If you look at Together In Love And Separation and expect the sort of collaboration in which the two elements hardly interact, I can tell you now that you’d be very wrong. Saskia Griffiths-Moore is well-known to our readers but Chandra Chakraborty perhaps needs some introduction. She is a classical singer from southern India, by which I mean that she is trained in classical Indian musical forms, a child prodigy blessed with a magnificent voice. She is also a writer, actor and director and several other things besides.
Chandra plays Indian harmonium and Saskia plays guitar and they are supported by Yamin Chowdhury on tabla, Amith Day’s keyboards and John Wood on guitar so the dominant sound tends to be south Asian and it seems difficult to integrate the western songs into this style sometimes. A song that seems to be back in fashion, or perhaps has never left, is ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ which begins with Chandra and the band. We are not told whether Chandra is improvising on a translation of the lyrics but I’d like to think she is. The second track is ‘Bhromor Koiyo Giya’, a traditional Bengali song followed, unexpectedly, by John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’. I’d give anything to hear Chandra taking lead on this but after a vocal introduction from her Saskia takes over for a fairly straight interpretation except that she slips in a reference to Belfast at the end.
‘Milon Hobe Kotodine’ a song that we would consider traditional but was written by Lalon Shah, a nineteenth century Bengali philosopher and fakir. As there are no wind instruments credited I suspect that Amith Day’s Roland is fulfilling that role on this and other tracks. The best example of stylistic fusion is ‘Scarborough Fair’ and here Chandra is singing a section of the lead vocal. I’m fairly sure of that although my linguistic skills really aren’t up to it. ‘Tomay Hridmajhare Rakhbo’ is another traditional Bengali song which sounds remarkably modern in this arrangement.
The final two songs are ‘The Water Is Wide’ and ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ another song that seems to be growing in popularity again. The former has a prominent tabla part that is really nice and again Chandra takes a section of the lead, also kicking off the latter. Together In Love And Separation is a beautifully put together album which really does fuse two musical cultures. There are no helpful notes and I wish I spoke Bengali – or perhaps Urdu or Hindi – to be better informed but now I’ve finished this review I don’t have to fret about it and can just enjoy the music.
‘Bhromor Koiyo Giya’ – official video: