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Recorded in Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu (South India) in 1974 by musicologist Robert Garfias.

When we came across these recordings we were astounded by their creative energy and went about to ensure that they had a release on Fire Museum Records. Not at all a South Indian wedding band recording (although we love those as well) the Nathumuni Brothers were a top-notch carnatic (South Indian classical) brass band. To these ears elements of Albert Ayler?s take on gospel, klezmer and English ceremonial music enter the proceedings as well, although the first two were obviously unknown to the musicians.

?I have long had an interest in brass bands. In South India while some of these bands play films songs, others like the Nathamuni band play a kind of repertoire that is on the edge of the South Indian classical tradition. Some Kritis and such are the same as those performed by classical South Indian musicians. In addition however, since the tradition of these brass bands is close to that of the nagaswaram bands, they include some special ragas not often heard in mainstream South Indian music. The nagaswaram ensemble is used primarily but not exclusively as an outdoor ensemble. The nagaswaram itself is a powerful sounding long double reed instrument, more than twice the length of its North Indian counterpart, the shanai. Starting sometime in the late 19th Century or perhaps early 20th Century, some nagaswaram players began to switch to the Western Albert system clarinet, paralleling the same transition that was happening in Turkey and in Eastern Europe.

From this clarinet based ?nagaswaram? type ensemble seems to have come the idea of amplifying it into a fuller brass band. Such brass bands as this one, the Nathamuni Band also play a special form of South Indian music called a ?note?, or ?English Note?, which are tunes imitating the style of English Military bands. For such compositions, quirky and unusual ragas such as Kadanakuthuhalam are played.?

?Robert Garfias


Varnam in Raga Shankarabharanam Janya
Varnam Sami Ninne Raga Shankarabharanam
Javali Apaduruku Lonaitine, Raga Khamas
"English Note"

Robert Garfias Collection at UW