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Anoushka Shankar and Karsh Kale: Breathing Under Water

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Anoushka Shankar learned the Indian classical music tradition from perhaps its best teacher—her father, Ravi Shankar. She made her recording debut on In Celebration (Angel Records, 1995), George Harrison's four-CD retrospective tribute to her father, and her debut as a solo artist with Anoushka (Angel, 1998). Anoushka's first album of original material, Rise (Angel, 2005), was nominated for the Best Contemporary World Music Grammy Award.

On Breathing Under Water, she merges her sitar, piano and keyboards with the vision of Karsh Kale, founding member of the seminal Tabla Beat Science and one of the leading exponents in the marriage of traditional Indian with modern electronic music. Father Ravi, Sting, MIDIval Punditz and Norah Jones (Anoushka's half-sister) are among their other guests.

It's hard to imagine a more beautiful opening track than "Burn, which cinematically sweeps through your ears with all that is beautiful about classical and contemporary Indian music: its gorgeous lilting melody sounding an evocative siren's call to "dancing on the tip of the evening moon, alongside contemplative sitar, thundering percussion and ancient violins. "Easy is orchestrated just as beautifully, a beauty matched by Jones' soft and lush vocal.

Kale's production of "Slither and "PD7 are archetypes of his new school of Indian music: modern hip-hop and DJ technology explores ancient and traditional Indian culture. Scratching out rhythm, tabla ricochets amidst the beats, vocals swim between channels like haunting ghosts, and Shankar's sitar sparkles in ripples and waves.

Shankar and Kale paint colorfully outside this palette too. In "A Perfect Rain, the bright acoustic guitar, dancing violin and harmonized male vocals sound like the Pat Metheny-Lyle Mays band with Pedro Aznar, which ripped out three Grammy-winning albums beginning with First Circle (ECM, 1984).

"Little Glass Folk opens up like you're pulling a curtain aside to reveal an 18th-century ballroom dance, including string, flute and drum sections completely orchestrated in waltz time, with sitar in this context picking and twirling like a jig.

Track Listing: Burn; Slither; Breathing Under Water; Sea Dreamer; Ghost Story; PD7; Easy; Little Glass Folk; A Perfect Rain; Abyss; Oceanic, Part 1; Oceanic, Part 2; Reprise.

Personnel: Karsh Kale: programming, acoustic guitar; Anousha Shankar: sitar, keyboards; Shankar Mahadevan: vocals (9); Sting: vocals (4); Sunidhi Chauhan: vocals (5); Ullhas Bhapat: santur; Dilshaad Khan: sarangi; Ravi Shankar: sitar (11, 12); Shekhar: cello; Pedro Eustache: flute; Ajay Prassana: bansuri; Norah Jones: vocals, piano (7); Salim Merchant: keyboards; Pirashana Thevarajah: kanjira; Vishwa Mohan Bhatt: Mohan Veena.

Title: Breathing Under Water | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Manhattan Records

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