14.1.11

Pandit Pran Nath - Earth Groove: The Voice of Cosmic India LP (Mississippi Records, 2008)

Nearly a century has past since the birth of the now legendary Hindustani vocalist Pandit Pran Nath, whose teachings of the Kirana school of Gharana played a major role in the shaping of western minimalism. Though exposed to music his whole child life, Nath's parents did not approve of him becoming a musician. Despite this, he persisted and at age 13 took residence with the legendary singer Abdul Wahid Khan--who was of the Kirana Gharana school. It's been said that during a five year span of this residency Nath lived in a cave near a temple as a way to better serve his Shivaism. He later taught music at the University of Delhi from 1960 to 1970.

It was in the late 60's when La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela tuned their ears to the original release of Earth Groove, and played a crucial role, I would imagine, in Nath's decision to move to America. In '72 Nath established the Kirana Center for Indian Classical Music and in his lifetime took many musicians under his wing, including Young, Zazeela, Terry Riley, Charlemagne Palestine, Henry Flynt, Yoshi Wada, and Rhys Chatham.

Earth Groove consists of two side-long pieces that capture Nath's unrelenting vocal delivery, often incorporating a lot of alap (unmetered and improvised sections usually accompanied by a drone). Once one gets used to the idea of the cyclic nature of the music and the simplicity of the composition, the music becomes extremely meditative. The instrumentation acting here purely as a backdrop, like a metronome keeping tempo. Side one, Raaga Bhoopali, acts as the mood for meditation for after sunset while side two, Raaga Asavari, is for after sunrise. The difference in the two to my ears is an overall "lighter" mood on the A side. Both are very good.

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