The Nepalese trio Sur Sudha came together in the late 1980s for what amounts to a national-cultural mission. They set out to document the varieties of music in Nepal, and, given the remarkable contrasts in the landscape, it's no surprise that Sur Sudha's musical evocations span large distances. The musical highs and lows, though, are all kept within close reach of each other, reminding that Sur Sudha is a spare ensemble, employing only flute (Prem Rana Autari), sitar (Bijaya Vaidya), and tabla (Surendra Shrestha). The tunes here are compact, ranging from just over 5 to around 16 minutes, much in contrast to traditional Indian ragas, which can stretch to near eternity in their balance of drones and cyclic tabla rhythms. Like Indian music, these pieces feature each instrument closely entwined with the others, developing melodic units that spiral at a moderate and measured pace and featuring the sitar in a not-quite-drone role that sponges up the flute tones and wrings them back out in resonating solo segments. Listeners who enjoy standout solos as much as collective improvisations off raags (a musical scale similar to Indian ragas) will enjoy the work Sur Sudha has done to keep the band's direction balanced on an axis of expressive play.
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