Details about Mir Ali's June 6 performance

Mir tells us that the first piece was titled Raag Kirvani and was an original composition in three parts: Alap, Jhala and Gut. This is an evening raga, (ragas typically relate to themes, not the least of which is time of day) typically having a very soothing and sorrowful sound resembling the harmonic minor scale. It has both south Indian and Sufi traditions from Persia in the compositional style. Alap is a very slow introduction that explores each note of the raga and establishes the mood and the somber character of the composition in a free non-rhythmic sense. The Jhala is a faster movement that gives a bit of momentum and was performed: “Rupak taal” a 7/8 meter divided as: 123-45-67 with light accents on beats 1, 4, and 6. The final part was Gut, a very fast-paced composition set in “Teen taal: Sixteen beats divided into four groups of four with a strong gravitational point toward the first beat, called “sum.” This last part was based on a popular folk tune called Nagin named after a double reed-like, wooden wind instrument that snake charmers used for street shows with live cobras.

The second piece, Alhambra, is an original composition based in Arabic and Andalucian traditions. Its haunting opening uses the open F# major chord with open E and B strings, immediately defining the singing form of one of flamenco’s most notable free rhythmic compositions known as tarantas or tarantos (when sung). The mood resembles a melismatic singing used both in flamenco as well as Sufi music centering on the F# chord. The piece then develops into the slower part of an alegrias known as “desplantes” (12/8) dance form, minor with a typical cadence point of a dominant seventh chord with the seventh in the base resolving to the actual dominant chord up a half-step (B7 to C7).

The third piece, Herentia-Latina is a typical rumba flamenca written by Monolo Sanlucar of Andalusia, Spain. This is a more festive and lighter form of flamenco set in a straight ahead 4/4 meter. It also demonstrates several different kinds of flamenco fancy strummings known as “rasqueados” or “rajeos.”

The last piece was an original Finger Walk with a slow introduction in the style of the Paraguayan composer Augustin Barrios. Finger Walk is basically a Latin piece with six different independent lines layered on top of each other and resembles a salsa band.

I asked Mir about tunings and other information on his guitars/equipment and he shared with us that the Indian piece was played on a sitar/guitar made by Augustino Lorenz and was given to him as a gift. This guitar has all normal strings, with the exception of two sitar strings replacing the traditional 4th (D) and 5th (A) strings. The tuning was an open 5th, C# tuning starting with the 6th. Strings: C# G# C# G# G# (unison) C# accompanied by an electronic drone machine replacing the four-stringed drone instrument known as a “tanpura.”

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