The ubiquity of raga in the ‘60s is perhaps best demonstrated in the discarded record collection I picked this out of: abandoned in a trunk on the side of the road between Emmylou Harris and Barry Manillow records (there was some Grateful Dead in there too). But you get the picture–everyone was listening to raga. It was so popular that it infiltrated even the most vanilla of record collections (to be fair, they also had a Pharoah Sanders record. I have a feeling it may have actually been a mixture of a parent and child’s collections).
And to unaccustomed Western ears, the source can be a little strong. This album features two instrumental pieces, each an entire side in length, performed only on sarod (an instrument I just heard about today—it’s like a small sitar) and the tamla (Indian hand percussion). Both start out slowly and quietly in meditative drones, building and accelerating through their runtimes to almost manic conclusions (pity that tamla players hands). The later sections are writhe with rhythm changes and shifting strong beats, slowly building in tempo until you’re not sure there’s anywhere left to build to. And when it reaches a breaking point, it crashes to conclusion, leaving nothing but a few seconds of the drone strings ringing out. The album is both contemplative and exciting, but if I’m going to listen to it more regularly, I’m going to need a lot more incense.