Lakshminarayana Shankar

Celestial Body

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Lakshminarayana Shankar (aka L. Shankar) has never been a purist hard-liner when it comes to Indian music. There are plenty of talented purists -- some in India, some in Great Britain, some in North America -- who play Indian music (be it North Indian/Hindustani or South Indian/Carnatic) that is totally traditional in its outlook and is devoid of Western influences. But Shankar has long been fascinated with the possibilities of fusing Indian music with a variety of non-Indian styles; anyone who has Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin, Peter Gabriel, and David Byrne on his resumé will never be mistaken for someone who embraces traditional Indian classical music 100 percent of the time. And in the '90s and 2000s, Shankar has maintained that multicultural perspective as half of the violin/vocal duo Shankar & Gingger. Celestial Body is not an easy album to categorize; this 2004 release finds Shankar and female partner Gingger combining Indian elements with everything from rock, jazz, and funk to new age and European classical. Celestial Body is far from a traditional Indian raga project, but at the same time, it would be inaccurate to describe any of the material as pure rock, pure funk, or pure new age; Celestial Body uses a variety of ingredients and uses them effectively. However one chooses to describe this CD -- perhaps world fusion, perhaps contemporary Indian -- Celestial Body is an accurate title because the album does, in fact, have a celestial quality. Even the disc's funkiest, most energetic tracks (which include "Journey Through Life," "Voices from Heaven," and "Revelations") tend to be ethereal. Celestial Body falls short of essential; nonetheless, this is a noteworthy, enjoyably far-reaching effort for veteran violinist Shankar and his female partner.

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