Album: “Piano Ragas”
Music: Joel Madhukar
Available for Purchase here
In the age of technology and songs intended to be ear-worms with catchy lyrics, it is really rare to see anyone make instrumental albums. However, musician Joel Madhukar, has focused on making an instrumental album based heavily on his piano playing. The album, called “Piano Ragas” contains 8 devotional tunes that he grew up singing as a boy growing up in Hyderabad, India, at the Methodist church that his father was a preacher at. Madhukar tells us that he, “purposefully made an instrumental CD so that anybody can listen and enjoy irrespective of what language you speak. Music is a universal language and I hope to share what my music feels with you.”
Overall, the album is good attempt and is one to add to your collection if you love instrumentals. I listened to it at night, and it provided a very soothing backdrop. The songs showcase Madhukar’s talent well. It is unique how different sounds and instruments have been blended into the track. You won’t expect some of the instrument changes when they occur in a track, but they all work for the specific song. Many of the tracks have classical music elements mixed in that are refreshing to listen to on an Indian album. Plus, all the songs on the album are around 5 minutes in length, so it isn’t a time consuming album. In fact, you have ample time to go back and listen to your favorite tracks (mine being “Halleluah Stuthi Mahim” and “Shri Yesundu Janminche”) a few times if you wish! On the down side, I think the album could have benefited from more high end production. Some of the tracks sound too “midi” based, which tends to lower production value. The songs are all nice to listen to, however, so it is still worth adding to your collection if you like instrumental albums.
The first song, “Halleluah Stuthi Mahima,” is the strongest track on the album. In my opinion, the opening is reminiscent of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 – III. Rondo Alla Turca “Turkish March”. The song then kicks into more a pop-song feel with a basic drum beat. The track turns rock-like around 1 minute 50 seconds into the track, before reverting back to the pop and classical feel. It is a really catchy track, and one you will be inclined to listen to again and again. While the first track is more piano-based, the second track, “Devude Naku Ashrayambu” has violin elements as well. It is a slower track than the first track. However, it works because of the softer piano playing and the tabla background, which complements the track well. The third track “Margamu Chupumu Intiki” sounds almost like a lullaby. It has a cute opening that reminded me of “Gali Mein Aaj Chaand Nikhla” that Alka Yagnik had sung from Zakhm. The flute 2 minutes in brought the track to a whole different level, and of course the piano playing was good. The longest track on the album is the fourth track “Deva Duthala Bashalalo” at 6 minutes 7 seconds. This song reminded me of the music from old Indian films. The piano and tabla go really well together in the track. However, I felt the harmonium / accordion sound at around 4 minutes would have been better used earlier in the track and for a shorter period of time.
The fifth track, “Mangalamey Yesunaku” would have been the strongest track on the album, but rest of the song didn’t seem to flow as well from the introduction. The intro made it feel more Rajasthani in sound, but then the track goes in a different direction. It also felt like there were too many elements in the one song. Still, it is a very good track that truly showcases Madhukar’s talent. The sixth track “Parishudha Parishudha” was a nice but fell a bit flat following the more dynamic track five. Track seven “Nadipinchi Na Nava” seems like it can easily get the crowd involved if played live. The beat was one people can clap to. Madhukar’s piano playing is beautiful, especially around 3 minutes 18 seconds in. The final track “Shri Yesundu Janminche” is the shortest on the album at 2 minutes 48 minutes and is the perfect end to the album. The opening almost sounded celtic, but like track four, this track too reminded me of songs from older Indian movies. It is also a very strong track on the album that makes you want to get up and dance!
Overall, the album is a unique piano-based album that is definitely worth a listen! You can purchase it off of Joel’s website at http://apchristianevents.com/audio/details/piano-ragas-joel-madhukar-usa/