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Trina Basu and Arun Ramamurthy, a violin duo written in the stars

By Jessica Porter-Langson |

The debut album "Nakshatra" by Trina Basu and Arun Ramamurthy is a mesmerizing blend of traditional Indian music with classical, contemporary and experimental sounds, simply using two violins. A delightful and essential listen.

The debut album from violin duo Trina Basu and Arun Ramamurthy, Nakshatra, is a mesmerizing and otherworldly experience that showcases their deep understanding and passion for Indian classical raga music. From the opening track, Offering, it is clear that the pair possess a unique and masterful ability to blend traditional Indian music with contemporary and experimental sounds.

One of the most striking aspects of the album is the use of the violin as both the lead instrument and the drone in this work. Historically, raga music has been primarily played on sitars, sarods, and veenas, however, the western violin was also introduced in India and frequently used as a melodic instrument. Additionally, they incorporate a second violin as a drone instrument in place of the traditional tambura or surpeti. The duo's skilful use of the violin in this context adds a refreshing and unique twist to the genre.

As the album progresses, the listener is transported between worlds and periods, from south India to the Baroque era. The pair's delicate harmonic playing slowly evolves into a strong rhythmic motive, showcasing their ability to seamlessly blend classical, raga, and experimental music to create something entirely fresh and new. The standout track, Migration, is a tribute to the duo's ancestors and the sacrifices and journeys that brought them to where they are today. The perpetual motion of the track gives a sense of constant movement, whereas the floating and sporadic melodies have a sense of yearning, always searching for cadence.

The final track, Little Road Song, is a re-imagination of a Bengali composition by Ravi Shankar for Satyajit Ray's iconic 1955 film Pather Panchali. This track is infused with upbeat folk energy, inspired by Basu's upbringing in the American south. It is a delightful arrangement that blends eastern and western influences and serves as a fitting conclusion to the album.

Nakshatra, meaning constellation in Sanskrit, is a spellbinding listen that pushes the boundaries of chamber music and evokes emotions of grief and loss, as well as searching and clarity. The album is a profound insight into Basu and Ramamurthy's rich and extensive musical knowledge and an absolute delight for the listener. The duo's unique ability to seamlessly shift between influences and blend different genres and improvisatory methods is truly a testament to their skill and creativity as musicians. This album is sure to be a standout in the genre and solidify the duo's place as masterful innovators of contemporary classical music.


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