Ravi Shankar passes.


Raga virtuoso Ravi Shankar has passed on. His music changed the way a lot of other musicians thought of composition (think the Beatles and Stones).He also fathered some very talented children.
Back in 2005 or 6, the wife and I got two, free, last minute tickets to Ravi Shankar's concert in Portland. His daughter Anoushka was with him. Though we had a couple of cds, we weren't exactly fans--we hadn't even thought about going to the concert.

Then the tickets fell in our lap, we went, and were simply overwhelmed. It remains one of the two or three finest musical experiences I've had. And since this is Audiogon, I'll add this: while I rarely think live performances match the sound that's possible on recordings and a good stereo system, this was a striking exception. The tabla in particular seems to escape reproduction.
Donjr, Sultan Khan died last year. He was Sarangi player and vocalist but I don't have any of his records. Ali Akbar Khan was pronouced by Yehudi Menuhin "An absolute genius...the greatest musician in the world,". Musicians that are the most popular are not necessarily the best (if I can even use this word). When Alauddin Khan was tired explaining he used to say to Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan "Annapurna will explain it to you". Annapurna Devi rarely played in public and many never heard of her. http://indianraga.blogspot.com/2009/11/annapurna-devi-genius-who-chose-to-be.html

Stewie, that's perhaps best way to start. Indian Classical music is very different from western music and very very complex (especially Carnatic music from the south of India). To start with there is no constant beat - it is changing pattern usually up to 16 times in Hindustani and up to 100 patterns in Carnatic music. Beat is not constant because is related to melody. In contrast, beat in western music is constant since it was made for marching or dancing. There is main melody of the Raga but everything else is improvisation. There is no absolute tone (like A=440Hz). Music can be played from any tone (drone) and everything becomes relative to this tone. Raga in general (great simplification) has two parts Alap and Ghat. Alap is an introduction to melody without rythm. To me it brings atmosphere and allow to "sink in". Ghat repeats same melodic lines with percussion (tabla). Indian music has no harmonic structure (chords) therefore to enrich it (cover silence) instruments have often sympathetic strings that resonate plus few Tampuras are added. Tampura is an instrument, played in the background by girls who just touch strings in order, what creates this buzzing background noise. In addition to all that melody in western music is made by the sequence of notes while in Indian Classical music each note has also own melody by modulating string during sustain.
When listening to Mr. Shankar I always thought "This guy is an improviser on the order of John Coltrane".Loved his music and how it was tied to his spiritual being.Thank you Kijanki for your clairifying comments.You should have written the liner notes on some of my many Indian LPs.They would have been better understood.Ultimately I just enjoy the music and don't try to understand too much.Still can't tell evening raga from morning raga.Have to add that with tube stereo and electrostatic speakers Indian music is a marriage made in heaven.
Yes, my thanks for your comments as well Kijanki. Came across
Ravi in the late 60's and have been buying his music off and
on ever since, many of those are still among my most deeply
favored discs. I find his passing, inevitable as it was, has
still caught me off guard. Maybe it was the sheer magnitude of
his output down through the decades that lent toward creating
the illusion in the back of my mind that he was truly
tireless, almost as if he might somehow manage to be around
forever, still continuing to do what he loved. But, at least
the world still has that gi-normous musical heritage he has
had that he leaves behind, the ripple effects of which will no
doubt be (deeply) felt and appreciated for quite some time.
May he rest in peace, through his music he has offered the
world plenty of it while he was here.