Albums Indian Classical Outernational

R.I.P. Ravi Shankar

Yehudi 'n' Ravi Together Again For the First Time

From the 1967 Thrifty Vinyl archives

SHANKAR ENCOURAGES DRUG USE AT MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL                                                                           Thoroughly Baked Sitarist Tells Throng to ‘Get Stoned To The Bone’ During Set

Knocking back a bottle of Jack Daniels, a clearly high Ravi Shankar told his audience at the Monterey Pop Music Festival: “Whatever you got to smoke, and I mean whatever, fuckin’ spark up now! I want you to get stoned to the bone while I play.” In response, clouds of acrid marijuana smoke could be clearly seen billowing over swathes of the 55,000 strong crowd.

Previously during Moby Grape’s act, the 47-year old Indian classical musician was observed stumbling among the audience sharing bottles of wine, pulling on bongs and even huffing oven cleaner with one delighted hippie. Later, struggling to bear the weight of his instrument, he interrupted a meanering performance of “Dhun (Dadra and Fast Teental)” to lead those in attendance in a 5-minute chant of “Shit! God Damn! Git of yo’ ass an’ jam!” and honk a fattie with Tabla player Alla Rakha. “Dude, don’t Bogart,” he could be heard to say when Rakha took more than one toke.

“Seriously kids, you don’t need drugs to enjoy this,” he slurred mischievously towards the end of his set, “Just enhance it!”

“Hell yeah!” he added. “That’s what I’m takin’ about!”

Albums Indian Classical Outernational

Ustad Vilayat Khan – Music of India (Volume 2) (ALP 1988) (1963)

As mentioned before, my knowledge of Indian Classical music is limited, but my record collector instincts are usually sharp enough to select worthwhile editions and even a neophyte could tell after one listen that this enchanting recording of extended performances for sitar, surbahar and tabla (subtitled Another “Music of the World” L.P.) is deftly brilliant, building slowly on both sides from gentle, hypnotic drones to frenzied sheets of sound.*

I could find no information about Volume 2 of this Gramophone Co. of India copy, which I picked up at the Mind shop in Cheriton last Saddy, but a charming story about the purchase of a slightly later, similar series on British EMI can be found here.

*apologies to Ira Gitler.

"Sixeventies" Rock Albums Beatles Related Classic Rock Indian Classical Outernational

The Concert For Bangla Desh (Apple STCX 3385) (1971)

What is that shrieking noise? Ah yes, it’s my teenage self howling at its middle-aged counterpart’s embrace of the first side of The Concert for Bangla Desh and dismissal of the other five.

The fact is, despite the reputed vaunted musicianmanship on display, this is a middling, poorly edited and produced album, Shankar aside, full of half-assed buskings which says all too much about sixeventies rock royalty’s self-regard and its audience’s gullibility. Briefly but unkindly put, George Harrison is a weak, meandering and reedy live vocalist, and his backing band is either under-rehearsed, disabled by drugs or both. While it must have been thrilling to see an actual Beatle in concert singing Beatles songs for the first time in five years (this momentum certainly carried the show for the audience on the day), the album experience reveals all manner of flaws that wouldn’t be tolerated these days at the club down the road let alone Madison Square Garden.

Even with its ostensible and laudable aim, consciousness and funds raising for desperately needy people in East Pakistan, the concert was mired in several lurid and depressing backstories, notably CBS Records holding up release to get its slice of the pie, Eric Clapton’s junk abetted will-he-won’t-he-show controversy and the glaringly conspicuous absence of Harrison’s erstwhile band’s creative lynchpins.

On the positive side, the album is pressed up old style so that it can be played in order on a stackable record player, i.e. with side six on the flip side of side one, side two with side five and sides three and four together. And it comes with a lavish 64 page four-colour album sized book. And it only cost me £3. Oh and there’s comedy value when the audience tries and fails to clap along with Bob Dylan on side five.

Albums Compilations Indian Classical Soundtracks

Mukesh – That Old Feeling (EMI [Pakistan])

No, despite this awesome Bridget Riley-esque Op Art sleeve, this isn’t a Stereolab 12″.  Nor is it some World Circuit-approved piece of outernational worthiness.  In fact it’s a compilation of early 60s popular Indian film music from 1977; my guess is that this is what “the people” actually listened to and enjoyed. Some of it is cheesy beyond reckoning while other songs are quite moving.

Albums Beatles Related Indian Classical

Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar – West Meets East (Angel 36418) (1967)

This is a lovely record on EMI’s Angel imprint which, I’m guessing because of its vintage, introduced many in the West to the joys of Indian classical music. The album was apparently the fruit of the two musicians’ collaboration at the 1966 Bath Music Festival. In fact, the headliners appear together on only two of the four tracks, totalling 13 minutes; the other 12 and 24 minutes are taken up by a Shankar Raga and a Menuhin interpretation of Georges Enesco’s Sonata No. 3 in A minor in the “Popular Rumanian Style”, respectively. Menuhin’s choice was particularly appropriate because, although a Western-composed sonata, in its recurring ominous drone it bears hallmarks of Indian music (and indeed much of what we call “traditional” folk music).

To my untutored and Beatle-saturated ears, I hear echoes of “Love You To” and “Within You, Without You” on the Shankar tracks. Apart from demonstrating my philistinism, I suspect that this might be because there are number of typical sitar “licks” in Indian classical music, just as there are typical figures in other improvised form, e.g. Blues music. Then again, maybe not.