By Samir Shukla
The bansuri evokes a lovely morning on the opening track “Adrift,” while the sarangi adds to the reflective mood. These instruments, along with santoor and tabla, form the backdrop for sitar player Shujaat Husain Khan and vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi to weave their music in the recording Ruby. The album is a blend of North Indian classical music and Persian poetry. It feels like a natural juncture. Hindustani music swirling around Persian poetry isn’t so far-fetched as both cultures have influenced each other over the centuries.
In Ruby, Iranian-born vocalist Goudarzi and Indian sitar player Khan collaborate to bring music and sinewy vocals to the Persian poet Rumi’s works. There are five tracks on the album. Each creates a different mood, either ethereal, earthy, or exotic.
Goudarzi prepared the text and translated it for Khan, he then composed music for it. Even if you don’t speak understand the words, they naturally blend with the music.
Khan has a long pedigree and is a leading sitar player in Hindustani music. He hails from a family of stalwart musicians going back several generations. He belongs to the Imdad Khan gharana of the sitar and his style of playing sitar, known as the gayaki ang, channels the subtleties of the human voice.
Goudarzi is also a veteran performer. The duo has worked together in the past and those efforts have now culminated in this fully-developed recording. There’s a flowing spirituality throughout, with a serene sense of place when the sitar casts its spell and Goudarzi sings while the tabla holds up the rhythmic backdrop. Khan on occasion plays the sitar like a guitar, with short riff-like notes.
Both have recorded and performed with varied musicians and in the realms of world music, jazz, and even opera.