Isle of Skye (Scotland)
Terry Williams hears an exciting fusion of cultural influences. Its tunes meld the two traditions without losing the individuality of either, alternately weaving Indian intonations in and out of Scottish rhythms, and presenting Indian rhythms with a Scottish accent. It’s an intriguing mix..... Read more
Scotland on Sunday - Sunday February 10th 2008
India Alba - Reels and Ragas
By Norman Chalmers
Edinburgh bagpipe maker and cittern player Nigel Richard’s long love affair with music of India is heard here on the first album by the quartet. Over the past few years they have settled down to a line-up of Richard with Borders piper Ross Ainslie, Indian violinist Sharat Srivastava and Gyan Singh on tablas. Recorded in New delhi, the music successfully fuses the rhythms of both musical cultures, creating strange and pleasing instrumental hybrids.
The Herald - Tuesday February 5th 2008
Trilok Gurtu & The Arke String Quartet with India Alba
Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow
Earlier, another cross-cultural collaboration, India Alba, had set the scene admirably, merging adapted pipe marches with Indian violin and tabla ragas, cittern-led Scots-Indian melodies and the late Gordon Duncan’s famous bagpipe setting of AC/DCs heavy-rock anthem, Thunderstruck. Along with Gurtu’s gang, this quartet brought Celtic Connections 2008’s Old Fruitmarket to a satisfying close while keeping the audience primed for future adventures.
Piping Today - March 2008
India Alba - Reels and Ragas
There is a gentle, inviting complexity to the layered rhythms, harmonies and melodic flows, sound textures and lilting progressions that are coming out of India Alba’s exploration of North Indian-Scottish musical affinities.
India alba is piper and flautist Ross Ainslie, virtuoso Indian violinist Sharat Srivastava, tabla master Gyan Singh and, on cittern Nigel Richard. Itts debut album is called Reels and Ragas, which is not quite a fair reflection of what you’ll hear.
Nigel Richard has been the guiding hand behind the collaboration. It began as a personal interest that grew into a quest and, along the way, had kindled the interest and involvement of others.
Because India Alba was not formed for the sake of novelty, or as a deliberately ‘exotic’ form of fusion music, but arose as the intersection of the open-minded personal musical paths being followed by each of its members, the music of India Alba has a confident easy-going naturalness. It is fed and informed by the contributing traditions, rather than being governed or structured by them.
Ross Ainslie’s adept and expressive piping is not especially to the fore for much of the album but pipes are never far from the spirit of the music, probably because North Indian music is almost inconceivable without a drone as its base - so there is a lot of ‘play’ here that delights in piping-type insights and sensitivities.
Reels and Ragas is a fascinating, refreshing and richly pleasing CD. May there be many more.
India Alba (Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Isle of Skye 3 August 2009)
Terry Williams - 05 August 2009
TERRY WILLIAMS hears an exciting fusion of cultural influences.
INDIA ALBA’S four musicians (two from Scotland, two from India) say many raga themes are similar to Scottish Highland melodies. Their music fuses Indian Classical and Scottish Folk, and includes several compositions by band member Ross Ainslie (cittern, border pipes and whistle).
His tunes meld the two traditions without losing the individuality of either, alternately weaving Indian intonations in and out of Scottish rhythms, and presenting Indian rhythms with a Scottish accent. It’s an intriguing mix.
The Scots - Ross Ainslie and Nigel Richard (cittern) - sat on chairs. The two Indian musicians, Gyan Singh (Tabla hand drums) and Sharat Srivastava (violin), spent the whole performance crossed-legged and straight-backed on a raised platform - two still figures with flying hands in a whirling storm of music that demanded total concentration from all the players if it weren’t to unravel. It never did, though the audience gasped at times.
This was a showcase for some remarkable playing. Every tune - from ‘Hawthorn Vale’ to ‘Donald Willie and His Dog’ - was memorable. The liquid sound of the tampura skimmed the surface and dived into deep-water resonances; the violin impersonated the whistle, the pipes moved fluently between Indian and Scottish rhythms; the citterns, whistles and pipes showered notes into the mix with unerring accuracy.
There were two particular highlights. Sharat Srivastava’s performance on hang drum was like melting ice in the Swiss mountains. A Swiss invention, the drum looks like one very large wok turned upside down on top of another. Each part of the resulting “hill” produces a different note when struck by the fingers. It was a gentle interlude.
The musical maelstrom resumed with Gyan Singh’s tampura solo, which grew out of a classical Indian raga composition and became a jaw-dropping, five-minute-long display of hand drumming that mesmerised not only the audience but the drummer himself. Somehow, the rest of the band rejoined him seamlessly, despited the phenomenal pace he had reached. That was a stunning achievement in itself.
This band is an extraordinary musical collaboration, not to be missed. Their new album, High Beyond, is due out shortly. It was recorded in the high Himalaya - where else?
All Rights Reserved: India Alba 2011
“This band have a sound of their own which is not an imitation of any other band or genre. Their strong melodies are supported by having an excellent balance between sur and tal (melody and rhythm). I have seen Sharat's playing growing over the years and his involvement in many different fields of music, so I am happy to hear this new development where he has collaborated with these three other fine musicians.”.......
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan
“About four years ago I had a great musical evening with Sharat and Nigel sharing their improvisations on whistle and small pipes, and was taken aback by how often particular modes and notational progressions reminded me of Gaelic songs or tunes from our own tradition in Scotland. When I heard the CD, where they are joined by Gyan on tabla and Ross on pipes and whistle, it reminded me of the optimism and ideas expressed that night, of collaborations like this being followed through. I hope there will be many more expressions of kindred spirits at this musical level.”........
Allan Macdonald (Glenuig)