Raga Malkauns and Raga Puriya are explored with patience, sensitivity and great care is taken to respect the heavy and serious emotional characteristics of these ragas. The rudraveena was a huge inspiration for these ragas with particular care given to translating the decay and nuance of tone of the instrument. To showcase the classical tabla accompaniment, the record includes Raga Jaijaivanti presented with a beautiful composition in rupak taal (7 beat cycle) featuring the renowned tabla player Nitin Mitta (of Vijay Iyer’s “Tirtha” trio). The rhythmic incisiveness of Nitin joins hands with the inspirational improvisations of Utsav to create a meaningful acoustic dialogue between the two percussive instruments. The last two tracks are an improvised take on two well-known Indian compositions. Both, which are very clearly based on ragas, are explored with much leniency in form and development and it is here that Utsav Lal’s wide source of musical influences shine through the clearest. With this latest release, Utsav Lal reveals his prowess in music has come of age and this record is a distinctive, unapologetically original take on both the piano and on Indian classical music.
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