“The Sounds Of India” by Ravi Shankar - album review

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TJR says

Released in January 1958, “The Sounds of India” featured a 37 year-old Ravi Shankar leading an improvised set on his sitar, with cabinet-make turned sitar-craftsmen Nodu C. Mullick droning on the tambura and 32 year-old Chatur Lal providing percussive accompaniment on the tabla. It’s apparent they’re all deeply committed to their art and, when they get going, can really whip up a storm or calm an ocean as they see fit. Opens with “An Introduction To Indian Music” in which Ravi explains the nuances of the rāga. The wiki tells us A raga uses a series of five to nine musical notes upon which a melody is constructed. However, the way the notes are approached and rendered in musical phrases and the mood they convey are more important in defining a raga than the notes themselves. In the Indian musical tradition, rāgas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a rāga.

Ravi ends his 5 minute lesson by explaining: “The western listener will appreciate and enjoy our music more if he listens with an open and relaxed mind, without expecting to hear harmony, counterpoint or other elements prominent in western music. Neither should or music be thought of as akin to jazz, despite the improvisation and exciting rhythms presented in both kinds of music.” Suitably settled, I’m all ears as the first of the 4 “proper” pieces kicks in (all of which are over 10 minutes in length). “Dádrá” turns out to be rather rewarding for those prepared to concentrate for 10 minutes; it’s a restless adventure which commands attention. The liner notes tell that this is a somewhat unorthodox piece for Ravi’s repertoire and that he incorporates elements of older folk songs in the middle of the piece. All three men play their part but it’s Ravi who drives from the front.

Máru-Bihág” (an evening raag) follows and it’s not quite so exciting – despite Ravi playing at 90mph towards the finale. The showy nature of Ravi’s playing continues on “Bhimpalási” (an afternoon raag) – by this stage I’m starting to have to my doubts and my initial enthusiasm is starting to wane. Virtuoso playing is not my bag. Ascending descending scales are explained for the next one, “Sindhi-Bhairavi”, and I’m kind of indifferent to Ravi’s news that there will be a rhythmic cycle of 16 beats for this piece. Despite the fact that these spoken interjections often seem like a bit of a passion-killer to me, I guess “The Sounds of India” serves its purpose well – thanks to these occasional spoken word drops, first timers from the west now have half an idea about the disciplines of these rāgas and, music-wise, there are some fine moments of trance-inducing action to enjoy. Ultimately though, I can’t see me being in a mad rush for my next fix of Hindustani Classical music…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:13] 4.7.png Ravi Shankar - An Introduction To Indian Music (Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury) Desi
A2 [10:30] 7.2.png Ravi Shankar - Dádrá (Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury) Desi
A3 [11:44] 5.8.png Ravi Shankar - Máru-Bihág (Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury) Desi
B1 [12:13] 5.9.png Ravi Shankar - Bhimpalási (Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury) Desi
B2 [15:00] 5.6.png Ravi Shankar - Sindhi-Bhairavi (Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury) Desi

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