Asian Music and Dance


Collaborations is a numbered, limited edition boxed set containing three CDs and one DVD. It gathers together three out-of-print Harrison and Shankar projects. Disc 1 is the Vedic hymn-inspired, relatively straight Chants of India from 1997. Disc 2 is 1976’s Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India – not to be confused with the similarly-titled Ravi Shankar’s Festival From India from 1968, which, although similar musically, wasn’t a Harrison-Shankar project and is therefore out of bounds. Disc 3 is the earliest – Shankar Family & Friends dates from 1974. Collaborations’ main ace is the hitherto unreleased concert material on Disc 4, also entitled Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India. A feast of audio and visual content from the Royal Albert Hall in September 1974, this long-rumoured ‘lost’ film footage may be incomplete, yet what is there is marvellous.

The music emerges as very much in the temper of its different times. Some projects stand the test of time better. Chants of India is the driest and least adventurous of them. And by adventurous, do not infer experimental. Nothing on it matches the sheer thrilling sonic adventures steered and fronted by Lakshmi Shankar on Shankar Family & Friends. She had already demonstrated her extraordinary versatility. Her CV boasted her and Manna Dey’s EP Aao Bachcho Suno Kahani (‘Hindustani songs for children’) and outstanding light classical LPs on His Master’s Voice (India) and World Pacific. Yet there was nothing in her back-catalogue to prepare listeners for how extraordinarily well she would acquit herself here. The album’s Westernisations, fanfared with Tom Scott’s jazzy winds on the audacious Krishna-rockin’-out ‘I Am Missing You’, are kept in line by her vocal dexterity. But then when she rides Hariprasad Chaurasia’s bamboo flute and Shivkumar Sharma’s santoor-driven ‘Kahān Gayelavā Shyām Salonē’, the thrills are definitely desi. Elsewhere the experimental now sounds dated, as on Paul Beaver and Malcolm Cecil’s Moog raga workout. The strictly Indian Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India, on the other hand, has not been rocked from its position as one of Shankar’s finest.

As to packaging – a major selling point – Collaborations looks fine and dandy. The accompanying book’s spot varnish to heighten and brighten images is a good old tried and tested design trick. What lets Collaborations down is more basic. The well-worn stand-alone Harrison and Shankar interviews cry out for context. Worse, navigating around the music is sometimes problematic. The Shankar Family & Friends CD artwork carries no track encodement information after track 5; while to get content information for the DVD, you have to play it – and even then a couple of titles are hokum filler. Lastly, there is no excuse for perpetuating old mistakes. Ronu Majumdar is enough of a maestro not to get his family name confused with Gaurev Mazumdar, as happened on the original Chants of India. Musically speaking however, Collaborations captures Ravi Shankar and George Harrison pretty much owning this musical terrain.



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