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AVANTE RAAG CONCERT OFFERS UNIQUE, MEDITATIVE EXPERIENCE

The request on the ticket stub to concert conveys the seriousness of the music - "Perfect silence is requested during the performance."

Those attending Saturday night's avante raag concert welcomed the unique, meditative experience in music. The suggestion in the group's name, "Inner Voyage," conveys the apparent intent of the concert - to provide a musical atmosphere of meditation and tranquillity.Avante raag, a new musical form originating from Salt Lake City, combines the sounds of classical instruments from India with synthesizers and other Western instrumentation. The eight-member ensemble performed original compositions and improvisations with the purity of traditional melody forms known as raags, but featuring non-traditional rhythms.

There is nothing mainstream about the music, but sales of the Aashish Khan's album"Inner Voyage" are reaching a widening circle of fans. The landmark album was recorded with Salt Lake musicians George Grant and Alan Bachman. And the near-capacity crowd Saturday indicates a keen interest in the music that mingles Eastern sounds with the West.

Khan is one of India's finest sarod performers. The sarod is a lute-like, fretless instrument with as many as 25 strings. Khan began playing at age 5 and became India's youngest film music composers. In 1963, he was awarded Best Musical Director honors by the Journalists' Guild of India.

Khan's music could most easily be identified in the movies "Gandhi," "The Man Who Would Be King" and "Passage to India."

The crowd Saturday represented the diversity of Salt Lake's ethic community. Obviously, the appeal of Khan's talent is diverse.

Many of the pieces played lasted more than 10 minutes as the group of musicians improvised and became caught up in the rhythmic, chant-like energy of the music. The melody wanders.

Khan sat barefoot, crossed-legged on the stage, frequently wiping the sweat from his face. The audience seemed to be mesmerized by the exotic sounds and were appropriately quiet - except when expressing approval through enthusiastic response.

The fast-paced piece "Mountains," which Khan dedicated to "all the mountains of the world" conveyed a feeling of grandeur and splendor. An audience favorite was the composition, "One of the Stars." The percussion instruments - wind chimes, rattles, drums, bird callers - combined to create an ethereal sound resembling what you might here during a walk at night with a gentle breeze. The electric guitar added a subtle, jazzy flavor that contributed to the appealing texture of the piece.

The concert, sponsored by the India Forum of Utah, provided exposure to instruments from across the world played by an honored sarod virtuoso with many talented Utah artists.