You've Stolen My Heart

Was that “Dum Maro Dum” and “Monica, Oh My Darling” reverberating through     the auditorium of Carnegie Hall? Yes, Bollywood music has arrived smack inside mainstream America! There was Asha Bhosle performing some of Bollywood’s most loved songs through the compositions of RD Burman, the late, great composer to whom she had been married.

Music is about improbabilities and how these can sometimes become not only probabilities, but make such perfect sense, such perfect union that you wonder why nobody thought of it before. Thus it was to see the 73-year-old diva performing with the tabla maestro Zakir Hussain for the first time, along with the wondrous pipa player WuMan and the Kronos Quartet with their violins, violas and cello all on the same stage, all performing together, coaxing Burman’s music out of unlikely instruments.

The Kronos Quartet, which comprises David Harrington and, John     Serhan on the violin, Hank Dutt on the viola and Jeffrey Zeigler on the cello, is known     for its boundaries-breaking music, collaborating with musicians from around the world. They are passionate listeners too and were fascinated by the wildly inventive compositions of Burman, popularly known as Pancham. The result was the CD, Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle — You’ve Stolen my Heart: Songs from RD Burman’s Bollywood. And what an unexpected mélange of different instruments it is! That perennial favorite “Mehbooba, Mehbooba” is recreated by the  Quartet’s string instruments as well as Zakir Hussain’s madal and batajon, and Wu Man’s liu qin and pipa, instead of the traditional sarod and santoor. The Kronos Quartet used Burman’s recordings as musical templates  instead of commissioning arrangements. Ken Hunt writes in the line notes of the CD: “Kronos found ways to mimic vintage studio equipment too, experimenting with toy instruments, ditching time honored string quartet roles, and having serious fun.” He adds, “The project not only expanded Kronos as a band; it stretched each individual  in varying ways and made them find new voices with their selves.”

David Harrington explains, “Finding musical experiences we can’t live without and sharing them — that’s what Kronos has always been about. If you think of the great melodicists like Schubert, Gershwin, and Lennon McCartney, Burman is in this company. If you think of great orchestration — Stravinsky, Debussy, Esquivet and  Ellington — I would list Burman among them. In India, Asha Bhosle is like Elvis. Although Kronos has performed with wonderful vocalists before, now I can say we have a lead singer.”

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