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Reviews: Gary Haleamau, Elmer Lim, Robert Keli’iho’omalu Jr. and Nolan Ha’o, Slack-Key Tradition; and Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya, O Shakuntala!

It’s evidently guitar week here on Driftwood. We started this week with Martin Simpson, and yesterday we featured an album by another master, Duck Baker. Today we’ll take a look at some less conventional guitarists.

Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya. (Click to visit the artist's website.)

Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya
O Shakuntala
[Riverboat TUGCD1053 (2009)]

Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya’s latest recording is based on the epic Sanskrit love story Abhigyana Shakuntalam and traces the story of two lovers who overcome difficult odds to stay together. Using three slide guitars of his own design, Bhattacharya skillfully sets the moods and tempos of the lovers’ journey, fusing two Indian musical traditions, Karnatic and Hundustani, in the process. Joined by his brother on tabla and two other percussionists, this celebration of love flows along in the rise and fall of emotions painted by the subtle tones of the slide guitar. A powerful story of the East as performed by an instrument from the West.

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)

A collection featuring the unusual, distinctly beautiful slack-key guitar style of Hawaii.

Gary Haleamau, Elmer Lim, Robert Keli’iho’omalu Jr., and Nolan Ha’o
Slack-Key Tradition: Hawaiian Folk Collection
[Hana Ola Records HOCD 83000 (2009)]

Slack-key is a distinctively Hawaiian method of open tuning a guitar to play bass and melody lines with one hand, essentially accompanying yourself. The loosened strings give the guitar a rich, relaxed tone, and the departures from standard intervals cause melodies that initially seem merely pleasant to, upon repeated listening, reveal welters of fascinating dissonances. This style is also not mere noodling; it is intensely rhythmic and meant to accompany hula and other dances. Only two of the 17 tracks on this compilation are over three minutes long, and each will leave you wanting more. This is a reissue of one record in a multi-volume Hawaiian Folk Collection on Liko Records from the mid-1990s.

—Bill Chaisson (Trumansburg, NY)

© 2010 DriftwoodMagazine.com, All rights reserved.

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