Pandit Kamalesh Maitra, The World’s Musical Traditions, Vol. 10: Tabla Tarang–Melody on Drums

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
One of the few tabla tarang masters plies his craft.

There are very few players of the tabla tarang, a series of up to 16 tuned tabla drums placed in a semi-circle around the musician that allow him to play both rhythm and melody. At times Maitra's playing seems almost magical, weaving a complex melody — and harmony — over difficult rhythms as he performs these morning ragas; often it's hard to believe there's only one person performing. These are lengthy pieces, offering him ample opportunity to demonstrate his highly evolved art. Indeed, there are moments, as on "Raag Mia Ki Todi," that seem almost orchestral, with the sarod (which he also plays) in the background, and the drums improvising around the basic theme. Maitra is a consummate player, a virtuoso on this highly unusual instrument, able to make it sing on these introspective pieces that bring a sense of calm, even when his hands seem to be doing the impossible all at once. Masterful, this is North Indian music with a difference.