Tag Archives: Indian music

Sheila Chandra Out on Her Own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own (Indipop, 1984, reissued by Narada//EMI in 2000)

This is a slender album by today’s standards, with 10 tracks just stretching over 40 minutes. But it is an important milestone in the musical path of Sheila Chandra, leading UK-based Indian-origin fusion artist from the 1980s.

As the liner notes explain, this was Sheila Chandra’s declaration of independence from pressure from her first label, after scoring a U.K. hit with the group Monsoon and the song, “Ever So Lonely.”


Sheila Chandra – Out on my Own, Narada reissue

Tablas, keyboards, guitar and sitars provide the backing for her strong experimental vocals. Our picks include the title track and the ambient ‘Prema;’ also check out the dreamy ‘From a Whisper.’

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Anoushka Shankar Live, a Dazzling Experience

Anoushka Shankar

Last night, March 21, sitar phenomenon, composer and world music star Anoushka Shankar performed at Fletcher Hall in the Carolina Theater of Durham, North Carolina. Anoushka charmed the audience with a remarkable mix of Indian classical music ragas, contemporary world fusion material rooted in Indian traditions and cinematic music.

The concert started with two spectacular ragas that showcased Anoushka Shankar’s talent as a sitarist and her equally impressive ensemble. Later, she performed material from Traces of You, her remarkable collaboration with Nitin Sawhney. The concert ended with excerpts from her first film score, the soundtrack to a silent epic film called Shiraz from 1928. The music for Shiraz reflected the intrigue and passion that occurs during the film.

Throughout the concert there were abundant examples of virtuosity with enthralling call and response interactions between the sitar, tabla, mrindangam and bamboo flute.

The ensemble included Ojas Adhiya (India) on tabla, Pirashanna Thevarajah (UK) on mridangam, Ravichandra Kulur on flute (India), Danny Keane (UK) on cello and piano, and Kenji Ota (Japan) on tanpura. For this concert, Anoushka invited a young Durham woman to join the ensemble on bass tanpura.

Anoushka Shankar will be performing in Washington DC tomorrow, March 23 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. She will later cross the Atlantic to perform in Dublin on Saturday, April 6 at The National Concert Hall; the Royal Festival Hall in London, United Kingdom on April 9; and she’ll fly back to the USA to perform at Campbell Hall in Santa Bárbara, California on April 17.

Special thanks to Eric Oberstein and King Kenney at Duke Performances for their support.

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Artist Profiles: Anoushka Shankar

Anoushka Shankar

Anoushka Shankar was born on June 9, 1981 in London, England. Anoushka is the daughter of the late Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, and she is the first and only sitarist in the world trained completely by him.

Growing up in London, New Delhi and, later, Encinitas, California, Anoushka at first resisted the legacy of the sitar, a complex and ancient instrument with between 17 and 21 strings. Anoushka learned her first Indian songs and dances from her mother, Sukanya, and she became her father’s student at the age of nine. Her initial dislike of the specially built “baby sitar” on which she cut her musical teeth gave way to a love of the instrument and the music. She made her performing debut at age 13.

Ravi Shankar guided his daughter through her emergence as a performer and as a recording artist, writing and producing the five works she plays on Anoushka, her debut album. For Anourag, her second recording, Anoushka once again performed music written and produced by her father. This time, Ravi Shankar also joined Anoushka as performer.

When Ravi Shankar’s friend and protégé George Harrison first worked with Anoushka in 1997 — when she conducted on the Chants of India album — he saw that she had inherited not only her father’s virtuosity but also his musical soul. “Most people are musicians simply because they play a certain instrument when they play that instrument, the music appears,” Harrison said. “But Ravi — to me, he is the music; it just happens to be that he plays the sitar. And it’s like that with Anoushka. She just has that quality. She could play the banjo, and it wouldn’t matter – she is the music.”

The release of Anourag coincided with the extensive “Full Circle” tour of the United States, in which Anoushka and Ravi Shankar performed together in concert in celebration of Ravi’s 80th birthday and the 70th anniversary of the beginning of his career in music. On August 15th, India’s Independence Day, Anoushka performed alone in New York at Summerstage in Central Park. Throughout the tour, she shared the stage with her father, performing his Sitar Concerto No. 1 and conducting master classes.

Anourag continued the Shankar family’s extraordinary presence in the world of Indian classical music. The recording’s six tracks feature traditional ragas that reflect Ravi Shankar’s influence on both the composition and performance of sitar music. In his first new recording as performer in several years, Ravi Shankar joined Anoushka on “Pancham Se Gara,” the final track on Anourag. In addition to her father, Anoushka was joined on the recording by Bikram Gosh on tabla and mridangam, Tanmoy Bose on tabla.

After graduating from high school with high honors in 1999, Anoushka decided to delay her entry to college to tour the world once again with her father. Highlights of their 1999 schedule included performances together at London’s Barbican Theatre and at the Evian Festival in France, where Anoushka joined the world-renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in playing the world premiere of a new work for cello and sitar by Ravi Shankar.

In 1998, the British Parliament presented Anoushka with a House of Commons Shield in recognition of her artistry and musicianship — at 17, she was the youngest as well as the sole female recipient of this honor. She toured extensively with Ravi throughout her cultural homeland of India, as well as Europe, Asia and the United States. In 1998, Anoushka played at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD Festival in Seattle, at Carnegie Hall and in a special concert at New York’s Town Hall. Anoushka also joined her father in London in March 1997 for a historic performance of his Concerto No. 1 for Sitar and with Zubin Mehta conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Rise, Anoushka Shankar’s fourth album for Angel Records, marked a defining moment in the career of the young musician in 2005. Having previously recorded strictly in the classical tradition, Anoushka emerged as a potent creative force. “It’s very much my own music and my journey and who I am right now,” said Anoushka, who turned 24 in June of 2005 “I felt that on a personal level, Rise signifies growth.

Anoushka Shankar – Photo credit Simonyc

On Rise-which was composed, produced and arranged by Anoushka-she collaborated with a select crew of virtuoso Eastern and Western musicians wielding a variety of both acoustic and electronic instruments often engaging in unexpected ways to create tantalizing new sounds.

Having toured almost non-stop since her adolescence, in addition to attending school until her graduation from high school in 1999, Anoushka felt that she needed a break and elected to take 2004 off. But her vacation quickly became a working one as concepts were planted for the album that ultimately became Rise.


Anoushka Shankar – Rise

“I was going to go disappear for a while but wouldn’t you know it, I made an album,” she says “The sabbatical gave me the space to take risks. It was really an organic, natural experience. I was traveling from India to the States and meeting friends and adding people along the way. It was really beautiful.”

From the first notes of “Prayer In Passing,” which opens Rise, it becomes instantly clear that Anoushka is on to something inspiring and uncommon here. The track features Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, a renowned Indian slide guitarist alongside the flamenco-style piano of Ricardo Miño, Pedro Eustache’s bansuri flute and duduk (a Middle Eastern wind instrument) and Anoushka’s sitar. “This one’s very languid,” says Anoushka. “It’s just nice and dreamy-it’s set in a morning raga that’s very moody and simple. It was lovely to have so many different things that shouldn’t go together but seemed to flow really nicely.”

“Red Sun,” the second track, features Anoushka on keyboards and is highlighted by the percussive Indian “bol” vocalizing of Bikram Ghosh and Tanmoy Bose, her longtime tabla players. “We’ve always incorporated that into my shows when they play with me, and I definitely wanted to feature that-they’re improvising on that,” says Anoushka.

Anoushka performing live with her father, Ravi Shankar

“Mahadeva” is based on a four-line song by Ravi Shankar that was re-composed and arranged by Anoushka. “He never developed it into a piece of music,” Anoushka explains. “It was just something that I sang as a kid and it came into my head while we were in Calcutta recording. It started developing into a really strong rhythmic, dark-feeling track, which I was really excited about. Mahadeva is another name for Shiva, and one aspect of Shiva is that he’s the destroyer. This sort of brings out that feeling of anger and insanity.

“Naked” turns the mood around completely-Anoushka, all alone, on sitar and keyboards. “It was a very conscious decision to add a little pretty track with sitar being the focus,” she says. “We’d gone very mysterious and heavy and it seemed nice to have something light.”

“Solea” was co-written by Anoushka and pianist Ricardo Miño. The luminous background sounds, Anoushka explains, were all created on the piano. “I’m holding the piano strings muted while he’s playing one of the other background synth sounds. It was really creative and fun for me, and very physical, too, because of the rhythm, the flamenco approach.”

The album’s other sitar-less track, “‘Beloved,'” says Anoushka, “was my first experience writing lyrics from scratch and fitting it to a melody. It was flute-focused and I thought it would be nice to have it be about Krishna because he’s always associated with the flute. The lyrics are from the viewpoint of Radha, who’s his eternal lover. She’s searching for him everywhere and then she understands that the reason she hasn’t been able to find him is because she’s not looking within herself.”

The intriguingly titled “Sinister Grains,” like “Prayer In Passing,” is another instance where Anoushka juxtaposed seemingly incongruous ingredients, here using Indian shehnai and vocals, didjeridoo, South American vocal percussion, bass and electronic elements, including her sitar which was fed through a filter to create some of the track’s ambient effects. “It’s just a funky little mysterious track,” she says. “The song is in a Sufi-sort of mood where he’s talking about the pain of living, and the music is also very moody.”

Anoushka compares “Voice Of The Moon,” which matches the Western cello and violin to the Eastern sitar, tabla and santoor, to her father’s collaborations with the late violinist Yehudi Menuhin. “It’s very much composed within an Indian raga yet the fact that the cello is there gives it a smoothness,” she says. The Indian percussion is amended with an electronic HandSonic drum pad as well, “to give it a little more depth,” Anoushka explains.

Anoushka Shankar

Finally, “Ancient Love,” the longest track on Rise is “my favorite one by far,” says Anoushka. “This is the one closest to my heart. It was also the easiest track because it constantly flowed. Every time someone added to this track, it would get more beautiful. We ended up taking out a lot, too, to retain a bit of simplicity. It’s got a nice mix of the electronics and several flavors.”

The sequencing of the tracks on Rise, adds Anoushka, is hardly random. “Each one is in a certain raga, and it flows from morning to evening through the course of the album, which is a pretty unique feature. It’s not something that happens very often or that can be made to work, but if you do believe that ragas have moods and have significance it does enhance the overall flow.”

In 2007, Anoushka collaborated with world music innovator Karsh Kale, combining Indian classical music with electronica and other influences.

Anoushka Shankar – Home – Anoushka Shankar

After releasing several experimental, fusion and crossover albums, Anoushka released Home in 2015. It’s a pure Indian classical album that showcases the meditative and virtuosic qualities of the Indian raga. Home includes two ragas, one of which is a creation of Ravi Shankar’s.

Anoushka Shankar – Land Of Gold

Land of Gold (2016) is Anoushka Shankar’s whole-hearted response to the trauma and injustice experienced by refugees and victims of war. The music was inspired by recent news images of people fleeing civil war, oppression, poverty and agonizing hardship. “The seeds of Land of Gold originated in the context of the humanitarian plight of refugees,” Anoushka recalls. “It coincided with the time when I had recently given birth to my second child. I was deeply troubled by the intense contrast between my ability to provide for my baby, and others who desperately wanted to provide the same security for their children but were unable to do so.”

Hang virtuoso and co-writer of many of the album’s ten pieces Manu Delago joined Anoushka Shankar. Other guests included Sanjeev Shankar, a master of the spellbinding Indian reed instrument, the shehnai, who studied with Anoushka’s father Ravi Shankar.

Land of Gold also includes guest appearances by singer-songwriter Alev Lenz, jazz bassist Larry Grenadier, dancer Akram Khan, cellist Caroline Dale, rapper and refugee advocate M.I.A., and actress and political activist Vanessa Redgrave. All-girl children’s choir Girls for Equality makes its debut on the album’s closing song, “Reunion.”

Everyone is, in some way or another, searching for their own “Land of Gold”: a journey to a place of security, connectedness and tranquility, which they can call home,” said Anoushka. “This journey also represents the interior quest that we all take to find a sense of inner peace, truth and acceptance – a universal desire that unites humanity.”

“My instrument,” comments Anoushka, “is the terrain in which I explore the gamut of emotional expression – evoking shades of aggression, anger and tenderness, while incorporating elements of classical minimalism, jazz, electronica and Indian classical styles.”

In 2019, Anoushka Shankar released Reflections, a compilation featuring including Anoushka’s favorite tracks, with pieces from Land of Gold, Traces of You, Rise and other albums.

Discography:

Anoushka (Angel Records, 1998)
Anourag (Angel Records, 2000)
Live at Carnegie Hall (Angel Records, 2001)
Rise (Angel Records, 2005)
Breathing Under Water, with Karsh Kale (Manhattan Records, 2007)
Traveller (Deutsche Grammophon, 2011)
Traces of You (Deutsche Grammophon, 2013)
Home (Deutsche Grammophon, 2015)
Ravi & Anoushka Shankar Live In Bangalore, 2 CD + DVD (East Meets West, 2015)
Land of Gold (Deutsche Grammophon, 2016)
Reflections (Deutsche Grammophon, 2019)

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The Diverse Background of Jai Uttal


Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective

Jai Uttal – Spirit Room: A Retrospective (Free Spirit/Triloka, 2000)

Jai Uttal is a veteran musician and singer-songwriter from New York, and this album reflects his diverse background in blues, R&B, and later on Baul and Indian classical (studying sarod under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan).

The instrumentation is superb, and well showcased on the 12 tracks of this 10-year retrospective. Our picks include the dreamy piece Corner, the finger-snapping Footprints, reggae-influenced Hara Shiva Shankara, rock-driven Malkouns, jazzy devotional piece Govinda, and Petition to Ram. Check out this prolific artist’s other albums like Dial M for Mantra, Shiva Station, Pranayama, Music for Yoga, Yoga Chant and Mondo Rama.

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Anita Aysola’s Captivating Wide Range of Influences

Anita Aysola – Beyond Our Dream

Anita Aysola – Beyond Our Dreams (Anita Aysola, 2018)

Singer-songwriter and pianist Anita Aysola, an artist born in India and raised in the USA, bridges contemporary American jazz, blues, R&B and rock with Indian influences on her album
Beyond Our Dream.

Aysola uses English-language vocals in a style similar to Norah Jones as well as fascinating Indian classical vocal forms. The instrumentation and arrangements combine rock instrumentation with beautiful bansuri flute, tabla and Indian-style violin.

The album was produced by Chamrat Chakrabarty. The lineup includes Anita Aysola on vocals, Fender Rhodes and piano; John Clark on guitar and backing vocals; Sameer Gupta on drums, tabla and backing vocals; Arun Ramamurthy on violin; Rashaan Carter on bass; Jay Ghani on bansuri; Chamrat Chakrabarty on keyboards; Konrad Payne on bass; and Shane Allessio on acoustic bass.

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Raga Jazz from Washington DC

Broto Roy Quartet – All Barriers Fall

On All Barriers Fall (Buzkhashi Rercords, 2018), Washington DC-based Broto Roy Quartet plays original melodic pieces and improvisation, where Indian music meets American jazz.

The raga jazz group displays fascinating interplay. It is led by composer and tabla player Broto Roy and features Indro Roy Chowdhury on sitar and drones, Steve Zerlin on electric bass and Bruce Swaim on flute and saxophone.

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Charming Vocal Works by Shirish Korde


Shirish Korde – Ka

“Ka” (Svrasa Records, 2012) is a vocal work for soprano and chamber ensemble. Here, Indian vocal forms intersect western contemporary classical music. Shirish Korde is a United States-based composer who was born in Uganda to Indian parents.

The vocals are provided by neuroscientist and masterful Indian classical vocalist Deepti Navaratna. On two of the pieces, Deepti Navaratna is joined by Boston Music Viva ensemble.  On “Anuswara” we find Deepti interacting with Jan Müller-Szeraws’s versatile cello.

“Ka” has a deeply percussive feel, presenting Deepti on evocative vocals and konakol (Indian vocal percussion). This outstanding piece features Deepti on overdubbed vocals and tabla maestro Amit Kavthekar on konakol and tabla. The konakol interaction between the two musicians is truly fascinating.

“Pilu” is a solo vocal composition with spellbinding vocals overdubs and drone.

The Ka album is deeply satisfying and highly original.

Buy Ka

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Artist Profiles: Amalgama

Karnataka College of Percussion

Amalgama was the amazing result of the collaboration between Spanish Flamenco and Jazz musicians and the renowned Karnataka College of Percussion, from India.

The idea behind the project was to blend two cultures with a common background: Gypsy Flamenco (it is believed that Gypsies originally came from India) and Indian music. Flamenco vocals (which have some similarities with Indian vocals), rhythms (especially the palmas or hand clappings) and guitars were mixed with Indian vocals and percussion.

The musicians involved were: T.A.S. Mani (mridangam), Ramamani (Indian vocals, konakol), Sheshikumar (kanjira), Tunsi Beyer (ghatam, tabil), Xavi Turull (tabla, ghatam, berimbau), Juan Parrilla (flute), Jesús Losada (Flamenco guitar), Antonio Ramos (bass), Pau Martinez (congas) and Charo Manzano (Flamenco vocals).

The group only recorded one album titled Encuentro.

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Deeply Intense Indian Fusion

 “Playing With Fire” (7D Media, 2918) by Deep Energy Orchestra is a great example of electric fusion, where Indian classical, progressive rock and jazz find a common ground. The Deep Energy Orchestra is characterized by the mesmerizing sounds of the Warr guitar, exquisite electric violin and masterful tabla.

The Deep Energy Orchestra lineup includes bassist and composer Jason Everett (Mister E), progressive rock virtuoso Trey Gunn (King Crimson), Indian percussion maestro Selvaganesh (John McLaughlin, Masters of Percussion), 7-string violin wonder Radhika Iyer and a Seattle-based classical string ensemble featuring Rachel Nesvig on violin, Aleida Gehrels on viola and Phil Hirschi on cello.

“Playing With Fire” is cutting edge, forward-thinking fusion at its best.

Buy Playing With Fire

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Nitin Sawhney to Present Brexit – A rational anthem for a national tantrum in London

Nitin Sawhney

The debut of Nitin Sawhney’s ‘Brexit’ – A rational anthem for a national tantrum, is scheduled for Saturday, February 23, 2019 at Barbican in London. Admission is free.

The show reflects the highs and lows of ‘Brexit Britain’, composed and performed by British Indian musician and composer Nitin Sawhney, members of his band, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) and London Community Voices, conducted by Jonathon Heyward. 

In this new commission, Sawhney considers the state of the nation, focusing on its modern-day elements of multiculturalism, diversity and people. Using his findings from a tour of UK towns and cities, Sawhney will showcase a new ‘anthem’ that he has devised to look away from the past and truly reflect our current society – both in its lyrics and music. Sawhney decided that the piece would be brought to life by the teenage musicians of the NYO – who represent those who will shape the society of tomorrow.

The performance will also feature material from Nitin Sawhney’s back catalogue of 11 solo studio albums: Spirit Dance (1994), Migration (1995), Displacing the Priest (1996), Beyond Skin (1999), Prophesy, Human, Philtre (2005), London Undersound (2008), Last Days of Meaning (2011), OneZero (2013), and Dystopian Dream (2015).

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