Srdjan Beronja and Various Artists: The Sounds of Varanasi (Arc Music)

 |   |  1 min read

Dadra: Raga Mishra Khamaj
Srdjan Beronja and Various Artists: The Sounds of Varanasi (Arc Music)

Given the stealthy return of concept albums in rock, we welcome this entry from world music where -- if the title suggests people bellowing in your ear, taxi horns honking incessantly and smiling man asking "Where are you from?" -- the subtitle is more telling: A Unique Sound Journey Through the Holy City.

Serbian percussionist/composer Beronja -- who adopted Varanasi as his home while he learning Indian classical music -- here constructs a dawn-to-dusk exploration courtesy of field recordings of prayers and ceremonies, as well as more formal recitals by sitar and violin player Pt. Dhruv Nath Mishra and others.

It opens with a brief Morning Mantra by some old men (and green parrots) in a field and  ends of course with an Evening Mantra by singing holy men and the short  evening rage, Raga Bhairavi, by Mishra and tabla player Ravi Tripathi.

Beronja -- or his record label -- is astute enough to rein in the atmospheric pieces to just snippets (none more than two minutes, and don't really need more than the 44 seconds of monkeys scrapping over a piece of roti bread).

But the music is often beguiling (Pahari Dhun with bansuri flute player Hari Poundwal) and the field recordings throughout collection bring an atmospheric authenticity to the hour-long journey towards nightfall.

So this isn't the high end of raga but rather postcards or missives from a day in the holy city where you get to hear chants recorded in alleyways or on ghats, and the happy noise of drums at a wedding.

Real life, in other words.

A worthy, if marginal project, where Arc's liner notes fill in details of the locations, styles and instruments.

Share It

Your Comments

James Bradfield - Feb 21, 2016

I have stayed at Ravi Tripathis guest house in Varanasi and had the pleasure of listening to him play at length with other talented musicians . A brilliant tabla player

post a comment

More from this section   World Music articles index

Cristina Branco: Live in Amsterdam (Arc)

Cristina Branco: Live in Amsterdam (Arc)

Cristina Branco was one of an emerging generation of Portuguese fado singers when, in 1997, she performed in Amsterdam where this, her debut album, was recorded. Her assured, crystalline... > Read more

Cesaria Evora: Rogamar (RCA)

Cesaria Evora: Rogamar (RCA)

One of my London-based sons is just back from three weeks on the various Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. I shall quote him: "loads of swimming, hiking and taking in the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

VIVID: THE PAUL HARTIGAN STORY by DON ABBOTT

VIVID: THE PAUL HARTIGAN STORY by DON ABBOTT

Although Paul Hartigan's art practice has roamed across a number of media and styles — from distinctive representational Pop Art painting through tee-shirt and poster designs to Polaroids... > Read more

Elvis Costello: Imperial Bedroom (1982)

Elvis Costello: Imperial Bedroom (1982)

By the time Elvis Costello got to this remarkable, emotionally dense and astonishingly concise album (so many moods, styles and emotions in 50 minutes) he had become well separated from his... > Read more