It’s one thing to discover great music, which is but obviously a feeling worth a million bucks. Like chancing upon an old ARR composition that didn’t make the big time when it was released, but a true gem nevertheless. My discovery of Sugam Sugam from Vandi Cholai Chinnaraasu or Theendaai from En Swaasa Kaatrae left me amazed at the sheer range of sounds he spawned right from the time he burst on the music scene. But re-discovering a classic piece of melody is quite simply an experience of triumph. Hearken back to your formative years and scout for one of the rarer Boney M or Jethro Tull tracks that used to play so regularly on your stereo cassette player. I can bet my bottom dollars that your first instinct would be to exult. At the risk of sounding very assumptious, it would be quite natural for you to instantly take heart to the fact that there’s still some good music you can fall back on, and that sanity is not facing extinction yet.
In turning to my earphones to help me get through the work day last week, I was glad that I could locate Lakshminarayana Shankar’s Soul Searcher online, as we are strictly discouraged to download files from the internet without authorization. Soul Searcher is an album that we got to own when I was in high school and it has always managed to remain in my conscious memory. Musical content apart, it’s perhaps because I hadn’t come across the album in any of the stores or at any of my friends’ houses other than mine, likely due to my limited social network and travel. It’s also perhaps due to the distinct album cover set in a transparent form representing the soul presumably, featuring the silhouette of an elephant’s trunk and a danseuse performing to the tusker. Whatever be the reason, my day was mostly lit up because the tunes all served to help me relive the limited variety I was exposed to during high school.
MusicIndiaOnline.Com has just one lengthy number under the album, but with my unreliable memory I remember the audio tape we had contained 5 tracks in total distributed between two sides of the cassette. Ragam Thanam Pallavi makes up the album and is more than fifty minutes long. Here is where the genius of Shankar is demonstrated, as the track by its very nature allows him to improvise and get into his true element. He ensures that the global audience is given plenty of scope to appreciate the strains of melody the Indian classical way. With the legendary Zakir Husaain on the tabla. Peter Gabriel – who went on to partner with Shankar and give him due international recognition on numerous musical outings including Passion of the Christ – on the keyboard and the Grammy winning ‘Vikku’ Vinayakram on the ghatam, we get to trip on transcendental performances for the most part of the hour. The track is composed in raga Kapi, which, true to its nature, induced bouts of devotion and pathos in me for the while I was plugged to it, and is a classic(al) example of how great music is always served up in leisure, allowing for each instrument to establish it’s place in the performance at ease and surely enough. Due to my lack of knowledge of classical music at any level, I’ll have to resort to pedestrian usages to briefly describe how the track works. While the first strain of melody reminds us of the presence of stalwarts on the track, the point where it changes gears, after a good 25 minutes or so, is where the vibrancy of the composition is unveiled in all its glory.
Soul Searcher really got me re-hooked to Shankar, to the Violin, and to Carnatic, and it couldn’t have been at a better time. I now make an effort to know what I’m listening, compared to those days where music accessible by me got a default five stars! I’m searching all over now, whole and soul! It does pay to dust off old memories, yeah!