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137 f At long last Ravi Shankar’s Nine

Decades Vol. 5: Ravi Shankar’s Ghanashyam A Broken Branch (East Meets West Music EMWM1017) has received the release it deserves, if only one by which to judge it fairly. It was previously released, slap- dash Indian style, on CD in a ridiculously inept edited version as one continuous stream (one track), meaning it was more or less impossible to work out which bit of what was on it. (The LP at least had the advantage there.) This expanded CD edition rights that wrong. And others. It is the maestro’s familiar diatribe, expressed in music, on “one of the most burn- ing problems of today: the abuse of drugs”. Ravi Shankar continues in this vein in his open- ing introduction about “the agonies of dissipa- tion”, “the worldwide abuse of drugs”, and the consequences to the central character Ghanashyam’s family. It was conceived as a dance-drama. Daya Shankar (the double-reed- ed shehnai shawm), Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (guitar), Tarun Bhattacharya (santoor), Ramesh Mishra (sarangi) and Shubhendra Rao (sitar) are among the principal instrumental- ists. In a way Ghanashyam harkens back to Shankar’s early dance-drama years in his brother Uday’s Compaigne de Danse et Musique Hindou. While of historical interest, it remains too sanctimonious, too simplistic (‘drugs=bad’) a project to stir me. Suggested entry points: Temple Scene and Dance Practice and Drugs, Hallucinations, The Divine.

The 1DVD/2CD Ravi & Anoushka Shankar: Live In Bangalore (East Meets West Music EMWM1014) was recorded on 7 February 2012, the excellent booklet notes say, before a sold-out audience at the Ban- galuru Palace Grounds in the state capital of Karnataka, Bangalore. He was two months short of his 92nd birthday and it turned out to be his last major recital in India before his death on 11 December 2012. Decades ago the extraordinary sitarist-composer Rais Khan put me to the test of identifying an unstated number of sitarists. Like a deleted scene from a Satyajit Ray film, it was a roomful of hang- ers-on and backstage Johnnies, chamchas and chamchis (respectively, the men and women who spoon sycophancy). It wasn’t malicious (he believed in me, I’d like to think). Thank- fully he mimicked spot-on the style of only three sitar maestros. One by one, I named them. Many sought to imitate Ravi Shankar’s signature style. (The finest took that style and ran with it and made it theirs, too.) Listening to Live In Bangalore reinforces what a mag- nificent sitarist and interpreter in her father’s

distinctive style his daughter developed into. Anoushka Shankar stamps her authority and personal touches on the material with a soul- fulness and sophistication that is uplifting. Her father flies, as if playing for his life. Accompanying are Tanmoy Bose on tabla, Pirashanna on mridangam, Ravi chandra Kulur on bansuri (transverse bamboo flute) and Sanjeev Shankar and Sanjay Sharma on tanpuras (tonic-sounding drone stringed instruments). Suggested entry points: Banga- lore Yaman Kalyan and Bangalore Khamaj and Medley (a ragamala or ‘garland of ragas’ in the latter case).

The Rough Guide To Acoustic India

(World Music Network RGNET1361CD) is a strong, good, consolidating introduction to the kinda obvious genre represented by the title. It has a limiting constraint. Its tracks are all sourced from one label. They include the Bengali Sufi musician Noor Alam, the Baul maestro Paban Das Baul, the remarkable Kar- natic and fusion violinist Jyotsna Srikanth (who stares out from the cover) and the Ben- gali stringed instrument maestro-modifier Debashish Bhattacharya. Phil Stanton com- piled it from his own Riverboat label. Although it is essentially a self-promotional release, several of its source releases were totally unknown to me. Suggested entry points: Jyotsna Srikanth’s Gopalaka Pahi- manam and the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band’s Thumri Baaja.

Passionate Voice (Felmay FY 8244), co-

credited to Supriyo Dutta and Federico Sanesi brings together two names new to me. Dutta is a fine-sounding Hindustani vocalist who reveals a succession of sides to his artistry on this release. Sanesi is the accompanying percussionist. Clearly the khay- al, tarana and dadra compositions all have a provenance, perhaps known composers, per- haps forgotten ones. It is no longer sufficient to talk about raga-this and taal-that where specific compositions within either are being performed. The second track Raga Bihag – Drut Khayal In Teen Taal lifts that gloom a lit- tle. It is a khayal-style composition in Bihag set in a fast(drut)-tempo sixteen-beat rhythm cycle (taal or t ¯al), the well-known teent ¯al. The notes add translations, beginning with “Hey! You beauteous winsome lady!/Capti- vating the heart with your charming sweet- ness.” That’s what I want to read. I want illu- mination to enhance what’s playing. Fine music, but it didn’t touch the parts other singers reach. Suggested entry point: the opening khayal in Raga Bihag.

Finishing on another cross-cultural high

note, let’s turn to the Indian composer-violin- ist Kala Ramnath (fR 276). She was one of the youngest ever recipients of Indian classi- cal music’s highest award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Purask¯ar. On 17 January 2018 she received hers from the hands of the President of India Ramnath Kovind at the Darbar Hall in Rashtrapati Bhava. It was richly deserved. Glow Of Benares (Dacapo Records 8.226115) is co-credited to Lars Møller & Aarhus Jazz Orchestra feat The Danish Sinfonietta, Kala Ramnath & Abhijit Banerjee and is a giant step beyond her music and composing for the London Sym- phony Orchestra-curated UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica live work in 2011. In the meanwhile her composing prowess reeled her into other East-West realms. Examples? Try her composi- tions for violinist Hilary Hahn’s In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores (2013) and the Kro- nos Quartet’s Fifty For The Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire (expanding). Recorded between 7 and 8 May 2016, once again the roots of these compositions lie in raga. Only, the compositional credits are all to composer and conductor Lars Møller. (Why they aren’t jointly credited baffles.) Each of the five com- positions has, to generalise, a featured Dan- ish instrumentalist. The opening composition Glow Of Benares in raga Shri features Jonas Johansen on kit drums. On Indian Skies and Funky Jog, a trained vocalist as well as a vio- linist, Kala Ramnath also sings. Funky Jog – set in the longing evening raga Jog – puts Jacob Buchanan and his flugelhorn in the hot seat. It is no surprise, given his disciplehood with Jnan Prakash Ghosh, the Hindustani per- cussionist Abhijit Banerjee shines on the clos- ing track of the five – Epilogue: Mumbai Footprints. Its stepping off point is Wayne Shorter’s Footprints from the saxophonist’s album Adam’s Apple. Doubly perplexing that Møller cops sole compositional credits. Never- theless, a remarkable addition to Kala Ram- nath’s canon. Suggested entry points: Epi- logue: Mumbai Footprints and Funky Jog.

Contact details: Dacapo Records:

East Meets West Music, UK distribution through Harmonia Mundi Felmay Records: Globe Music: World Music Network:

Ken Hunt

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