Raj Rangayan,
Listen, Honey ...
A Melodious Love Story

(self-produced, 2003)

A lengthy composition dedicated to a love affair is hardly a new idea. Operas and musicals focus on little else, and few composers can resist throwing in at least one or two love songs into even the most platonically heroic story. These are usually bombastic, cheerful chorus numbers, or long, powerfully delivered paths of eternal love.

Raj Rangayan's Listen, Honey ... A Melodious Love Story is a very different experience. Absent are the wild surges of passion or the low-key mourning of misunderstanding and separation. In their place are the daily pleasures, the easy comforts and moderate lovers' spats of all the couples who have been too comfortable, dull and frankly loving to be idolized in the more intense productions.

Instead, the overall feeling is one of peace. Listen, Honey captures an easy, natural love, the sort of everyday miracle event usually ignored by the arts. From the shy, gradually intensifying tempo of "Eyes Meet" through the peaceful familiarity of "Together" and the title song itself, the lovers of this album seem content and not the least star-crossed. There are moments of tension; the coy fluting notes of "Tease Me Not," the regretful echoes of sighing strings in "Without You." But even the foot-tapping drive of "I'm Restless" causes no real concern, no doubt that these lovers will end up together and comfortable. It's a relaxed, welcoming approach to the old relationship conflicts that fits wells in the ear and the heart.

The album was made with only three performers, with no true lead instrument, and that interdependence allows each performer to shine. Raj Rangayan and Utpal Mazumdar are both classically trained musicians with 20 years of experience in traditional Indian music, and it shows in every arrangement. It echoes through the melodies and especially the silences. This is more than a rearrangement of traditional ragas. Drummers in western music are often overlooked, or overtly smothered beneath vocals and melodic arrangements. Here Utpal's rhythmic contributions are a vital part of each piece. His percussion is nimble and flirtatious, adding youth and vigor to the sometimes reserved swing of Rangayan's bansuri. Utpal's musical work include stints with bluegrass and calypso groups, and that range of experience adds an unexpected globalism to this otherwise very Indian album.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 16 April 2005