25 May 2006

Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar is the Energizer Bunny of the sitar and the Godfather of World Music. I had the honour of seeing Ravi recently at the University of California, Berkeley, Zellerbach Hall. Ravi's primary legacy is bringing Indian music to the West. And he has continued to do so for seven decades! However, is greatest legacy is his daughter and protégé, Anoushka. Anoushka is continuing the family tradition in a lovely and distinguished way.

The performance, on Sunday evening the 7th of May, opened with Anoushka conducting an ensemble of Indian musicians and singers by offering an invocation to Lord Ganesha, the deity who removes all obstacles and brings good luck; to Saraswati, the goddess of music and all arts; to the Guru and to all forms of yoga and finally to the awakening of the kundalini. The vandana was composed in 1974.

Following that was a tarana composed in 1987. Taranas are a form of singing with sound syllables that carry no specific meaning. Very moving and meditative.

The next piece was an instrumental, that focused on each and every member of the orchestra offering a brilliant solo.

The final work of the first portion was composed in September 2005 called Viraha Milan. Performed in a semi-classical folk style the composition denotes Radha experiences pangs of separation from her beloved Krishna. As Krishna arrives their union creates joy and ecstasy. This feeling was quite evident in the music.

After a brief intermission, the second half of the programme featured the Maestro himself, with Anoushka on the sitar and Tanmoy Bose on the tabla. While Anoushka has a command of the instrument with flair and dexterity, Ravi offers a depth of experience which is nothing less than transcendent. A joyful bliss emenated from both their faces and auras.

At 86 years of age, Ravi moves about assiduously, lovingly tended to by his daughter. But he is a spry and elfish man with a distinct twinkle in his eye and a flair for humour.

After the perfomance I had the great honour of meeting Anoushka briefly and was able to tell her that I had the privilege of seeing her American debut in San Francisco in 1995. Ravi was not greeting well-wishers but we were told he is doing great. A kind person took my copy of Anoushka's latest CD "Rise" and my autobiography of Ravi to their dressing room to have them signed. Ravi signed my book and drew and "Om" symbol above his autograph. What a treasure that is for me to have.

All in all the night was unforgettable. Having my son there with us made it even more special.

1 comment:

Robin Rivers said...

I love your new blog design. How warm and wonderful...and what magic Ravi must have been.