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

Various Artists: Musical Explorers Series; Deben Bhattacharya, Krishna in Spring (ARC CD/DVD)

Various Artists: Musical Explorers Series; Deben Bhattacharya, Krishna in Spring (ARC CD/DVD)

The excellent archival reissue series of music and films by the late ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya (1921 – 2001) continues with this, a CD of field recordings and a 25 minute film... > Read more

Te Vaka: Amataga/The Beginning (Border)

Te Vaka: Amataga/The Beginning (Border)

Now billed in small print as Opetaia's Te Vaka – after their leader, singer and songwriter Opetaia Foa'i – this expat pan-Pacific group with roots in Tuvalu, Samoa, Tokelau and the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Hollywoodfun Downstairs: "The Mancunian Swing" (Muzai)

Hollywoodfun Downstairs: "The Mancunian Swing" (Muzai)

Things not quite in alignment here? One part concept album, another part “What I did on my holidays”, this debut from Wellington noise-rockers apparently documents singer Kurt... > Read more

The Great! Society: Somebody to Love (1966)

The Great! Society: Somebody to Love (1966)

There were at least three different versions of this psychedelic classic which is best known in its third incarnation by Jefferson Airplane. But the song dated back to before that '66 single/album... > Read more