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Carnegie Hall Family Series Presents Falu At Zankel Hall November 15th, 2009: Namasay Falu

The Carnegie Hall Family Concert Series host, Charlotte Blake Alston, tells us to welcome the American-Indian singer with “Namasay Falu” -which is both hello and a term of respect. Falu deserves it.

In an hour long set, Ms. Alston and Falu both explain and illustrate the essense of Indian classical music and if that sounds like a drag , especially for children, put down your preconceptions and listen to some of the loveliest Raga’s you will ever hear.

A Raga is a musical scale similar to do re me fa so la tee and Falu and her band show this beautifully time after time today. And time is not unimportant. The set is broken into three parts: morning, afternoon and night and certain songs are to be played at certain times of the day. There seems to be no real  difference to the untrained ear (the liveliest song, “Allahoo” is introduced as a song for “when friends go to bed”) but nobody is very bothered.

Early in the set an afternoon song called “Dun” leads to a singalong to “”ran jai ran jai jai rham” and whatever east versus west disconnect there might be is no longer there in the shared musical moment. On “Tarana”, not just the penultimate but maybe the best song, Falu sings the Indian scales like an excerpt from The Sound Of Music”. It’s a beautiful sing. Every song today is a beautiful sing.

However only on “In The Rain”, off Falu’s self titled 2007 album (a must buy if you don’t own it), does she work the Western part of her cultural heritage significanlty. Falu uses the song to illustrate vocal ornamentation, what she adds into the vocals over and above the melody line. Later on John Popper of the Blues Travelers will join the band and play a wonderful harmonica solo, jamming up the raga like all get out, but still it will sound distinctly not Western.

Perhaps 2007 was Falu’s  one shot at a mecegenation of sound. I talk to Presshere’s public relations person Inge Colson before the concert, it is she  who introduced me to Falu, and Inge told me Falu is not working on a new album at this time although Falu is keeping busy.

It’s a pity but it really doesn’t matter how Falu chooses to pursue her career. On “East Bound” violinist  Soumya Chatterjee and tabla player Aditya Kalyanpu play the same tala (rhythm) before Soumya falls out and Falu and the tabla do the same thing. It is a great moment that does the same thing this entire set has done. It respects everybody young and olds intelligence, it teaches us how classical Indian music works, and it is transcendentally lovely music. Like everything this wonderful singer does. don’t miss Falu this January at Joe’s Pub.

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