Raj Rangayyan
& Utpal Mazumdar,
If You Have the Time
(self-produced, 2000)

It is no secret that the Indian diaspora harbors some impressive artistic talents. Writers like V.S. Naipaul, Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh have worldwide audiences, and it is already a few decades ago that the West was introduced to the exotic sound of Ravi Shankar's sitar. It is encouraging to notice that increasing numbers of Indian musicians living in North America decide to further acquaint the public in their adopted homelands with their native musical traditions.

The Indo-Canadian duo Raj Rangayyan and Utpal Mazdumdar has produced a very fine selection of compositions for flute and percussions with the unpretentious title If You Have the Time. This is really an excellent piece of work, for which the artists have chosen to stay close to the authentic sound. Flutist Raj Rangayyan received his training on the indigenous bansuri in India, from Sri K.P. Shenoy (on the way he learned to play the sitar as well). His companion Utpal Mazumdar studied tabla and pakhawaj and took part in many innovative projects, blending Indian music with western styles like jazz and bluegrass. Although they plan to venture into the realm of fusion and new age music, this album is a clear testimonial of undiluted traditional Indian music.

Uncontaminated by any noticeable electronic enhancement, the rustic sound of Raj's bamboo flute and the crispy dry beat of Utpal's drums seem designed to carry the listener into some timeless realm, which is also reflected by the primordial titles of some of the compositions. They range from the metaphysical -- like the opening number "From Darkness to Light" (subtitled "Get the divine message") and "Solace" ("Surrender to the divine") -- and the therapeutical ("Energize! A gentle tune-up for the day" and "Prayer Power: Strengthen your resolve and appeal with music") to more down-to-earth invitations such as "Hum Along."

As a whole the CD has an earthy feel, and the music's power is enhanced by its simple and straightforward rendition. If, as a world music fan, you are a bit of a purist then this is definitely an album for you.

- Rambles
written by Carool Kersten
published 20 November 2004