Pandit Pran Nath – Midnight

Pandit Pran Nath – Midnight (Raga Malkauns) (Just Dreams, 2003)

Kirana Hindustani classical vocal master Pandit Pran Nath’s teacher Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan was once asked why he only ever sang two ragas. The Ustad replied that if only the morning would last for ever, he would be happy to sing just one. A raga is not a song per se, but a specific matrix of notes and ways of combining and moving between notes, to be performed at a particular time of day or season. Within this framework, thousands of individual songs or compositions can be constructed. In this 1976 New York studio recording, minimalist composer La Monte Young cranks up the tambouras to Theater of Eternal Music levels of intensity while Pran Nath, at the height of his powers, conjures up Raga Malkauns’ sonic matrix and tale, that of a yogi meditating at midnight, beset by Asuras (evil spirits), which he is tempted by before banishing them and returning to his state of illuminated calm. What’s remarkable here is the sheer vastness of scale in this “song”: for a little over an hour, Pran Nath sings “He Krishna Govind Raam”, repeating the vilambit (mid-tempo) composition’s invocation of the Hindu deity, slowly moving up the scales to the higher notes, taking the listener through the various parts of the composition, into ever more intense and ecstatic realms of sound. As one listens, one comes to identify with these sound realms more than one’s own body and mind. One wants to stay there forever. If it weren’t for the morning …
Marcus Boon

originally published in The Wire.

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