Kimball Gallagher, piano
Rang De Basant was commissioned by Kimball Gallagher for his multi-city tour of India, Singapore and Malaysia. While it has only been performed once in America, it has been been played over 20 times in a dozen cities throughout South Asia. Kimball’s career as a pianist has been vastly different from any other concert artist I have met – he travels regularly to countries most other artists rarely visit, and plays for intimate and diverse audiences around the globe. For more information about his fascinating work, I encourage you to visit his website.
Program Notes (Western audience):
One of the most fascinating raags I have yet encountered in my study of Hindustani music is Raag Basant. Basant means ‘spring’ in Hindi, but it couldn’t be further from the Western conception of the season. Against a canvas of chirping birds and pastel colors, Basant feels dark and exotic, rendered in bold colors, and winding through passages of sinewy chromaticism.
The piece starts with large dense chords that change one note at a time, until they find their way slowly into Basant. This is followed by an excerpt from a short Hindustani composition (called a bandish) in Basant, stylized and notated to accommodate the sonic possibilities of the piano. This bandish builds and eventually which vanishes back into the dense chords, only to have a little bit of Basant bleed through at the end.
The title of the piece comes from an iconic Hindi film, “Rang De Basanti” (which literally translates to “Give it the color of Saffron”). Instead of giving this piece the color of saffron, I wanted to “color” it with the aesthetic of Raag Basant.
Program Notes (Indian audience):
When I first learned the raag Basant, I was fascinated by how differently the sounds of spring are portrayed in Hindustani music than in the west. The tension between the shudh and tivra madhyam, the windy descent, seemed to evoke such different aesthetic associations than the ones I have learned through western music, and I wanted to explore how Basant would feel when laid into the western medium. The title is, of course, a play on the title of the film Rang De Basanti. Instead of giving this piece the color basanti (saffron), I wanted to “color” it with the aesthetic of Raag Basant.
The piece starts with large dense chords that change one note at a time, until they find their way slowly into Basant. This is followed by an excerpt from a short bandish in Basant, stylized so that it plays to the strengths of a western pianist. This builds and eventually which vanishes back into the dense chords, only to have a little bit of Basant bleed through at the end.