Raga Nova,
Raga Nova
(ARC, 2003)

Raga Nova is a unique collection of music in several ways. It combines the saxophone and sitar, creating a Western and Indian fusion. It combines the very best classical musicians from Britain and Asia, as well as the distinct percussion techniques of both North and South India.

This CD contains only four tracks, but the shortest has a 10:55 runtime. The longest clocks in at 19:34. The first selection, "Angi," is a combination of ragas that ends in a tibayi, a north Indian rhythmic cadence that will blow you away. "Varta" is a peaceful number that induces a restful state.

"In and Out" changes from the slow and easy to a fast pace that will make you hop up and try out belly dancing. It has the heaviest Brazilian influence of the entire collection. "Joy" has percussion to die for! The sax takes on the South American brass qualities in this composition, which fascinated me. It is so interesting to hear that combine with the sitar.

Raga Nova consists of Dharambir Singh on sitar, Jesse Bannister on alto saxophone, Sukhvinder Singh Namdhari on tabla and Sri R.N. Prakash on gbatam. Each has a long list of major accomplishments and awards.

Hearing the fusion of the two styles is nothing less than exotic and exhilarating. For me, the percussion makes this CD. However, this does not mean that the other musicians are anything less than spectacular. Bannister has a reputation for making his sax sound like a sbebnai (an Indian oboe) and a flute. I have to agree with that. If I had not known the instrument, I would have commented on the outstanding oboe in several places. He has a unique sound that will challenge the horizons of saxophone players worldwide for many decades.

Raga Nova is like nothing you have heard. It is something you must hear. No description could ever do justice to this music collection. It is a combination of many things, but yet not quite a fit for any single category. I would especially recommend this CD for jazz lovers and the people that dance to percussion.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 3 July 2004

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