The Essential Ravi Shankar (Columbia/Private Music 82876 71610 2, 2005)
If you have grown up with western music this CD is a wonderful introduction to the great tradition and complexity of Indian music and to the tremendous talent of one of its ambassadors, Ravi Shankar.
Ravi Shankar is one of those remarkable artists who has remained true to traditional Indian music and yet attracted an incredibly large western following. He has performed all over the world including in the United States since the mid-fifties. He has performed with artists such as Bob Dylan, George Harrison, violinist Yehudi Menuin and Philip Glass just to name a few. He even performed at Woodstock but was apparently taken aback by the association of drug use with his music. There are 20 beautiful tracks on this CD set with a wide range of Shankar’s music from various periods of his life. On the first track Shankar carefully describes a raga and its different characteristics. He helps you to identify the different time signatures you can expect to hear on the CD and gives examples of each type of instrument. The technical details are fascinating but do not think that you will be trapped in a lecture; the music is so hypnotic you soon will forget the technical details and just fall in love with the music.
In Indian mythology it is thought that the celestial beings first brought music to the people. Listening to Shankar’s performance of this ancient musical art form it is clear why one would believe this myth.
For those who are Indian music aficionados this CD is still a good buy. Just skip the first track so that your intelligence will not be insulted and enjoy Ravi Shankar’s classical Indian sitar playing. The original tracks from which this CD is compiled have been re-mastered and the sound quality is excellent. With over 80 Shankar CD’s on the market I certainly would consider this one as a perfect purchase for the “beginner”.
This CD will inevitably make the listener want to explore the centuries old Indian music tradition further. If you enjoy Ravi Shankar other musicians you may enjoy exploring are: Shankar’s daughter Anoushka Shankar, Srinivas Koumounduri and Dr.Chandrakant Sardeshmukh who studied under Shankar.