The Dagar Brothers’ ‘Asavari’ (through my western ears)
It all begins with the drone. Electric, rolling from the lower tone to the other one, a fifth up. I wonder how it feels to play a drone instrument… The voice comes in, from somewhere, immediately going up to form the unison with the drone… Although the tanpura player continues in the same manner, the drone seems to be sounding all the time richer. Perhaps because of the interaction with the singer I begin hearing upper harmonics of the sustained tones. On the paper this drone would look very simple, and here it creates a full background, a background full of sound and color. The singer is going away from it and coming back to it again, in more and more passionate expression. The contrast between this growing excitement and the suspended reaction of tanpura creates at some moments an unbearable tension. As if the voice wants to set itself free from the magnet of drone, it’s going faster and farther, … but then finally still lets itself be totally attracted and gives itself in to the fundament, falls and rests on its tonic pitch. And just a second later, at 16’ 32”, comes the moment of greatest vigor. The voice springs from the source, so bright, so full of energy, it springs up and at that moment the pulse of the tabla comes in. The accumulated tension is breaking through and resolving into a new sound.
I have always been fascinated by the power of long notes. Even when they are in the background, once we focus on them, they catch us and we are in their power.
 Adapted from my BA thesis Sustained sound: pedal versus drone (UvA, 2007).