NAAD LAYA Mystic Rhythms

Music Issue 69 Jul, 2010

Yet another fusion album? Partly, but it’s more of a huge mix of genres. Navaraj Gurung has made a name for himself as a percussionist, particularly as a tabla player. In this percussion dominated album, Navaraj begins strongly with “Mystic Rhythms (Final Break)” where his playing is complemented by a didgeridoo and Djembe and a free-flowing bass. “Naad Laya” the title track is sitar based melody and has pronounced percussions while the tune is quite repetitive. In the next track the flute takes the spotlight. The guitar and flute make unlikely partners but here a great duel between the two instruments brings out the skills of the guitarist and flautist. Later, an overdriven guitar lays the backdrop for the flute to explore the boundaries and find new avenues. They collaborate on a Nepali folk tune. A whole lot of varied sounds make up this track and Bardewa briefly plucks on a nylon string guitar quite proficiently. “Himalaya Fire” is a lively fusion with overdriven guitars with a tabla cutting the pounding beat. There’s much improvising on the flute and guitar with the occasional piano solo. The tabla and drums have worked very well together.

Excellent string play by Bardewa on “Jharana Laya” adds bite to the already rich texture of the music. “Tabla Tabla” as the name suggests consists mostly of solos on the tabla showcasing the highly refined skills of tabla maestro Navaraj Gurung. He demonstrates his techniques at tremendous speed.

The musicians on the album are Navaraj Gurung on tabla/percussions, Sunil Bardewa on guitar, Umesh Pandit on flute, Gyanu Radha Gorkhali on sitar, Iswor Amatya on vocal, Nikhil Tuladhar on drums/percussions, Upendra Lal Singh on keyboards, Salil Kanika on didgeridoo, Shanti Rayamajhi on maadal, Pappu Baba on tumba.

A soothing vocal by Umesh Pandit adds to the variety already evident in the album. A flute and bass are the dominating sounds that accompany the singer. An accomplished singer, he has a powerful and at the same time, rich voice, which he uses for a good effect in the Raga Durga, entitled “Divine Encounter”. Then Navaraj displays his remarkable skill, taking a long solo. A surprise element in this album is the blues played by Bardewa at the end. With this mix of genres, one is left wondering what Navaraj is really trying to do with this album. Giving everyone a chance to shine? Nevertheless, it is worth a listen.