Kavi Alexander of Waterlily Acoustics is a dear friend of mine, and several years ago blessed me with this list(many of which I now own)...Kavi is a recording engineer genius, and a very talented and gifted musicologist!
When it comes to recordings of the non Western classical traditions, I think David. B. Jones has to ranked at the very top. He is the one who did the Connoisseur Society (their technical "guru" was Bela Bartok's son Peter!) recordings of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the greatest living Indian musician. Jones also did some of the Nonesuch recordings as well (thereally good ones) employing the same Sony tube mikes he used to
record Dr. Khan. Check out the Ramnad Krishnan title on Nonesuch.
There are also many, many Indian EMI recordings that are truly superlative. Mostly it was the vinyl that was dismal (even this,they
got it right at times!), but the recordings themselves, mostly
were good and sometimes outstanding. Simple mike techniques and tube electronics did the trick. I have a Malika Arjun Mansoor recording that is at the top of the list. So is the M.S. Subbulakshmi boxed set of LPs recorded "live" at a UN gala for UThant. In spite of the most embarrassing and hideouly ugly song in English (!) by Indial politician Rajaji, these LPs capture the queen in all her glory. Then, there are the many Yugal Bandi
recordings. The first one is of course the original Bismillah Khan/
Vilayat Khan pairing. This great recording was produced by Suviraj
Grubb,the only Indian to ever produce Western classical recordings. He
replacedWalter Legge at EMI as the principal producer and worked with all thegreats, from Barenboim, Zukerman, Perlman and Du Pre to Barbirolli,
Richter, Fischer-Dieskau and Klemperer. I must also mention the V.G.
Jog and Bismillah pairing which is also great. The recording of Lalgudi
Jayaraman and N. Ramani titled "Violin, Venu, Veena" also tops the
list. Some good recordings were also released on the Swedish label
Amigo (two of Nikil Banerjee and one each of Amjad Ali Khan and Ram
Narayan) while Sonet put out the most beatiful yugal bandi recording with
Shivkumar and Hariprasad.
The German label Loft, amoung other titles, released an excellent double lp of the junior Dagar Brothers, and the French label Still, which along with a surbahar recording of Imrat Khan,
has released the only recordings (two LP boxed sets) worth having,
of the Karnatic legend T.R. Mahalingam. The other two recordings of Mali, on Indian EMI, are truly horrid. Taking of French labels, two outstanding recordings of Zia Mohinudinn Dager (Rudra vina) on Alvares and Auvidis
respectively. The later also released a good recording of the junior Dagar Brothers. Another label called ESP put out ten or so recordings, of which there is a Hari Prasad that is wonderfull, as is the one of Fariduddin Dagar (vocalist brother of Zia). Their recording of the Bauls, though of a lesser crew than the Purnadas (the very same man on the cover of Dylan's "John Wesly Harding" album) outfit on Nonesuch, Electra and Buddah, sonicaly is
the best. Barclay (a jazz label started by the beautiful Nicole Barclay) too, released two recordings of Nagaswara Rao (vina), the same artist on Nonesuch, as did French CBS, a recording of Emani Shankar Shastry. Another French woman started Shandar that released a
great recording of Pandit Pran Nath, as well as Terry Reily's "Persian SurgeryDervishes". Arion released a very good recording of D.K. Pattamal, while Vogue has an outstanding recording of Parapancham Sita Ram (Karnatic flute) with Guruvayur Dorai on mirdangam.
Chante du Monde has a very fine
collection of Flamenco with great masters such as Pepe de la Metrona, with equally great sound. Andre Charlin made not just great speakers (electrostatic/dynamic hybrids) and amps (tube and solid state) but also truly great recordings, though most of them were of Western
Classical music. He did however do a Koto (like Cook) recording for Kenwood (yes, the ones who made one of the greatest turntables, the LO7D). I have a feeling that Charlin was responsible (or at least
partly) for the ORTF technique. Having mentioned France, Icertainly
must mention the great Indologist Alain Danielou, who edited the
wonderful UNESCO collection of recordings. Though the sound on many of
these is rather poor, having been done by some "ethnomusicologist"
with a cassette recorder and mikes with wind screens, two recordings do stand out. They are the LP of the Dagar Brothers (Sr) and a Karnatic
compilation with vocal tracks by Semanguddi Srinivasa Iyar. Though these recordings are in mono, the sound and performance, are out of this world!
Danielou introduced the Dager Brothers to the West in the early 60s. I have heard that Nadia Boulanger, the great Parisian music teacher, after hearing the Dagar Brothers remarked "This is real music! We have been wasting our time!".
Last but not least, there is the French Ocora catalog, a treasure
to ransom a king, with many, many outstanding recordings of the most
exotic music. Check out the Munir Bashir (Oud) recording or the
Emani Shankar Shastry (vina) recording with Madras Kannan on mirdangam! I also have a Portuguese EMI recording of Amilia Rodriguez
that is outstanding.
From the UK, Tangent had a steady out put including a collection of music from Ethiopia, as well the "Music from the World of Islam" boxed set. But, Tangent never had truly great sound. Speaking
of UK, I must mention the Hannibal recording of Nazakat and Salamat Ali, which is good. Another forgotten hero is Ron Marlo of Chess. Listen to the Muddy Waters "Folk Singer" LP and the "live" Ahmed Jamal LP titled
"Alhambra". Emory Cook is another great who has also been forgotten. Way back in the 50s, he was releasing recordings of the Tarahumara Indian (the very ones Antonin Artaud "visited") peyote chants, as well
as Hindu temple music from the Caribbean!!! Richard Bock of World Pacific
also released great recordings, one in particular is the "live" recording of
vina vidwan S. Balachander with N. Ramani. So is the recording
of Brij Bhushan Kabra.
Jones, Malo, Cook, Bock, Danielou and Grubb, these are the men that I respect and hold in high esteem. They wrote the ground rules and charted the way and made it possible for the likes of me. The rest, including myself,
are like the blind men with the elephant in a dark room! Groping in the dark, stumbling
into mike stands, tripping over cables, spilling hot tea onto the
and splitting hairs over the purity of the copper (or silver!) in the
cables or the brand of tubes used!
The little I know, I learnt from listening to the recordings listed
and following carefully the works of the masters mentioned, who were my
inspiration. To them I offer my gratitude.
Kavi Alexander.. "