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  1. Dear Henry and Meara,

    I’m falling madly in love with the sound of Almirah Radio. Brill is not the word, Henry — not intense enough. The pieces have their own slightly uncanny sensibility that draws the listener into another place (and not just India). Almirah feels modern, brave, experimental, and packed with your own joint search, your own pace and aesthetic. Above all, maybe, I love what you do with the musical punctuations.

    Among the practical effects for me, you give me courage in editing our own conversations in Cairo and Beirut (– interrupted by a bout of the flu or maybe just a lot of lethally bad air in Cairo). General moral: Ease up, Chris — just let the people talk… about what’s on their minds, not yours. It’s a lesson that Mark Rendeiro has been showing me, too.

    There’s a likeable abstraction here: not much introduction or buildup or summary — just the sound of somebody interesting talking, could be about anything; it’s the humanity of the voice more than the argument that grips.

    The sound itself is awfully good: the rich and perfectly miked voice of Gurcharan Das could sell anything! And then those ever cawing birds of India! I’m guessing that you’re calling on different birds in different settings — overall they remind me of the birds that wen’t nuts at dusk when Paul McCarthy and I were interviewing Namita Gohkale in Delhi two years ago… so we stopped and went out and listened and inserted it at the top, here: … and she did her own quick riff on mynahs, parrots and crows in the banyan tree, and “the ever sung song of India.”

    And again the music is brilliantly selected — no surprise, I suppose, after that modern ocean jazz sound that Henry found for the Harold Bloom convo about Melville and Moby Dick. We will apply your tricks to Egypt!

    Maybe Sarnath Banerjee is my favorite among the four you’ve sent — because it is so in-and-of-itself, abstract in that sense; and such a mischievous mind dancing. “Light yet intelligent,” as he says. “Light food, light music, light literature… so he can levitate.” Hari and Sukhmani are awfully good, too. They’re all good.

    I am remembering Henry’s instructions to me — to locate myself, my agenda, my journey in the pieces we edited from Pakistan. And in that sense I wonder if you want to bring yourselves forward somewhat more — talk louder, ask somewhat more aggressive questions, explain tersely who you are, where you’re coming from in a general sense; where you want the series of cupboard inspections to take you.

    Above all, keep doing it. Your pleasure comes through, the sense that you’re exploring a method and a mode of transnational gabbing.

    I will listen to all of it. Be thinking about a place where we might do this together. Can you spell C-H-I-N-A?

    Hugs and huzzahs,

    Chris Lydon

    Editing more Egypt conversations, and learning a few tricks from the way you do stuff.

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