Pandit Ravi Shankar – Vision of Peace (Deutsche Grammophon/Universal, 2000)
This double CD showcases some of Pandit
Ravi Shankar’s international prowess. The first CD has Japanese-Indian
collaborative tracks featuring Pandit Ravi Shankar on sitar and Ustad Alla
Rakha on tabla, accompanied by Japanese musicians Susumu Miyashita and Hozan
Yamamoto on flute and string instruments. Our pick on this CD is the energetic
The second CD is more traditional, with
Raaga Jogeshwari and Raaga Hameer. In sum, a fine listen for an afternoon of
Legendary virtuoso sitarist, composer, teacher and writer, Ravi Shankar was born April 7, 1920 in Varanasi, India. He was renowned throughout the world for his pioneering work in bringing Indian music to the West. He was a cultural influence in the West for several decades as India’s most recognized and esteemed musical ambassador. The youngest son of a Bengali family, he grew up in Varanasi (Benares), the holiest of Indian cities.
At a young age he accompanied his elder brother, Uday Shankar, with his company of dancers and musicians to Paris where he attended school. He spent several years in the West absorbing different kinds of music but returned to India in 1938 where he began his career in his native India. He combined his concert performances with his work for All India Radio (1949-56) where he established the National Chamber Orchestra. As word of his virtuosity spread throughout India, then Europe, Asia and the United States, Shankar embarked on one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of contemporary music.
Ravi Shankar was a prolific composer and in addition to his numerous ragas and talas, he wrote for musicians from the East and West including Menuhin, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Japanese artists. Among his works are two Concertos for Sitar and Orchestra, the first commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and premiered under Andre Previn.
In 1980 he was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, under the direction of Zubin Mehta, to compose “Raga-Mala” (A garland of Ragas), which was his second Sitar Concerto. Ravi Shankar also wrote, composed and choreographed the ballet “Ghanashyam,” a work that made history on the British and Indian cultural scenes.
He composed extensively for ballets and films including Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, which raised film music to a new standard of excellence, and Gandhi, the Academy Award winning classic by Richard Attenborough which won him nominations for both an Oscar and a Grammy Award.
Ravi Shankar was the recipient of many awards and honors including the Presidential Padma Vibhushan Award (1980) and the Award of Deshikottam, given by Vishawa Bharati and presented in December 1982 by the then Prime Minister, the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi. He is an honorary member of the American Academy of the Arts and Letters and recipient of twelve doctorates.
In 1986 he became a member of the Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House of Parliament. He was a Fellow of the Sangeet Natak Academy and Founder President of The Research Institute for Music and the Performing Arts.
In 1999 the government of India honored Ravi Shankar by awarding him its highest civilian award, the “Bharat Ratna” or Jewel of India. In February 2000, Mr. Shankar received France’s highest civilian award, the “Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur”.
In 1996 Angel Records released In Celebration, a lavishly documented 4-CD retrospective of his greatest recordings, in honor of his 75th birthday. Angel/EMI is continuing to release many of Mr. Shankar’s albums previously unavailable on CD.
In 2004, Ken Hunt, Pandit Ravi Shankar’s approved biographer, a full-time freelance writer, broadcaster and translator specializing in music, compiled The Rough Guide To Ravi Shankar. The album is an excellent introduction to the music of the most famous Indian alive.
Called the “Godfather of World Music” by George Harrison, Ravi Shankar was also given the title “Global Ambassador” by the World Economic Forum. He continued to tour each season all over the world dividing his time between India and the USA with regular visits to Europe and the Far East. He was the author of three books My Music, My Life (in English), Rag Anurag (in Bengali) and Raga Mala (English) – the latest of which is an autobiography that was released in Fall 1999.
Perhaps no other greater tribute can be paid to this remarkable musician than the words of his colleague, Yehudi Menuhin, “Ravi Shankar has brought me a precious gift and through him I have added a new dimension to my experience of music. To me, his genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of Mozart’s.”
Ravi Shankar died on December 11, 2012 in La Jolla, California, USA. His daughter, groundbreaking sitarist Anoushka Shankar continues the family tradition.
The Rough Guide To Ravi Shankar was released in June 2018. The anthology was compiled by Ken Hunt, Pandit Ravi Shankar’s approved biographer and a specialist in Indian classical music. This Rough Guide followed Ravi Shankar’s rise to global fame and included some of his most memorable performances of six different ragas.
Three Ragas (Angel Records, 1956) Improvisations (Angel Records, 1962) India’s Most Distinguished Musician in Concert (Beat Goes On, 1962) India’s Master Musician (Angel Records, 1963) In London (Angel Records, 1964) Ragas & Talas (World Pacific, 1964) Sound of the Sitar (Angel Records, 1965) West Meets East (Beat Goes On, 1966) In San Francisco (Beat Goes On, 1967) At the Monterey International Pop Festival (One Way Records, 1967) Live at Monterey 1967 (Beat Goes On, 1967) In New York (Beat Goes On, 1968) A Morning Raga/An Evening Raga (Angel Records, 1968) The Sounds of India (Columbia, 1968) West Meets East, Vol. 2 (Beat Goes On, 1968) At the Woodstock Festival (Beat Goes On, 1970) Ravi Shankar: Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra; Morning Love (Beat Goes On, 1971) Transmigration Macabre: Music from the Film Viola (See For Miles Records, 1973) Shankar Family & Friends (Topspin Media, 1974) Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival from India (Dark Horse, 1976) Raga Parameshwari (Capitol, 1976) East Meets West in an Historical Improvisation (Ravi Shankar Music Circle, 1979) Räga-Mälä (Sitar Concerto No. 2) (Angel Records, 1982) Tana Mana (Private Music, 1987) Inside the Kremlin (Private Music, 1988) The Genius of Ravi Shankar (Scorpio Distribution, 1990) Passages (Atlantic, 1990) Megh Malhar, Vol. 1 (Music Today, 1991) Flute & Sitar Music of India (Empire, 1993) Doyen of Hindustani Music Oriental, 1995) Ravi Shankar in Venice: Raga Gurjari Todi, Manj-Khamaj, Shailangi (Discovery, 1995) Concert for Peace: Royal Albert Hall (Moment Records, 1995) Genesis [Original Soundtrack] (Milan, 1995) Sublime Sounds of Sitar (Oriental, 1996) Chants of India (Angel Records, 1997) Raga Tala (Movieplay Music, 1997) From India (Saar, 1997) Raga Jogeshwari (Interra, 1998) Four Ragas (Movieplay Music, 2000) Full Circle: Carnegie Hall 2000 Angel Records, 2001) Inde du Nord Ocora, 2001) Spiritual Music of India: Ragas for Meditation (Proper, 2003) Shankar: Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra; Morning Love (Warner Classics, 2003) Traditional: The Spirit of India (Deutsche Grammophon, 2004) Raga Hamir, Raga Hemant (2004) Jod, Jhala, Gat (Saregama, 2004) Raag Mishra Pilu (Saregama, 2004) Raag Rajya Kalyan (Saregama, 2004) Raga Bilaskhani Todi (Saregama, 2004) Raga Mala: Aalap, Rajakhani Gat Teentaal (Saregama, 2004) Alap, Jod, Gat, Vilamlit, Madhyalaya Teentaal (Saregama, 2004) Raga Des: Maseekhani Gat-Teentaal/Rajakhani Gat-Ektaal (Saregama, 2004) Raag Mishra Pilu (Saregama, 2004) Homage to Mahatma Gandhi (Deutsche Grammophon / Edge Music, 2004) Real Togetherness (Saregama, 2004) Eternal Ragas (Saregama, 2004) Timeless Classics: Hindustani Classical (Saregama, 2004) Unique: Indian Night Live Stuttgart ’88 (Chhanda Dhara, 2004) Sangeet Sartaj, Vols. 1 & 2 (Music Today, 2005) Sur Saaz Aur Taal, Vol. 2 (Music Today, 2005) Jazz et Ragas (Beat Goes On, 2005) Spirit of India Chhandra Dhara (Chhanda Dhara, 2005) Raga Charukauns (Chhanda Dhara, 2005) Saaz Sitar, Vol. 1 (Music Today, 2005) Saaz Sitar, Vol. 2 (Music Today, 2005) Homage to Mahatma Gandhi (Fontana, 2006) Raga Jogeshwari (Fontana, 2006) Sitar Soul (Music Today, 2007) More Flowers of India (Él, 2008) Psychedelic India (Cherry Red, 2010) Nine Decades, Vol. 2: Reminiscence of North Vista (East Meets West, 2011) Nine Decades, Vol. 3 (East Meets West, 2011) Nine Decades – Vol.4 – A Night at St. John the Divine (East Meets West, 2014) Ravi & Anoushka Shankar Live In Bangalore (East Meets West, 2015) Nine Decades 5 – Ghanashyam: A Broken Branch (East Meets West, 2017)
Ghanashyam – A Broken Branch is a fascinating folk musical theater piece by the great musician and composer Ravi Shankar. It was commissioned by the Birmingham Touring Opera Company.
The original album was released in 1994 as a 60-minute CD that left out part of Shankar’s full composition. This new edition includes the musical work in its entirety, with an additional 20 minutes.
Using a fabulous orchestra of Indian classical and traditional instruments conducted by Ashit Desai, Ravi Shankar wanted to bring attention to drug abuse among youth.
The album contain 18 tracks, ranging from short musical vignettes to lengthier pieces. Ghanashyam – A Broken Branch features a wide range of Indian musical instruments, ranging from the sitar, sarod and veena to various percussion instruments. Even though there is some synthesizer work, most of the album showcases remarkable acoustic instruments and vocal work that brilliantly incorporates Indian and Western elements.
Ashit Desai on vocals; Hema Desai on vocals; Haimanti Sukla on vocals; D. Kannan on mridangam; Harminder Soni on violin; Fateh Singh Gangani on tabla; Vikram Patil on tabla and bolak; Ramesh Misra on sarangi; Parthosarthy Chaudhury on sarod; Shubhendra Rao on Sitar; Kailash Sharma on flute; Aloke Nath Dey on flute; Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on guitar; Daya Shankar on shenai; Raju on synthesizer; Prashanta Bagchi on synthesizer. Padant (Katthok): Maulik Shah, Ishira Shah. Padant (Bharatnatyam): V.P. Dhananjayan.
Ghanashyam – A Broken Branch is an outstanding original work by the late Ravi Shankar that illustrates the versatility of ancient Indian musical instruments in a contemporary context.
Like doling out single pieces of candy to a greedy child, the world music community is treated to another precious goody from the audio archives amassed over the years by the revered Ravi Shankar. On tap this year is the double CD set Ravi Shankar In Hollywood, set to hit the music marketplace on September 30th on the East Meets West Music label, although pre-orders are available.
I imagine since his death in December of 2012, there’s been a bum’s rush to sift through the collection of recorded music by the famed sitarist to scrounge out all the recordings that were passed over for release. It was bound to happen.
Ravi Shankar in Hollywood stands out from some of the other releases in that it was recorded in 1972 in Mr. Shankar’s home on Highland Avenue as a private concert for invited guests. It was a rare morning concert with the likes of George Harrison in attendance. It was also the impetus for the Concert for Bangladesh intended to benefit those suffering in the wake of Cyclone Bhola in East Pakistan, those areas that would become Bangladesh. The recording of Ravi Shankar in Hollywood is precious indeed, not only for the concern Mr. Shankar expressed for those suffering to just the right ears of those with the means to do something, but also the elegant intimacy and brilliance of the recording.
Joined by tabla player Alla Rakha and tanpura player Kamala Chakravarty, Ravi Shankar in Hollywood leads listeners through the elegant lines and rippling waves of unfolding ragas “Hollywood Raga Vibhas” and the almost hour long “Hollywood Raga Parameshwari” on disc one.
Disc two offers up two more equally hypnotic tracks by way of “Hollywood Dhun” and “Hollywood Raga Sindhi Bhairavi.” The music of Ravi Shankar in Hollywood is indelibly gloriously Ravi Shankar.
Sukanva Shankar, Mr. Shankar’s widow offers her comments for the liner notes and best sums up the influence of her late husband’s music, “What is core to the raga is its Prana or life and its power to be heard and to be propagated, to instill its emotional message in the heart of as many musicians and listeners as possible. Time will tell the validity of a new raga creation, by its acceptance, popularity and longevity. No matter how beautiful the raga, if you are only one who can perform it, it is not considered to of any consequence. Raviji’s ragas can be found in many artist repertoires – that tells you the intensity and emotional effect of his music and his creations.”
Pioneering Producer Chris Blackwell (who helped make an international star of Bob Marley years ago) recently cemented a new partnership between his own Palm Pictures label and Universal Music Enterprises. The resulting collaboration, Palm World Voices, has taken on an ambitious first project- a combination CD and DVD set celebrating the sounds and visions of India. And while such a musically and culturally rich place can hardly be summed up in one neat package, Blackwell and Universal have succeeded in creating something quite stunning here.
Vedic Path (named for the course upon which personal and universal existence move along in a cyclic manner according to Hindu tradition) aims to be both educational and entertaining. To that end, the liner notes are extensive and informational without being stuffy and a detailed illustrated map provided by no less an authority than the National Geographic Society is included.
Not knowing as much as I ought to about India, I found it helpful to bone up with the liner notes and map before moving on to the music. Ah yes, the music- a very strong selection it is, ranging from the traditional stylings of familiar folk like Ravi Shankar to more fusion-minded stuff that brings in non-Indians like Dissidenten and John Wubbenhorst alongside such greats as . R. Rahman, Asha Bhosle and Sheila Chandra.
The DVD includes the same tracks as the CD, only this time with striking visuals of scenic vistas, celebrations on various scales, religious ceremonies, people going about their everyday life and more. A lot of ground is covered, and though it’s clear that no one is looking to ignore the fact that India remains beset by poverty and other ills, this admirable box set triumphs in projecting an uplifting, multifaceted picture of a country with a fascinating past and present that’s reflected in the music and spirit of its people and its influence on the world.