Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music

New York Review. Mar. 2021. 264p. ISBN 9781681374789. pap. $17.95. MUSIC
Chaudhuri (Friend of My Youth), a writer; a singer of khayals, or songs in the North Indian classical tradition; and, most recently, a composer of experimental music, explores the Indian tradition of raga, defined by as “a melodic framework for improvisation and composition.” Here he improvises on a number of themes, among them autobiography, writing, and his relationship with music, deftly weaving them all together in crisp and compelling prose. His analysis of the concepts and experience of listening to music is illuminating, and his exploration of music’s place in cultures and in the world is enlightening. To the Western ear, Indian music can be an unfamiliar challenge, and Chaudhuri’s insights will motivate readers to expand their musical horizons. Musicians and listeners of all kinds will recognize a kindred spirit here.
VERDICT Readers familiar with Indian music will find much to appreciate, and those unfamiliar with it need only go to YouTube for examples of Chaudhuri’s work as a performer and composer.
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