Ghazal: The Rain

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ECM; www.ecmrecords.com.

The artful, contemplative performances of Kayhan Kalhor and Shujaat Husain Khan, performing under the name Ghazal, seamlessly fuse two distinct but historically overlapping traditions. Their instruments—the kamancheh (spike fiddle) and the sitar—are fundamental to their respective traditions (Persian and North Indian classical music), but in the hands and improvisations of these two masters, they speak a single language. Recorded in concert in Bern, Switzerland, in 2001, The Rain comprises three extended pieces.

Accompanied by young tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das, Kalhor and Khan combine a different Indian and Persian mode on each piece, their collaborative explorations of musical themes gradually building in intensity through "Fire" and "Dawn" to the climactic fury in the final moments of "Eternity." Khan plucks sitar runs in which the notes bite and snap but never rip through their silken tone. The longer notes that Kalhor bows on his kamancheh are raw and splintery in texture, but he spins them into elegantly shaped melodic lines. With Sandeep's percussion providing bubbling undercurrents, the two meanings of ghazal—an ecstatic yet earthy form of Persian poetry and a semiclassical Indian love ballad—meld into a singular fusion of sensibilities, at once passionate, sensual, and soothing.

Derk Richardson is a YJ contributing editor who also writes about popular culture for SFGate (www.sfgate.com) and Acoustic Guitar magazine.