From the late 60s, at a time when it was hardly possible to be amazed by the riches of Chinese traditional music, I was devoted to Indian music—which then meant mainly the solo traditions, as it mainly still does in the popular image.
If Heart of Glass reminded me fleetingly, impertinently, of rag Marwa and Nikhil Banerjee, I still treasure his lyrical rendition of rag Kafi Zila, which appeared magically on BBC Radio 3 in the early 1970s.
It’s an entrancing raga, for the second quarter of the night. Within its basic minor scale with flat 3rd and 7th, it sometimes features the major 3rd degree.
The suave BBC announcer’s introduction (citing Alain Daniélou) remains etched in my heart:
Of shining whiteness,
Kafi, who inspires lust,
tenderly sits on the lap of her playmate in the royal palace.
Fond of parrots,
she is dressed in blue
and decked with jewels.
She is the image of sensuousness.
In the Lotus of my heart
I cherish her,
lovelier than Lakshmi
the goddess of Fortune.
Of course, as with Bach, I’m just reporting my own infatuation, which is merely a product of a particular place, social milieu, and time—far from the responses of indigenous audiences of various types.
Here’s one of several exquisite versions by Banerjee:
For more raga, and a fine study of its changing social context, see here.