|EP by Ravi Shankar|
|Released||9 August 1971 (US)
27 August 1971 (UK)
|Recorded||mid July 1971
Record Plant West, Los Angeles
|Genre||Indian music, Hindustani classical|
Joi Bangla is an EP by Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, issued in August 1971 on Apple Records. The recording was produced by George Harrison and its release marked the first in a series of occasional collaborations between the two musicians that lasted until the Chants of India album in 1997. Shankar recorded the EP in Los Angeles, to help raise international awareness of the plight faced by refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War, in advance of his and Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh shows at Madison Square Garden, New York. Side one of the disc consists of two vocal compositions sung in Bengali, of which the title track was a message of unity to the newly independent nation, formerly known as East Pakistan. The third selection is a duet by Shankar and sarodya Ali Akbar Khan, supported by Alla Rakha on tabla, a performance that presaged their opening set at the Concert for Bangladesh.
Joi Bangla was the first of four Shankar-related releases on the Beatles' Apple label, closely followed by the Raga soundtrack album. The EP has been out of print since soon after its release. Of the three tracks, only "Oh Bhaugowan" has been reissued – on the Harrison-compiled Ravi Shankar: In Celebration box set (1996).
A Bengali by birth, Ravi Shankar was deeply concerned by the plight of the cyclone- and war-ravaged people of East Pakistan during the first six months of 1971. To help raise funds to try to alleviate the misery, he turned to his friend George Harrison, then riding a huge wave of popularity with the success of his All Things Must Pass set. Within a matter of weeks, Madison Square Garden in New York was booked for two UNICEF shows on Sunday, 1 August; Western stars such as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Leon Russell had pledged to be there; and Harrison's purpose-made single "Bangla Desh" was garnering much airplay. Decades later, Shankar would describe it as a "miracle", the speed at which Harrison had made things happen.
With the Apple documentary film Raga in post production and awaiting release, the Beatles' record label would also be issuing a Shankar benefit disc, a three-track EP. For the sessions in mid July, most likely held at the Record Plant West like Harrison's, Shankar wrote a new composition, "Joi Bangla", which became the EP's title track. As with the Raga soundtrack album, Joi Bangla was produced by Harrison.
Where Harrison's single had targeted listeners in the West with its call to "Relieve the people of Bangla Desh", Shankar addressed the victims themselves – his "distant relatives" and his guru's family being among the tens of thousands pouring into neighbouring India. Although on the recording the lyrics are sung in Bengali, Shankar's first language, Apple's picture sleeve provided an English translation, in which Shankar calls on Bangladeshis to "be triumphant", and for unity "beyond conscience or creed". The song title translates as "Victory to Bangladesh".
The EP's other vocal performance was "O Bhaugowan". In this song, Shankar provided what author Peter Lavazzoli describes as "a prayer for help", asking: "O God, where have you gone / ... Sickness, cyclones, floods / Are upon us / Do you not care for us?"
The final selection, "Raga Mishra Jhinjhoti", was a sitar and sarod jugalbandi (duet) in dadra tal, featuring Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, with Alla Rakha on tabla. According to a note on the picture sleeve, the piece was inspired by the folk melodies of Bengal.
Apple Records issued the Joi Bangla EP in America on 9 August (as Apple 1838) − eight days after the Concert for Bangladesh had been staged − and not until the 27th of the month in Britain (Apple 37). The songs on side one were credited to "Ravi Shankar & Chorus", while side two's duet was credited to Shankar, Khan and Rakha. Khan's name also featured on the picture sleeve's front cover, given equal billing as Shankar himself, while Rakha's appeared on the reverse.
In The Spectator, Duncan Fallowell wrote of Shankar's gesture towards his homeland: "Ravi Shankar decided to make public his concern for the events in Bengal in the only way which now makes sense, by supporting the Free Bengal movement against the horrifying brutality of their military overlords from West Pakistan ... With the same destination in view, Apple have released George Harrison's record, Bangla Desh, and one also from Mr Shankar, Joi Bangla, at 49 pence each, both worth it. The first is George at his most sinuous and plaintive ... the second has the kind of high spirits encountered in musicals shown at the Godeon [Cinema], Southall (these musicals by the way, produced in prodigious quantities, are – let me warn you – tragically addictive)."
Despite its limited exposure, Joi Bangla occupies a unique place among Apple Records' output, being the only extended-play release by one of the label's artists (discounting promotional EPs, where two or more acts from the Apple roster were combined). Among modern-day reviewers, author Alan Clayson considers the title track "more melodiously uplifting than any other of George [Harrison]'s Indo-pop productions". In his book on Harrison's musical career, Simon Leng describes "Raga Mishra Jhinjhoti" as "stirring ... [a] masterful performance" and similarly highlights "Oh Bhaugowan" for its "impassioned and moving appeal for divine assistance".
Like Harrison's "Bangla Desh" single, the songs on Joi Bangla have received little in the way of repackaging since their original 1971 release. "Oh Bhaugowan" was included on the In Celebration box set (1996), appearing on disc four, which contains, in the words of Allmusic critic Bruce Eder, "the lion's share of the 1970s vintage material recorded under the auspices of Harrison, as well as capturing Shankar working in a vocal music mode (including his own vocals, which are astonishingly beautiful and affecting)".
All selections written by Ravi Shankar, except where noted.
- Side one
- "Joi Bangla" – 3:18
- "Oh Bhaugowan" – 3:35
- Side two
- "Raga Mishra Jhinjhoti" (PD) – 6:52
- Ravi Shankar – vocals, sitar, direction
- Ali Akbar Khan – sarod
- Alla Rakha – tabla
- G.S. Sachdev – bansuri
- Sanjukta Ghosh – vocals
- Shubho Shankar – vocals, sitar
- Harihar Rao – ektara
- George Harrison – unspecified
- unnamed "Chorus" singers and musicians – harmonium, percussion
- Harvey Kubernik, "The Rock's Backpages Flashback: George Harrison's Concert for Bangla Desh", Rock's Backpages Archives, 28 July 2011 (retrieved 8 November 2013).
- The Editors of Roling Stone, p. 123.
- Lavezzoli, pp. 187, 189.
- Neal Alpert, "George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh", Gadfly Online, 3 December 2001 (retrieved 24 August 2014).
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- Spizer, p. 341.
- Lavazzoli, pp. 187, 190.
- Castleman & Podrazik, p. 103.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 434.
- Lavazzoli, p. 190.
- Rodriguez, p. 236.
- Lavezzoli, p. 189.
- Clayson, p. 308.
- Shankar, pp. 70, 77.
- Sleeve credits, Joi Bangla EP (Apple Records, 1971; produced by George Harrison).
- Leng, p. 112.
- Castleman & Podrazik, p. 205.
- Duncan Fallowell, "More Than Polo", The Spectator, 10 September 1971, p. 382/22 (retrieved 8 November 2013).
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- World Music: The Rough Guide, p. 116.
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- Ravi Shankar, My Music, My Life, Mandala Publishing (San Rafael, CA, 2007; ISBN 978-1-60109-005-8).
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- Gary Tillery, Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison, Quest Books (Wheaton, IL, 2011; ISBN 978-0-8356-0900-5).
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