August 2, 2016

Jyotish Choudhury and Damodar Lal Kabra: Ragas - Sunrise and Sunset [United Artists UNS 15550] LP originally released in the US in 1968

This LP is one of many which were recorded by the venerable field recordist Deben Bhattacharya and is apparently either a reissue of a Dutch Philips LP or was licensed from Philips. The sound and documentation is much more in the style of a field recording than a typical Hindustani music LP.

The LP front cover announces that we will be listening to "India's finest exponents of the sitar and sarod." It can sometimes seem a bit like Garrison Keillor's fictitious little town Lake Wobegone, Minnesota, where all the children are above average. 

All I know about Damodar Lal Kabra is that he played sarod, was the elder brother of guitarist Brij Bhushan Kabra, and was one of sitarist and music festival promoter Manju Mehta's teachers. He apparently also was the first student of Ali Akbar Khan and therefore was a member of the Maihar Gharana. It's a shame that the notes to this LP contain no biographical information and that the internet has so little information about this musician. 

A comment on the transfer of this same album on another, much better blog mentions that he released several LPs and cassettes, but I can find no evidence of this.

Jyotish Choudhury was a sitar player from Benares. As far as I can tell, this is his only recording. 

side 1:

Raga Natabhairava (sarod and tabla)

side 2:

Raga Yaman Kalyan (surbahar)
Raga Bhimpalashri (surashringar)

It is somewhat difficult to make out, but if you look carefully at the top right hand corner of this copy's front cover, you will see that it is stamped as a promotional copy, likely either handed out to a radio station or given out to a magazine or newspaper for review. I discovered Indian classical music through promotional copies of Nimbus CDs sent to the newspaper i worked at as a music writer from 1988-93, but that is for another post. Relevant to this transfer is the widely held belief among so-called audiophiles that promotional copies are generally better sounding than regular copies, because of the theory that they were pressed earlier in the manufacturing run, and therefore while the metal stampers were still in good shape. Maybe that is true. What also might be true is that UA was and is infamous for using grades of vinyl several steps below the best, and for taking short cuts in certain aspects of disk manufacturing. Overall, however, this was a EX- condition record and there were no overwhelming obstacles placed in my way when transferring.

Here is an audio recording of Damodar Lal Kabra and Brij Bhutan Kabra performing Raga Yaman Kalyan (part one)...

...and here is part two.

Here is half an LP of music by Damodar Lal Kabra, also recorded by Deben Bhattacharya.

Equipment used in transfer: 
Preparation: Ultrasonic cleaning for 20 minutes in plain water, followed by a quick vacuum drying with a VPI 16.5 cleaning machine
Turntable:  Audio-technica AT-LP-1240
Cartridge: Shure M97x
Pre-amplification: Vintage refurbished Pioneer SX-780.
Recorder: Sony PCM-M10 at 24bit/44.1kHz resolution

The high resolution file was normalized and slight EQ was applied (to eliminate most of the subsonic rumble from the vinyl) in Audacity. The java-based "ClickRepair" app was utilized to eliminate clicks and static sounds. Real-time auditing of the repair process is possible with this app (in other words one can listen to just the noise being removed while the file is playing) and this was undertaken to ensure that no musical information was lost. Conversion to the lossless compression file type FLAC as well as lossy mp3 took place in xAct.

(high resolution file suitable for listening on computer and some portable players)

(standard resolution file suitable for burning a CDR)

(highest possible quality compressed file for listening on portable devices) 


  1. This LP was graciously loaned to me by my friend Nels, who has been collecting Hindustani LPs and CDs for several decades. He is also (in the spare time his work and personal life allows) a dedicated and hardworking student of the tabla. I was really touched when he dropped off a box of LPs one day and told me to take my time in transferring them. No deadline, no caution about being careful with his precious vinyl (obviously he knows I will be) -- just a trust in me that at times i wonder if I deserve. Thanks, Nels!

    Although this LP is not exactly rare and sought after (no copies at $199 for me to link to!), there does seem to be somewhat of a fondness for the record expressed on the internet at times. I hope people will find this transfer to be the best currently available.

    Thanks to my dedicated readers. If YOU are one of the people who download my efforts but don't make a comment or thank me -- that is okay with me! What I ask is that you listen carefully and take this music seriously.

    A book by Val Wilner, about the free jazz scene developing in the UK during the 1970s -- was entitled "As Serious As Your Life." That's how serious I take music. As serious as life. But also as joyful as life, as refreshing as life. Music can nourish whatever you think of as your soul.

    As guitarist Robert Fripp once noted, "At times, music can be a very good friend."

    So please download like crazy and pick up everything on this blog if you want, and if you find something you like, share it with a close friend.

  2. Dear Richard, there is also this CD, originally published as an LP in 1970:
    Damodar Lal Kabra (Sarod) & Brij Bhushan Kabra (Guitar) & Keramatullah Khan (Tabla) – Jugalbandi – Kabra Brothers: Raga Piloo – Jugalbandi, Raga Jayjayvanti – Sarod, Dhun – Guitar, SAREGAMA - THE GRAMOPHONE COMPANY OF INDIA, CDNF 150512
    Beautiful recordings, first published as an LP in 1970. Both brothers are early students of Ali Akbar Khan.

  3. Jyotish Choudhury was also a Rudra Veena player. Deben Bhattacharya recorded also some of his Rudra Veena recordings. See for example here:

  4. Great post, thanks a million for sharing your LPs!

  5. Just found another CD in my collection on which Jyotish Chandra Chowdhury plays Raga Khamaj on Sitar.
    So he was a Sitar, Surbahar, Rudra Veena and Surshringar player.

  6. Thank you Tawfiq for searching out these gems. I have some tenuous connections with the Ali Akbar College of Music and i might try to get some more information from them, if they have any. It's always interesting when a seemingly under recorded or barely recorded musician tuns out to have a more substantial career output than you might have thought before. I have to wonder out loud if possibly my friend George might have some information about this early AAK student. Or I might think about sending an email to Mary Khan to see what sort of documentation of AAK's students is taking place (they have done an amazing job preserving and cataloguing many though sands of hours of audio and video tapes collected somewhat haphazardly by AAK over the years. Hmmm. if only there were print magazines which printed articles about obscure musicians!

    Thanks for getting my mind thinking, Tawfiq. You are one of my 100% dependable experts i can count on.

  7. Thank you very much for your efforts.