Chandrakant Sardeshmukh,
Celebration 80th Birthday
(Darshanam, 2000)

Celebration 80th Birthday is Indian music composed for and played on the sitar by Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh. The CD was released to honor the 80th birthday of Sardeshmukh's teacher, Pt. Ravi Shankar.

When I first put Celebration into the stereo, I was not paying strict attention to the music. I half-listened for several minutes before turning it off, completely repulsed by the sound. Later, I gave the CD my full attention -- and I rather liked it.

Although there is more than an hour of music on the CD, there are only two tracks. The first, "Happiness Forever: Raga Hemant," is nearly 46 minutes long and has both slow and fast sections. The second track, clocking in at just under half an hour, is "In Search of Happiness: Raga Shuddha Kaushi."

The first track begins very slowly and seems to wander aimlessly -- and tunelessly -- at least to the Western ear. This is the part that I couldn't get through the first time I listened to the CD. After about fifteen minutes, though, the tempo of the music picks up and it gets much more interesting. There are now discernible melodies in the music, making it much easier for the ear to follow. The second track also begins slowly, then picks up tempo, adding drums for interest.

Celebration is not for everyone. It is very difficult for the inexperienced listener to understand the different structure of the music, and some might also find the distinctive sound of the sitar distracting -- perhaps even annoying -- if they have never heard it before. However, the album deserves a little work on the part of the listener; if he perseveres, he might begin to hear the birthday wishes contained in the sound.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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