May 01, 2002 - Allen Herbert
D.H.Lawrence once described the way a novel works as the process by which "the reader's sympathy flows and recoils". The basic building blocks of music may be equally simple, and yet what enormous variations in rhythm, texture, melody can be generated by gifted musicians.
Nadaka's music is impossible to classify. While a short caption on the back of the Living Colours describes this album as "an acoustic fusion of Indian classical with a contemporary feel" it is so much more than a fusion which suggests absorption; Here we find different traditions; Hindustani, Carnatic, Jazz--meshing seamlessly without losing their distinctness. We're in a unique zone where a traditional sitar introduction leads into Western-style guitar rhythms, where the flute can be quick-flight Carnatic one moment, smoky jazz the next; where the violin and the guitar can be percussive or achingly fragile, the tabla or Mridangam an almost solid wall of sound or a solitary questing voice. The different musical textures play off one another, interweave, the musical traditions cross-pollinate, as the music builds, holds climatically, before the violin, flute or guitar once again flies free like the soul refusing imprisonment in form.
Each piece in Living Colours is based upon a traditional raga. 'Caprice', an interpretation of the Surya Raga, is one of the most successful interpretations. Like a day dawning, it begins with Balasai's meditative silver flute introduction, then the violin sounds the awakening of the earth, echoed high above by the flute before the warmer, richer tones of the guitar break in, to be counter-pointed by flute and plangent sitar. A pause, then the meditative tone gives way to the urgent staccato of the violin shades of 'Rite of Spring'--as the insects and bees begin humming. Guitar, tabla and flute pick up the urgency of myriad life awakening, first expressing their different identities, then weaving their notes together.
'Hamsa Leela', 'Rangavati' and 'Surya Shakti' are equally remarkable in the way the texture of the music varies between density and light threads, meditation and affirmation, journey and arrival. 'Chakra', based upon the Chakravakam Raga, is a series of brief solos showcasing the various instruments. Some of the solos notably the guitar and flute solos are fine, yet, in the context of the CD as a whole, perhaps 'Chakra' represents a certain loss of dynamism and multi-layered richness. Living Colours concludes with the brief, exquisite 'Shanti', an early-hours rendition of 'Natai Bairavi Raga'. It made me realize what fun these musicians were having in eluding, albeit temporarily, the meshes of tradition.