Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Fourth Sangam

The Sanskrit word sangam translates as "confluence," as in the triveni sangam, or holy place where the physical Ganges and Yamunua Rivers meet and flow into the mythical Saraswati River.  Or in Tamilakan culture, at the other end of the Indian subcontinent, the sangams refer to three great periods of ancient civilization, the first two periods being legendary - in the literal sense - and the last, or Third Sagam, spanning 350 BCE to 200 CE.

It's from these sacred principles of congregation and enlightenment that Music/Sangam springs forth. This gorgeous record, conceive by American free jazz icon Don Cherry and Indian percussionist Ustad Latif Ahmed Khan, harmoniously blends eastern and western musics, quite unlike the other Indian jazz records I've featured in previous posts.

Whereas jazz often contributes at least an equal, if not the dominant, share on other fusion records of this sort (see: Joe Harriott and John Mayer's Indo Jazz Suites), here Cherry contentedly downplays the western angle, eschewing his signature pocket trumpet in favour of ancillary instruments, namely electric organ, piano, bamboo flute, gong and voice.

I intend no slight to the punctuating trumpet work that is featured or to Cherry's abilities with those other instruments. Rather I mean only to acknowledge that Cherry's role is purposefully subordinate, albeit essential, to Khan's performance. On most tracks, the former fashions beautifully and infinitely deep atmospheric drones in the background, not unlike those usually supplied by the tambura in traditional Indian music, while Khan's upfront, omni-dexterous tabla playing steals the show outright.

The recorded result is done every justice, as should be expected of an album mastered by French jazz aficionado and producer, Martin Meissonnier. And although you may not readily come across an original press on Europa Records, the 2009 reissue on Heavenly Sweetness is still circulating locally.

Don Cherry and Latif Ahmed - Music/Sangam, Europa Records, 1981

Discogs: Music/Sangam


"Air Mail"

"One Dance"

Post script:

There is a plethora of Don Cherry reissues on the market right now. Perhaps the European copyrights have expired on his album. Or maybe a new generation is getting hip to him. Regardless, I hope you enjoyed this one because I plan to feature more of his music in the near future.

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