Stephen O’Malley

The Just Alap Raga Ensemble concerts June 2011!

Posted: May 30, 2011

The Just Alap Raga Ensemble concerts June 2011!

The Just Alap Raga Ensemble
Pandit Pran Nath 15th Anniversary Memorial Tribute 

Three Evening Concerts of Raga Darbari in the MELA Dream House
Saturdays, June 11, 18 and 25, 2011, 9 pm

La Monte Young, voice
Marian Zazeela, voice
Jung Hee Choi, voice
Naren Budhkar, tabla
The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nathfrom the Just Dreams CD

MELA Foundation Dream House
275 Church Street, 3rd Floor, between Franklin & White Streets in Tribeca

Admission $24.  MELA Members, Seniors, Student ID, $18.
Limited seating.  Advance reservations recommended.  
Info and reservations:  212-219-3019;  
Three Concerts of Raga Darbari in the contemporary Kirana gharana (style) of North Indian Classical Music will be performed by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela with The Just Alap Raga Ensemble in a memorial tribute to Pandit Pran Nath on the 15th anniversary of his passing, Saturday Evenings, June 11, 18 and 25, 2011 at 9 pm in the MELA Foundation Dream Houselight environment, 275 Church Street, 3rd Floor.  PLEASE NOTE:  To prepare for the scheduled concerts the Dream House closed for this season on May 28; we will reopen on September 24, 2011. 
La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela will be accompanied by their senior disciple Jung Hee Choi, voice; Naren Budhkar, tabla; and The Tamburas of Pandit Pran Nath from the Just Dreams CD.  The Just Alap Ensemble will perform Pandit Pran Nath's special arrangement of "Hazrat Turkaman", a traditional vilampit khayal composition set in Raga Darbari.  With deep respect for Pandit Pran Nath’s arrangement of this great composition, Young has composed two-part harmony for the ‘sthayi and for the antara.  Similar to his previous concerts with The Ensemble, Young introduces drones in two- and three-part harmony, and even counterpoint in the pre-composition part of the alap, and, as in his earlier composition “Raga Sundara”set in RagaYaman Kalyan, the harmony line for these compositions in Raga Darbari comprises the introduction of two-part harmony into Indian classical khayal composition, contributing a new element to Indian classical music.  The harmony for the ‘sthayi of "Hazrat Turkaman" is dedicated to Jung Hee Choi and was composed as a present on her birthday, November 1, 2009; the harmony for the antara is dedicated to Pandit Pran Nath and was composed on his 91st birthday, November 3, 2009. 
Young considers The Just Alap Raga Ensemble to be one of the most significant creations in the development of his compositional process in that it organically merges the traditions of Western and Hindustani classical musics with the knowledge of acoustical science to embody complementary forms in an encompassing evolutionary statement.  Pandit Pran Nath has said, "Alap is the essence of Raga.  When the drut[faster tempo] begins, the Raga is finished."  With The Just Alap Raga Ensemble, Young applies his own compositional approach to traditional raga performance, form and technique: a pranam(bow) of gratitude in reciprocation for the influence on his music, since the mid-fifties, of the unique, slow, unmetered timeless alap,and for one of the most ancient and evolved vocal traditions extant today.  The Ensemble features extended alap sections, sustained vocal and instrumental drones, two- and three-part harmony and counterpoint in just intonation over tamburas.  Young, Zazeela and Choi premiered this ensemble on August 22, 2002 in a memorial tribute to Ustad Hafizullah Khan, the Khalifa of the Kirana Gharana and son of Pandit Pran Nath’s teacher, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan Sahib. 

Pandit Pran Nath virtually introduced the vocal tradition of North Indian classical music to the West in 1970.  His 1971 morning performance at Town Hall, New York City, was the first concert of morning ragas to be presented in the U.S.  Subsequently, he introduced and elaborated to Western audiences the concept of performing ragas at the proper time of day by scheduling entire series of concerts at special hours.  Many students and professional musicians came to him in America to learn about the vast system of raga and to improve their musicianship.  In 1972, Pran Nath established his own school in New York City under the direction of his disciples La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, the Kirana Center for Indian Classical Music, now a project of MELA Foundation.  Over the years Pran Nath performed hundreds of concerts in the West, scores of them in New York City, and in Fall 1993, he inaugurated the MELA Foundation Dream Housewith three Raga Cycleconcerts.  He continued to perform here annually during his remaining years and on May 12 and 17, 1996, his two concerts of Afternoon and Evening Ragasin the Dream Housewere his last public performances before he passed away on June 13, 1996. 
Pran Nath's majestic expositions of the slow alapsections of ragascombined with his emphasis on perfect intonation and the clear evocation of mood had a profound impact on Western contemporary composers and performers.  Following Young and Zazeela, minimalist music composer Terry Riley became one of his first American disciples.  Fourth-world trumpeter Jon Hassell, jazz all‑stars Don Cherry and Lee Konitz, composers Jon Gibson, Yoshimasa Wada, Rhys Chatham, Michael Harrison and Allaudin Mathieu, Shabda Kahn,Pir of the Sufi Ruhaniat International, mathematician and composer Christer Hennix, concept artist and violinist Henry Flynt, dancer Simone Forti, and many others took the opportunity to study with the master. 
In The Hindustan Times (2003), Shanta Serbjeet Singh wrote:
            “[Young and Zazeela] would create works like the “Just Alap Raga Ensemble” which would amaze musicians
            of the caliber of Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj or the Gundecha brothers were they to hear it.  In fact I wish
            they would hear it and savour their own legacy of Indian classical music in two new ways, one, by way of the
            Youngs’ immense sadhna and two, by way of the fact that today the great art of Hindustani Shastriya sangeet
            has actually become so much a part of the world of music.  Did not the ancients say: Vasudeva Kumutbhakam
            —the world is a family?  A work like “Just Alap Raga Ensemble” actually proves it.” 
In the 2005 article, “Tales Of Exemplary Guru Bhakti / Pran Nath, La Monte Young And Marian Zazeela,” Spic Macay (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) quarterly magazine "The Eye," it is noted: 
            “He [Young] is a master of Hindustani classical music.  … La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, founders of
            the MELA Foundation Dream House in New York are responsible for having single-handedly introduced vocal
            Hindustani classical music to America.  In 1970 when they brought renowned master vocalist Pandit Pran Nath
            of the Kirana Gharana to the U.S. and became his first Western disciples, studying with him for twenty-six years
            in the traditionalgurukulamanner of living with the guru, Americans and Westerners only had a nodding
            acquaintance with Indian music, that too, only instrumental music through the performing tours of Pandit Ravi
            Shankar.  Also some introduction to Indian rhythm techniques through the charismatic playing of Pandit Chatur
            Lal, the tabla player who always accompanied Ravi Shankar through the sixties.  But the deep, unfathomable
            intricacies of Khayal Gayakiand of the whole cosmos of Alapwere totally unknown to them.  Indeed, as his
            many American shishyas, most of them practicing musicians themselves, would say later, even unimaginable.
            … Young and Zazeela, who taught the Kirana style and performed with Pandit Pran Nath since 1970 in hundreds
            of concerts in India, Iran, Europe and the United States, have continued their Guru’s work in the most exemplary
            manner.  In June 2002, shortly before he died, Khalifa Hafizullah Khan Sahib, Ustad Wahid Khan Sahib’s son and
            a great sarangi master, conferred on Young the title of Khan Sahib.”  
In American Music, Winter 2009, Jeremy Grimshaw reviewed the Ensemble's March 2009 performance at the Guggenheim Museum:
            "the most striking innovation appeared when the ensemble returned to the beginning of the composition later
            on.  In that repetition and each one thereafter, Young and his ensemble--in a bold deviation from traditional
            North Indian monophony--sang and played in two-part harmony. the context of raga performance, this
            harmonization, combined with the ethereal polytonal quality of Raga Yaman, lent the ensemble a breathtakingly
            lush quality with each return of the refrain."

In his LA Times Blog, critic Mark Swed wrote of the Ensemble's 2009 performance of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra in Raga Sindh Bhairavi: 
            "Frankly, what made me drop everything and fly to New York at the last minute for the [Merce Cunningham]
            memorial was the announcement of the music lineup, which was a once-in-a-life-time gathering. La Monte
            Young, the otherworldly inventor of Minimalism, began the program singing a welcoming raga with Marian
            Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi, which was pure vibratory magic."

Concert admission is $24 / $18 MELA members; seniors; students with ID.  Limited seating.  Advance reservations recommended.  For further information and reservations, 212-219-3019, email orvisit


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