Ravi Shankar

The Rough Guide to Ravi Shankar

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With a recent focus on Indian music taking a foothold on the Rough Guide series, it was only fitting that the grand ambassador of Hindusthani music would get a retrospective of his own. Taking a somewhat surprising turn here, the compilers have stuck with a number of relative rarities highlighting periods of Ravi's career, but not highlighting the more noteworthy performances and collaborations. The album opens with "Kathakali Katthak," a 1989 composition for a theater troupe. Moving on, "Transmigration" hails from the British film Voila, and a rendition of "Mishra Piloo" pairs Shankar with his premier tabla compatriot, Alla Rakha, for an extended, ponderous work. Two dhuns hold the middle of the album, with "Dun Man Pasand" paying tribute to the city of Paris and "Devgiri Bilawal" allows some of Ravi's trademark high-speed runs. "Reflection" comes from the film Transmigration Macabre, and somewhat obviously has a reflective atmosphere, with somewhat unusual rhythmic structures filling out the mood but keeping the whole a bit off-center. "Raga Patdeep" is mixed with a high-speed gat in "Sitarkhani Taal" for another of the signature displays of virtuosity that help to display why Ravi is an undisputed master of the instrument. Dropping Shankar oddly enough on a Shankar compilation, there's a short tabla solo from Zakir Hussain (Alla Rakha's virtuoso son and common accompanist for Shankar as well) from the Concert for Peace, and the album ends on an exceptional working of "Raga Bilashkani Todi" with Ali Akbar Khan on sarod, the two masters playing with some give-and-take as well as working together beautifully. The most notable highlights of Shankar's career aren't here themselves (the East Meets West with Yehudi Menuhin, the London and New York concerts, the San Francisco performances...), but representatives of those eras are present, as are some exceptional, though little heard, pieces from his extensive work with the film industry. There are certainly other worthwhile Ravi Shankar compilations out there, but this one falls in near the top as well, making an excellent starting point for those looking to just get a taste of the master's abilities before delving deeper into the catalogs.

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