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Shweta Jhaveri


Hindustani signer Shweta Jhaveri is an expert in the traditional North Indian classical vocal style known as khayal, but her Anahita is anything but traditional. Though the rag-based music uses established drut khayal forms, Jhaveri blends her soaring vocals with modern jazz instruments such as electric guitar, acoustic bass, and trap drums, as well as dobro and violin. But unlike Mustt Mustt, the celebrated but mostly Westernized collaboration between Pakistani qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and ambient guitarist Michael Brook, Jhaveri’s music is a gorgeous and balanced blend of East and West. Producer Lee Townsend places the instrumentation perfectly in the mix, imbuing the music with the constant bed of sound central to rags even when the drone is more implied than played. Violinist Jenny Scheinman (who handles most of the melodies), guitarist Will Bernard, bassist Bill Douglass, and drummer Jim Kassis are sensitive partners with Jhaveri, who also plays drones on the four-stringed tamboura. Meditative spiritual tunes, such as the devotional “Invocation” (it’s based on the contemplative Bilaskhani Todi rag), mingle easily with vibrant odes to nature like “To the Spring,” which was inspired by the lively Shuddhakalyan rag. The dichotomy gives Anahita a feel that is both transcendent and earthy. The standard 16-beat teental rhythmic cycle runs throughout the album, but because Kassis plays a Western drum kit, his percussion patterns sound more forceful and jazzy than the buoyant traditional drumming that usually supports the rag. It’s just the sort of sympathetic updating that any tradition needs to stay vibrant. —Christopher Porter