Ronu Majumdar, Ry Cooder, Jon Hassell, Abhijit Banerjee – Hollow Bamboo (2000/2002)
‘Ronu is an outstanding flutist of the Hindustani tradition who has previously been featured on recordings with Jon Hassell, Simon Shaheen & Bela Fleck. “Hollow Bamboo,” a collaboration with Ry Cooder on electric guitar & Turkish oud & Jon Hassell on trumpet, is a mesmerizing blend of Indian folk melodies & electric genre defying compositions.
When Ry Cooder isn’t getting down with the aged Cuban musicians of the Buena Vista Social Club, he’s getting serene with Indian flutists & vina players. As he did with the well-known ‘A Meeting by the River’ with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Cooder teams up with Indian musicians in open-ended improvisations that are New Age music for people who don’t think they like New Age. Melodies ebb & flow, rhythms are gentle tabla beats or floating pulses, structure is often amorphous. Ronu Majumdar is actually the leader on these sessions & he’s a formidable player of the bansuri flute, an Indian bamboo instrument that’s capable of the most sublime & sensual melodies. Majumdar gets all that. Except when he plays oud on 1 track, Cooder sticks to electric guitar, gently fingerpicking tremolo-drenched backings to Majumdar’s ruminations. The sessions for Hollow Bamboo emerged out of those for Jon Hassell’s 1999 album, Fascinoma, & shares that CD’s musicians. Hassell plays trumpet on a couple of tracks, his breathy, slurred lines echoing Majumdar’s melodies. You won’t need incense for this CD. It’s wafting right up off the disc.
On Hollow Bamboo, celebrated bansuri player Ronu Majumdar tunes into a few of the different bandwidths offered within the world music spectrum. With half of the tracks he grounds his playing in traditional Hindustani works. Accompanied by the penetrating tabla playing of Abhijit Banerjee on most of these cuts, Majumdar whips up stunning melodic gusts that swirl in & out of time with the tabla. The other 4 tracks are experimental collaborations with trumpeter Jon Hassell, guitarists Rick Cox & Ry Cooder, & percussionist Joachim Cooder. “A Day for Trade Winds,” a song formed upon richly textured guitar
drones, is the most successful of these 4 fusion tracks because guitarists Cox & Cooder lay back & let Majumdar develop subtle, yet sophisticated, melodies. “African Queen” is a less successful hybrid, due in part to the fact that Joachim Cooder’s hand drumming drowns out the superior playing of Banerjee. Whatever the contributions of his collaborators may be, Ronu Majumdar’s sensitive performance on the hollow, bamboo bansuri makes this CD a great listen, no matter what end of the world music spectrum you’re coming from.