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Reviews 02-13-2005 


Fragrance of the East - Live in India

by Chinmaya Dunster and the Celtic Ragas Band

Visit New Earth Record's website

This is a delightfully different sound for those accustomed to hearing Indian Raga bands.  This is a delicious mix of very traditional Indian music with some very Celtic influences.  This is unlike anything you may have heard before, and it is expertly executed and a pleasure to listen to. 

This CD is the bands live concert performance at the Bharatiya Vidapeeth Institute of Environmental Education and Research (BVEER) in Pune, India from January of 2004.  The CD includes three “Quicktime” video clips from the concert.  The BVEER is a facility for training teachers in environmental awareness, and the clips include some overdubbing of facts and information on the environmental issues that this institute addresses, along with some beautiful panoramas of Indian landscapes, students and teachers addressing their part in the programs and video footage of the band in concert.  This is a wonderful addition to this CD and worth watching.


But it’s the music you came here for.  And you are in for a most delightful time.


C. Dunster has blended traditional Indian music with the melodies of the Irish/Celts and produced a most wonderful product that has even caught the ear of Paul McCartney.


Do not let the fact that this is a live performance throw you off.  The production quality of this CD will never let on this is a live performance.  The auditorium that this was recorded in is a “state-of-the-art” facility completed in 2002 and it shows in the first rate recording and sound on this CD.


The CD has a total of 9 tracks running just over four minutes to about seven and a half minutes, making a total of just over fifty-two minutes of delightful music.


The tracks are mostly compositions by C. Dunster and sometimes a co-author, but there is the inclusion of two “traditional” pieces, Sarvane Rute Aye and Mausam Ayenge, both featuring the expert and lovely vocals of Shruti Banu, as well as including the unique flavor of C. Dunster’s arrangements. 


Focusing on the compositions of C. Dunster, the opening track of Chance Findings leads you right into what this band is all about.  While presenting you with the sounds of traditional Indian music, the melodies played by the violin and keyboards and at time even the beats are most defiantly of Irish/Celtic origins, and you are lead into a mix that is both as unexpected as it is appetizing.


Moonstone focuses on guitar and keyboards, a very slow and deliberate composition, which changes over to sarod (a classic Indian string instrument) and includes some violin and flute and then goes back to guitar and keyboards throughout the piece.  The instruments play well against each other, forming a very moving and inspiring piece, Irish in flavor with just a hint of Indian spices.


Bhattigali returns to the very unique Indian/Celtic flavor of the band, another subtle work that features the artistry of the musicians as they highlight their mastery of the traditional Indian instruments with their unique sound. This piece is  a little more upbeat, while still being very deliberately paced.


The track Manipuri Megh is best described as “mystic India meets the mournful soul of Ireland”.  This composition is a mix of flute, guitar, base, keyboards and santoor that causes a pause for reflection and contemplation.


 Circlemakers takes off in a very Irish/Celtic direction, with accordion, pipes, guitar and violin in a very light and dancing mood.  This is a very different piece for this collection, almost missing the Indian influence all together, but it feels right at home here without missing a beat.


The track Changes brings us back to the mix of Indian and Irish/Celtic with the sarod and the santoor and guitar.  Chinmaya Dunster displays in this piece the expertise he has achieved with the sarod and this composition displays the unique flavor this band has become famous for.


The final track Rag Shivranjani starts off with traditional Indian sounds, the sitar, the sarod, the drone of the tanpura and some great Indian drumming.  The pace changes and is picked up about three quarters of the way through to change quckly back again and bring this piece to a very traditional ending for a very transitional concert.


Overall, this is an excellent performance of the unique blend of sounds this band has to offer.  It is easy to see why they have caught the ear of some very interesting musical folks. 


And not to be forgotten is the focus of this CD, the environmental issues that have to be faced by India.  This CD is an educational tool as well as being entertaining. 


If you have heard the other works by Chinmaya Dunster, you will want to add this to your collection.  If this is your first introduction to this group, you are in for a very pleasant and different experience as this CD serves as a perfect platform for this group.  And if you are a fan of Indian music, and you like Celtic flavors, this would be a good exploration of the expert blending of these two musical cultures.

Reviewed by Margaret Foster


Real Piano: A Collection

by Various Artists

Real Music's website

Terence Yallop and the team at Real Music have once again assembled a stellar compilation album, this time featuring pianists from their own roster of artists as well as selections from a few independents. Eleven of the fourteen tracks are from previously-released albums, but the independent artists (most notably George Skaroulis and Frederic Delarue) may be new to many listeners and will be a treat to discover (both are among my favorite artists!). It should probably be noted that none of the tracks are strictly solo piano, but all feature the piano as the primary instrument. The CD includes two tracks each from David London, Paul Machlis, Bernward Koch (both new compositions), and the wonderful Kevin Kern (“The Winding Path” is one of his most beautiful compositions, and sparkles in this collection.); and one each from Omar, Danny Wright (a cover of Yanni’s “Whispers in the Dark”), Jim Chappell (it’s good to hear from this artist again after a long absence!), George Skaroulis, Mars Lasar, and Frederic Delarue. It always amazes me how Yallop can take such a diverse group of artists and create a seamless collection that showcases the differences from one artist to the next but flows so smoothly and cohesively. It’s difficult to pinpoint any special highlights on this album since each track is a gem unto itself and there are no weak tracks at all. As is Real Music’s usual focus, all of the music is warm, soothing, and beautiful both in the background and for active listening. Nobody does compilations better than Real Music, and this is one of their best. Recommended! It is available directly from,, and music and gift shops everywhere.

Kathy Parsons
Mainly Piano


Yoga Harmony

by Terry Oldfield

Terry Oldfield's website


Terry Oldfield has produced music for TV and film and had a very large and impressive credit history to his name.  Most notable are his soundtracks for the Emmy award nominated National Geographic specials.   

This CD was created with the intention that the listener would find a deeper space for their practice of yoga.  I am not a practitioner of yoga, but I did find this music to be worthy of meditation and of finding a deeper space in my own environment.


The CD features Mr. Oldfield playing many of his own instruments.  He is a multi-talented musician and this CD highlights these to the fullest.  From the various flutes (bamboo, panpipes and bansurito name a few) to various Indian instruments, to singing crystal bowls and chimes, Terry Oldfield incorporates light tones, passionate flute compositions and interesting backfills with a minimal amount of electronic keyboards. 


The flavor is a mix of Eastern sounds and harmonies.  It allows for personal interpretation, but leads the listener in a specific direction.  There are eight tracks on this CD, ranging in time from about five and a half minutes to approximately eight and a half minutes, making almost a full hour of music. 


The first track Earth and Sky opens with Tibetan bells, and is a very poignantly played alto flute piece.  With just a subtle hint of keyboard fill, it is a slow, expression filled piece that is excellent for warm-ups in a regular yoga practice.  However, this is also a fine piece for your meditative practice, and Mr. Oldfield points out on the jacket that this entire CD is also excellent for massage. 


Aum also opens with Tibetan bells and the drone of the Indian tampura.  This provides the backup for another soulful flute piece, very slow, very moving and very deep. 


There is a change in the mood with Pilgrimage, with lighter bells and a higher pitched bamboo flute which progresses to a lower pitched alto flute and vocal chanting.  Sitar, veena and tampura provide the backfill and highlight the piece's traditional folk music feeling.   This is a much lighter piece, but still maintains the intended pace of the music, which is supposed to be slow and deliberate for the yoga practitioner, but again, lends itself to meditation as well. 


Yoga Healing features Crystal singing bowls, played expertly by “Singing Wind” and it gives this piece a very different feel from the previous flute tracks.  Bamboo flutes are the main focus, along wit the Irish low whistle, and there is the constant drone of the tampura.  But it is the bowls that catch your attention here, with the other instruments providing the shadows for the bowls to contrast.  This is a wonderful composition and blending of instrumentation.


The feeling of the crystal bowls is continued with The Wave which starts out featuring the crystal singing bowls.  It starts slow, and then picks up the pace a bit with the beat becoming the focus, rather than the slow movement of the flute and crystal bowls dictating the mood.  The sitar, the pan pipes and Irish low whistle play against the up beat, and this becomes a light and delightful piece.  It ends as it began, with the crystal bowls being the conclusion.


Mountain Path returns to the flutes, slow and deliberate.  A little over half way through there is the addition of Indian drums to set up a beat, but it never becomes intrusive or overpowering, and the addition of the drums and bells makes what could have been a heavy piece much lighter and airy.


The track Nothingness returns to the soulful flute, again with a minimal backfill of cymbals, bells and keyboard, focusing on the flute composition, expertly played and flawlessly executed.


The final track The Essence starts slow with crystal bowls and the panpipes and about a third of the way through picks up the pace and incorporates Indian drums, changes to alto flute, adds sitar, tampura, and finally vocals.   While providing more of a beat, it does not intrude on the feeling the entire CD was looking to suggest. 


While it was intended for yoga practice, this CD will fill the background of your home or office with gentle sounds, never grating against your mind and offering a stillpoint to your environment.  It is masterfully executed and highlights the wonderful musical talents of Terry Oldfield. 


I highly recommend this CD for not just the yoga practitioners but for anyone looking for a peaceful place to wander.

Reviewed by Margaret Foster



by Frank Van Bogaert

Frank Van Bogaert's website

Groove Unlimited's website

 Closer is Frank Van Bogaert’s 5th release and another gem in a series of releases that began back in 1998 with Colours. This CD really sparkles as Frank shows off his keyboard skills and his ability to create great grooves with depth and feeling. The music on this CD is a mixed bag and moves easily from the up tempo tracks that bounce to atmospheric tracks that offer the listener a relaxing place to hang out and drift away. Frank manages to do this without having jagged cuts from one style to another which allows the listener to move smoothly through the entire CD.  

There are quite a number of tracks on this release with 14 songs that run for 64’17” which gives the listener a rather nice variety of music to choose from all in one package.  Some highlights that should provide listeners with more than enough reason to pick up this CD include the title track Closer that comes out with a snyth beat that drives the song forward and some keyboards that give it a down to earth feel at the same time.  

Having been a fan of Deep Forest’s 1st CD, it was interesting to see Frank’s interpretation of Sweet Lullaby here on his CD. This is an excellent effort by Frank to mark this melody with his own style and make the song memorable again. Very recognizable as the melody that sticks in your head after you have heard it a few times but also very much a product of Frank Van Bogaert’s skillful rendering of the song in his own style.  

Another favorite song from this package is called Dans which is track 11.  This is a beat heavy track with some very deep bass lines and a creative use of voices to add to the overall feeling of the song. One of my quiet favorites is Falling Leaves a delicate song that evokes the feeling of fall or winter with a sparse use of instrumentation and where the keyboard in the form of a piano takes center stage. It reminds one of the great piano music that used to come out of Windham Hill and Narada with the likes of David Lanz. While the song is rather short at 3:21 it is definitely a spotlight on Frank’s more than capable abilities as a keyboard player.  

All in all this is a well balanced set of songs that is both accessible and entertaining. Frank sounds as if he is having a fun time exploring a variety of musical styles and we the listeners have the benefit of tagging along for the ride.  Definitely some smooth grooves that would fit quite nicely into a jazz setting ala Caleidoscope where Frank De Ruytter offers us some tasty sax licks. Frank Van Bogaert also offers up some great beats as well as some thoughtful and reflective tunes as well. A great set that would be welcome in most anyone’s music collection. Recommended.

Reviewed by Michael Foster


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