Ravi Shankar, 89, is considered a â€œJewel of Indiaâ€ one of the Southeast Asian nationâ€™s highest honors, and has been playing the sitar, the multi-stringed classical Indian instrument for the past eight decades. The Beatles era, when he worked closely with George Harrison, was just a minor blip on the radar screen of his lifeâ€™s work.
Shankar is more than just a musician, though. Shankar gained a reputation as a virtuoso combining concert performances with his work on All India Radio, where he founded the National Chamber Orchestra. But, from the tone and pace of the concert he performed recently with his daughter, Anoushka, his real raison dâ€™Ãªtre is the child he mentored on sitar since she was eight years old.
Last modified on Thursday, 21 May 2009 20:37
Turning over the opening half to Anoushka, who is also half-sister to pianist Norah Jones, one could see the loving pride of a father and the doting display of a master teacher of his star pupil. Anoushka opened the concert with a series of classic ragas, accompanied by a tabla drummer, two tambura players and a flautist.
Her style of sitar playing, very fluid and meditative, presented a soothing set of music which, surprisingly, was much different in style to her fatherâ€”they saved the best for lastâ€”who came out for the second half of the two-hour concert. Anoushka, like her famous father, has a variety of genres beyond classical Indian fare. Her ensemble, the Anoushka Shankar Project, crafts fusion jazz around Eastern rhythms. She also collaborated in 2007 with famous Indian-American producer Karsh Kale on â€œBreathing Under Water,â€ which met with critical acclaim.
Contrasting Anoushkaâ€™s softer style of sitar playing,Shankar came on stage with much pampering by his student, who accompanied the ensemble on tambura. But once the master was situated, it became apparent why he receives so much adulation from the music world. The late George Harrison called him â€œthe first World Musician.â€
His strong, percussive style of sitar playing complemented his daughterâ€™s more mellow style on his well-known â€œRaga Malaâ€ and several other ragas, including one special piece written by his guru, Allauddin Khan. At one point in the concert, he and his daughter traded off melodies somewhat like dueling banjos and one could hear the marked difference in interpretation of melodies. Later, he traded beats with the tabla player, resulting in a rising crescendo of percussion.
It was with great joy and pleasure to see the love between father and daughter, each mutually respective of the otherâ€™s musical space. And at Ravi Shankarâ€™s advanced age, it was an honor to see the master at work. The concert held in the Kennedy Centerâ€™s Concert Hall, was presented by Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS).