M. S. Subbulakshmi, Ganesha Pancharathnam

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Ganesha Pancharathnam

M. S. Subbulakshmi

The gifted Indian singer Subbulakshmi has recorded many albums of ancient Vedic chant. The Vedas, the scriptures of Hinduism, largely recount the deeds and teachings of the gods (though there is also a book of magic spells). Subbulakshmi's chants are now available as individual tracks, some quite lengthy. This particular pair is a good introduction, and offers two sides of Subbulakshmi's repetitive, trance-inducing vocals. The first is less than five minutes of slow, steady song/chant, with drum accompaniment. The melody, such as it is, moves in small steps, so that it appears to hardly be moving at all… when in fact it covers a surprising amount of ground. The second piece is just over 20 minutes of highly rhythmic chant, in a much more restricted range, with a droning tambura accompaniment. Here, in the context of a relentless sweep of syllables, the occasional recurring phrase becomes almost startling in its familiarity.