Images Of Nepal
Domo Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/19/1998
It's amazing what can happen when you open up your mind to new ideas.
I, for one, am not a particular fan of world music - don't know why, just never developed a taste for it. Then, what should arrive in the mail but - ta-da!!! - a disc of music from Nepal from a group I had never heard of. But something kept pulling me towards this disc, and within two hours of going to the post office I had the disc in my CD player.
Who knew that the strains of flute, tabla and sitar could be so therapeutic? Who knew that Sur Sudha, a three-man group, could bypass cultural boundaries to create a language that all could understand? Who knew that Images Of Nepal, the first of a promised three-disc set, would be so addictive? Who knew, indeed.
At first glance, the trio of Prem Rana Autari, Bijada Vaidya and Surendra Shrestha don't seem like they're the kind of group to re-invent your thoughts about music. But they've spent the better part of a decade taking the culture of Nepal, their homeland, around the world as cultural ambassadors for Nepal. They're coming into a scene which, thanks to films like Seven Days In Tibet and the recently-released Kundun, is curious about this area of the world.
From the first strains of Vaidya's sitar on "Raja Mati," Sur Sudha almost immediately takes hold of your spirit and eases it. When I first listened to this disc, I was having an atrocious day at the office, but as the sitar interwove with Autari's flute and Shrestha's tabla work, I found myself regaining my temper and focus. It sounds weird, even possibly stereotypical of this type of music, but it does tend to relax you. (And if you're a hard-rockin' person who doesn't think they'd be even remotely interested in this, dust off the first album by Led Zeppelin and listen to "Black Mountain Side." Or listen to any of George Harrison's experiments with the Beatles. 'Nuff said.)
Maybe without the liner notes you wouldn't know that "Raja Mati" and "Resham Firri" are love songs, or that "Nayaki Kanghada" is an exercise in scales. But Sur Sudha creates a powerful groove with their instruments that appeals to the mind as well as the ear that you won't feel cheated if you don't know the story behind the music. Oh, sure, all the songs are in a variation of the key of D, but each song has such a unique feel that you might not notice it on the first listen.
The biggest obstacle Sur Sudha will have to face, obviously, is a market raised on rock and roll, unwilling to take a chance on something radically different. Well, as someone who originally didn't want to listen to Images Of Nepal, let me challenge you to give it a try. The dedication and musicianship these three men emote make a fifteen-minute song seem like only seconds, and may even develop a taste in exploring world music within you.
If Images Of Nepal can win over an old curmudgeon like me, then you'll love it as well.