Following on from the stunning recording of her 1992 performance at the Berlin Parampara Festival, Black Truffle continues its documentation of the work of Berlin-based Italian singer Amelia Cuni, one of the great contemporary exponents of dhrupad, the oldest surviving style of North Indian classical vocal music. Beautifully recorded in concert at Vishweshwarayya Hall, Mumbai. 04.02.1996 presents expansive performances of three ragas stretching across four sides and almost one and a half hours of music. Beginning with the serene Raga Lalit, Cuni dwells for over twenty-five minutes on its opening alap movement, accompanied only by tanpura, her limpid yet full-bodied voice moving from graceful exposition in free tempo to increasingly rhythmically active variations, gradually spiralling upward in register.
She is then joined by master pakwahaj player Manik Munde for the raga's dhrupad and dhamar sections, the resonant tone of the drum and his constant invention with the complex 14-beat cycle serving as the perfect accompaniment for Cuni's ecstatic melodic developments. On the more solemn Raga Bhairav, Cuni's alap, again stretching out over a whole side, is particularly notable for its powerful held notes and mastery of microtonal movement of pitch. After Munde returns for another rhythmically intricate dhamar movement, the record ends with the buoyancy of the Raga Alhaiya Bilaval, whose mode has, for the Western listener, an unmistakably 'major' quality.The rapturous applause that greets the performance is reflected in a remarkable selection of press clippings contemporary with the recording, which demonstrate Cuni's success with Indian critics.
Arriving in a gorgeous gatefold featuring stunning colour photographs of Cuni taken by legendary Australian fashion photographer Robyn Beeche (who resided in India from the early 90s), Mumbai. 04.02.1996 is a document of indescribable beauty and a moving testament to music's ability to cross national and cultural borders.