Sharon Isbin Releases “Strings for Peace” with Amjad Ali Khan
Multiple Grammy Award winner Sharon Isbin, who has been acclaimed for expanding the guitar repertoire with some of the finest new works of our time, sarod master Amjad Ali Khan and his virtuoso sons Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash have released a new world premiere recording on ZOHO. Strings for Peace (ZM 202004), an album steeped in the tradition of ragas and talas of North Indian classical music, is a groundbreaking release that vastly enrich major new repertoire for guitar.
Strings for Peace, features four compositions by legendary sarod master Amjad Ali Khan based on four popular ragas specifically written and arranged for Sharon Isbin: By the Moon – Raga Behag, Love Avalanche – Raga Mishra Bhairav, Romancing Earth – Raga Pilu and Sacred Evening – Raga Yaman. The four artists are accompanied on the tabla by Amit Kavthekar, a disciple of two giants of Indian drumming, Alla Rakha and his son Zakir Hussain. Isbin calls the music Amjad Ali Khan composed for guitar and sarod “sheer genius,” adding, “in an amazing way, it interweaves our varied musical, spiritual and artistic traditions with mystical beauty, creativity, grace and great emotion.” The Times of India, in reviewing their recent tour, raved how the musicians “crossed barriers of language, culture, uniting people through music and melody … the power of their performance rocked the hall!” This sense of unity and oneness is all the more poignant given that Delhi is experiencing its worst sectarian mob violence in decades.
Strings for Peace debuted at number 3 on the Amazon Hot New Releases/World Music bestseller list and rose to number 2 in its first week.
“I also love the dialogue back and forth between Sharon’s guitar and Ayaan’s sarod…It’s HIGHLY sensual, both in a spiritual way and in a kind of sexy way!”
(5-minute feature starts at 25:26)
“Love Avalanche” a cool East-meets-West raga featuring multiple Grammy-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin paired with the Indian sarod master Ayaan Ali Bangash.”
NPR Music’s No. 1 Albums And Songs Of May
“Though the overall character is distinctly Indian, Isbin’s guitar fits in perfectly, soaring expressively in her many spotlight turns (both fast and slow), playing in unison with the sarod, or “answering” sarod lines. Her virtuosity and obvious comfort in this setting allow the guitar to be an equal partner in this fascinating and completely satisfying fusion of Indian and Western styles. Check it out!”
Classical Guitar Magazine (Best of 2020)
“Here is a recording of seasoned musicians who are at the top of their game, working to bring their musical worlds closer together. Reminiscent of partnerships in the past—remember John McLaughlin and Shakti, Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar, the Beatles, and others—this is music worth hearing!…Isbin plays her classical, fretted nylon string guitar, its sound contrasting with the steel strings of the unfretted Indian sarod. The music is played in a traditional Indian style, with tabla accompaniment and a droning, electronic tanpura, and includes sections of theme, improvisation, players echoing each other’s lines, and exciting, rapid scale passages in unison and octaves. While the sarod players improvise (and they are excellent!) Isbin offers an appropriate, simple accompaniment pairing with the tanpura. She does not, herself, improvise, leaving that to the others. This is convincing music, and an application of classical guitar which to this reviewer’s ears is unique, from a musician who has had a great deal of experience playing with percussionist Thiago de Mello and musicians who routinely improvise, including Steve Vai and Stanley Jordan. The album was named Strings for Peace a year ago, originating from a genuine desire to unite different cultures. Listen to this; the warmth of the relationship between Isbin and the family of Amjad Ali Khan comes through clearly.”
American Record Guide
“A wonderful cross-cultural release, this time between a Grammy winning America classical guitarist and a Sarod master. This group delivers melody, mystique and mood all wrapped up in an hour long virtuosic journey.”
“Innovative Grammy-winning guitarist Sharon Isbin has just released a new recording that not only pushes cultural musical barriers and stereotypes, but breaks them down entirely. Isbin is joined here by iconic sarod master, Amjad Ali Khan and his talented sons, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash. Noted drummer/tabla player Amit Kavthekar, adds his considerable talents to both the intensity and the beauty of the repertoire…Isbin’s sibilant and precise guitar work is the perfect complement for Khan’s ancient sarod – both in timbre and tone. Of special note are By the Moon, in which languid, dreamy drone tones conjure up the magic and mystery of the moon’s esoteric power; in contrast, Love Avalanche is a rousing, rhythmic celebration, involving an intricate and melodic musical conversation between Isbin and Khan. The irresistible Sacred Evening is an experience of gentle, fragile beauty as well as a dip into the eternal sea of oneness that we are all a part of.”
The Whole Note
“I can tell you that if you’re seeking music both emotional and inspiring, you will love “Raga Mishra Bhairav” (Love Avalanche)… in addition to Sharon’s enchanting guitar work, you will also hear Amjad Ali Khan, sarod; Amaan Ali Bangash, sarod; Ayaan Ali Bangash, sarod and Amit Kavthekar, tabla…The gentle approach on the opening sonic salvo, “Raga Behag” (By The Moon), made it my personal favorite of the four (long) ragas offered up for your spiritual enlightenment and sonic joy… if any music can inspire unity – it is this piece… you will find yourself listening to this tune over and over again. I give all the players a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) score of 4.99 for this very enjoyable music.”
Contemporary Fusion Reviews
Strings for Peace: “In what is probably her most indie record ever, La Isbin strays about as far a field form the world of classical guitar as you can imagine with this set of specially composed ragas from an immanent raga family. With a light enough touch to make this not feel like a tour through an opium den, it’s a first class trip to the mysterious east where you just don’t know what’s beyond the next turn but you can’t stop pushing forward. Out of the ordinary but totally hot throughout.”
“The sarod and the Spanish guitar are both plucked stringed instruments that have a “shared gypsy heritage that evolved many years ago”. But one is fretted and more suited for polyphonic harmonisation, while the other is unfretted and produces a more contiguous sound conducive to raga-based melodic exposition. How do you make them work together? Well, Isbin’s slides and melismatic filigree natural to the guitar create a virtual bridge. And when the sarod leads, Sharon chips in with chords and bass notes that flavour each spoonful of the melody with a fresh spice. The chordal backdrop hardly distorts the raag, instead playfully asking each note, ‘What if I dressed you in these ornaments today?’ The note seldom demurs.”