Annette Kruisbrink: Raga Style

In Brief

  • Title: Raga Style
  • Musician and composer: Annette Kruisbrink, guitar.
  • Identification CD: DZ3930.
  • Identification DVD: Studio The Gang DVD006
  • Recording: Studio The Gang, Zwolle, The Netherlands.
  • Year of publication: 2022.

Jogya from the Raga Suite by Annette Kruisbrink


A Raga is a musical form from India that offers a framework for a musician to improvise within. Part of that framework is a set of fixed rules in which music-technical aspects (scale, number of notes from it, motives, specific intervals) as well as the season, the religious calendar and the time of day play a role. Based on those rules, a large number of Raga variants are possible.

Ragas have their own notation system in Hindi character symbols with separate directions for rhythm and tempo. The notation assumes prior knowledge of, for example, the rhythm patterns. You do not read it from the notation directly as with Western music notation.

In the western world, Ragas became known as a musical form by, amongst others, Ravi Shankar (1920 – 2012). He played Indian classical music on his travels.

This improvisation in a broad musical framework based on Ragas forms the core of a number of compositions by Annette Kruisbrink (*1957). She plays these pieces on the CD and DVD Raga Style. The music has a strongly meditative character, resembling a large wave movement with smaller motifs that sooner or later merge with the origin. The bigger picture is never far away in even the most virtuoso passages.

This careful attention for and integration with the overall idea is a characteristic of Annette Kruisbrink’s play in this registration. In my opinion it is a strong feature of this collection. To me, it seems quite a challenge to keep a clear view on the big picture, playing with strong virtuosity at the same time, but the guitarist succeeds in this very well.

I find it difficult to characterize the individual pieces in terms that I would use for Western classical music that is familiar to me. The pieces all have their own characteristic atmosphere, with Elegy for an Elephant sounding the most “western” to me. The last piece Nrytia is composed as a guitar trio with various rhythmic motifs on a drone.

Raga Style is available in a CD and a DVD edition. On the DVD you can observe the guitarist on screen, which is interesting if you for example want to watch fingerings. Each piece has its own atmospheric background. The disadvantage is that the background is quite static, especially with the long pieces. I caught myself closing my eyes at a certain point to listen in concentration. Personally, as a listener, I prefer the CD.

The CD and DVD both have a text sheet explaining the pieces and the important factors for the Ragas that I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Note that you should be familiar with Raga terminology and Indian note names for better understanding.

The recording is intimate without an excess of frills such as a strong reverberation. That is good for the music and invites contemplation. Myself, I favor the CD recording.

Raga Style is an interesting foray into a style of music that you don’t hear every day. If you want to play the music yourself, the pieces are published by Les Productions d’ Oz, you will find the publication numbers on the cover of the CD.

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