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Ravi Shankar: In Hollywood, 1971

Mark Sullivan By

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A real treat for fans of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar, this is not only a live recording of a rare morning concert, but also an "at home" performance Shankar did for some special friends at his residence on Highland Avenue in Hollywood, California. He spoke about his distress over the plight of the people of East Pakistan (later known as Bangla Desh) in the aftermath of Cyclone Bhola. George Harrison was in attendance, so the occasion has the additional distinction of being the birthplace of the concept of what eventually became the Concert For Bangladesh.

Shankar is accompanied on tabla by Alla Rakha, his playing partner of twenty-five years. The brilliant interplay they developed together is strongly in evidence here. The CD and digital edition include the entire two hour concert; an earlier double LP edition released for Record Store Day 2016 was limited to 80 minutes due to the limitations of the format. Classical Indian ragas have times of day (and sometimes seasons) associated with them. Since most concerts take place at night, it's unusual to hear an entire program of morning ragas.

The concert opens with Raga Vibhas, a classical Hindustani morning raga which was not on the LP set. Shankar takes his time setting the stage with his unaccompanied alap and jor; Rakha's tabla do not enter until 14 minutes into the 27 minute performance. The centerpiece of the concert follows, an original Shankar morning raga called Raga Paramashwari which runs for nearly an hour. After a slow tempo section the pair launch into a dazzling fast tempo. Great demonstration of both players' chops, with solo passages for tabla that really spotlight Rakha's legendary speed and fluidity.

The rest of the program is in light classical style. Shankar dedicates the Dhun (a light instrumental piece often based on a folk song, as it is here) to the suffering people of Bangla Desh. Being Bengali himself, he was especially distressed by the natural disaster there. The final raga is yet another morning raga, Sindhi Bhairavi. It concludes with some of Shankar and Rakha's famous rapid fire call-and-response, a conversational mode they developed together. The recording ends with enthusiastic applause and Shankar's delighted laughter. A fitting end to a performance that radiates warmth and beauty.

Track Listing: Hollywood Raga Vibhas; Hollywood Raga Parameshwari; Hollywood Dhun; Hollywood Raga Sindhi Bhairavi.

Personnel: Ravi Shankar: sitar; Alla Rakha: tabla; Kamala Chakravarty: tanpura.

Title: In Hollywood, 1971 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Northern Spy Records


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