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Exotic Strings
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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: Sabri Khan (sarangi); Shigefumi Yamaguchi (shamisen); Mustafa Raza (veena); Miao Xiaoyun (da ruan); Ravi (kora); Ahmed Mukhtar (oud); Cheng Yu (pipa); Maged Serour (qanoun); Gurudev Singh (sarod); Baluji Shrivastav (sitar, surbahar, dilruba); Zhou Yu (erhu).
  • Liner Note Author: Diz Heller.
  • Unknown Contributor Role: Miao Xiaoyun.
  • Collecting tracks from a huge number of albums, ARC presents on Exotic Strings works from around the world that share one basic trait: the use of a stringed instrument as the lead. With this sort of focus, as always, there's a good amount of breadth and not a lot of depth. The album seems to have a special affinity for Asian instruments, perhaps using the word exotic in a slightly more stereotypical way than one would expect, but there are also a pair of examples each from South America and Africa (in both of which, admittedly, there are less stringed instruments to draw from). The album opens with the Chinese erhu, pipa, and ruan, then stops in Mongolia for the morin khuur, the ultimate in deep nonfretted instruments. A quick run through Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan for the komuz and a variant of the kemantche. A trio of works from Turkey detail the Turkish kemantche, the saz, and the tanbur, leaving the oud for an Iraqi track following. The Egyptian qanun provides a luxurious segue between the Middle East and Africa, followed by an extremely nontraditional performance on the kora from fusionist Ravi and a short work on the bushmen's bow concluding the continent's contribution. South American works highlight the Andean charango and the cuatro, unfortunately ignoring the Andean harp entirely. The second disc of the double album set returns to Asia, starting out with the Japanese koto and shamisen (the two most important strings of the islands) and the Thai phin. The final half dozen tracks all hail from India, including Mustafa Raza on the vichitra vina, Gurdev Singh on the sarod, and the outstanding Ustad Sabri Khan on the sarangi, as well as ARC stable artist Baluji Shrivastav on tracks highlighting the sitar, the surbahar, and the dilruba. Overall, the album is something of a mixed blessing, with a fair bit of coverage of the major stringed instruments of Asia and extensive liner notes giving a decent amount of detail into the various instruments. The coverage of non-Asian (with the possible exception of the Middle Eastern/Asia Minor pieces) is somewhat sparse though, prompting the question of its inclusion in the first place. Nonetheless, Exotic Strings is a fine album as a starting point for exploration into the archives of world music, with worthwhile performances on the various works. ~ Adam Greenberg
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