Chandrakant Sardeshmukh,
Pure Joy
(Darshanam, 1998)

Pure Joy isn't just a CD. It's a ticket to a world that you can't otherwise access. It lives up to its name, swelling and blossoming through a series of traditional melodies that won't leave you sitting still.

Comprised of authentic sitar music (as opposed to, say, the Beatles' bastardizations of the instrument after their gurus told them to do so) in the style of the region, the album left me transported. I could smell the heavenly perfumed air and taste the strong tang of spices on my tongue.

I literally had to be conscious of my open sliding-glass door -- or I'd have stood up and whirled like a dervish. Or run out it to look for bells to put on my feet.

As it was, I ended up buying a Mendhi kit. I blame it on this CD.

Unfortunately, not much by way of promotional material came with this work, so I can't give you much history on the CD or its inspiration. I do know that Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh, the artist, is a master of the instrument after starting to play at age 4, and that the work was dedicated with feeling to his Sudguru (guide on a spiritual path) and father, Shri Sardeshmukh Maharaj.

I can also tell you that much of the music is between eight and eight and a half beat ardha and addha -- for anyone who doesn't know the intricacies of the sitar, this means that the music is multilayered and relatively medium-fast. It may not be belly-dancer music in all places, but it is interesting and complex.

The characteristic of most sitar music is the low drone behind the plucked strings, and this collection balances that out well. The drone adds something primal, almost sexual, to the music, where the plucked strings add joy and energy.

This CD would be a perfect addition to a world-music afficianado's collection, and would be a superb jumping-off place for listeners who may not yet know the sitar's power and charm. Play it at night, with candles lit and incense burning in the holders. Watch the light flicker with the music and imagine a night market. Cook some curry and lose yourself.

Don't blame me if your neighbors see you dancing.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]