Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India
|Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India
tour of Europe
|Tour by Ravi Shankar|
|Start date||23 September 1974|
|End date||mid October 1974|
|Ravi Shankar concert chronology|
|Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India|
|Studio album by Ravi Shankar (on Dark Horse Records)|
|Released||19 March 1976 (UK)
6 February 1976 (US)
|Genre||Indian classical, Hindustani classical|
|Ravi Shankar (on Dark Horse Records) chronology|
Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India was an Indian classical music revue led by sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar intended for Western concert audiences and performed in 1974. Its presentation was the first project undertaken by the Material World Charitable Foundation, set up the previous year by ex-Beatle George Harrison to "sponsor diverse forms of artistic expression and to encourage the exploration of alternative life views and philosophies". Long a champion of Indian music, Harrison also produced an eponymous studio album by the Music Festival ensemble, which was released in 1976 on his Dark Horse label. Both the CD format of the Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India album and a DVD containing the orchestra's performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London were issued for the first time on the 2010 Ravi Shankar–George Harrison box set Collaborations.
Shankar's Music Festival orchestra featured many of the late twentieth century's finest exponents of Indian classical music, including Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Alla Rakha, T.V. Gopalkrishnan, L. Subramaniam, Sultan Khan and sister-in-law Lakshmi Shankar.
During the late 1960s Shankar had presented a "Festival of India" featuring the likes of Shivkumar Sharma, Jitendra Abhisheki, Palghat Raghu and several others. The plan for the more ambitious Music Festival from India began taking shape when Harrison visited Shankar in the latter's home town of Benares in January 1974. According to Harrison, though, it was something that he himself had been wanting to stage "since about '67", and particularly after hearing Shankar's "Nava Rasa Ranga" while in Bombay for the Wonderwall sessions. Unlike the cross-cultural Shankar Family & Friends album recorded the year before, the focus behind this new collaboration was to celebrate the traditional aspects of Indian classical music, both in concerts performed by the sixteen-piece Music Festival orchestra and in the studio. Shankar would act as composer and conductor, rather than musician, and only play sitar on his famed ragas during the live performances.
Shankar soon gathered an impressive array of contributors for the project, whom he would describe decades later as "these wonderful musicians who are now superstars". Many of the players he had a musical history with already. Almost all of them are among the greats of Indian classical music − flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia, tabla legend Alla Rakha, the multi-talented T.V. Gopalkrishnan on mridangam and vocals, South Indian violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam, sarangi master Sultan Khan, santoor pioneer Shivkumar Sharma, and Gopal Krishan, credited with the emergence of the vichitra veena in that musical genre. The featured singer was once more the "sublime" Lakshmi Shankar, whose voice "soared through three octaves with ease".
Rehearsals and recording
The two met again that summer in England, where Shankar composed new material specifically for the Music Festival and recorded it at Harrison's 16-track home studio at Friar Park in Oxfordshire. Describing himself as "an improviser by nature", every day for three weeks Shankar would leave his London hotel and head west on the M4, during which he would write the music to be run through with the musicians that day in Friar Park's grand drawing room. Harrison remarked of the process: "It was amazing, because he'd sit there and say to one person, 'This is where you play,' and the next one, 'And you do this,' and 'You do that,' and they're all going, What? 'OK, one, two, three ...' And you'd think, 'This is going to be a catastrophe' − and it would be the most amazing thing.' The principal sound engineer on the sessions, and Harrison's regular engineer at FPSHOT during this period, was Shankar's nephew Kumar, who joined the cast for publicity photos taken by Clive Arrowsmith in the house and grounds.
Midway through the proceedings, on 6 September, Harrison held a press conference in London and announced plans for the Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India tour of Europe, lasting through into October. A co-headlining North American tour would follow, for which Harrison, as the main attraction, was growing increasingly unprepared, such was his dedication to this project, and after having already lavished months of his time on The Place I Love by Splinter, another Dark Horse act.
Performance and album release
The program for the concert performances was divided into two distinct parts. As Shankar explained at the time: "The first part is in the form of a panorama, depicting major stages in the evolution of classical and traditional Indian music, starting with the Vedic hymns and the music of the medieval period, and ending with the present day, touching briefly on all the intermediate forms such as alap, dhrupad, dhamar, khyal, tappa, tarana and chaturanga ... The second part begins with the semi-classical forms such as the devotional bhajan and the romantic and erotic thumri, ghazal, dadra, etc. and ends with the very lively and earthy folk style."
True to the festival's title, the folk traditions of all the various regions of India were represented, in what was the first appearance by an Indian orchestra in Europe. Similarly all-encompassing and educational were Naseem Khan's liner notes for the Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India studio album, serving as an introductory guide to the wide variety of Indian musical instruments on display. The album would be issued long after the European tour, however, due to the release of the much-delayed Shankar Family & Friends set in September 1974.
Although little is available in the way of a tour itinerary, the Royal Albert Hall performance on 23 September appears to have been the Music Festival's opening night, after which the tour moved on to Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich and Copenhagen. A beleaguered-looking Harrison took to the stage in London and admitted to "feeling very nervous ... we're behind schedule" before introducing Shankar to the audience.
Following the completion of the European dates in October, the orchestra was slightly pared down for Shankar and Harrison's high-profile tour of the United States and Canada, beginning at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum on 2 November. All save for shehnai veteran Anant Lal and the ever-serene Kamala Chakravarty (familiar to rock fans through her appearance in the Concert for Bangladesh concert film) would face the at-times hostile audiences in North America. Although the focus of Shankar's set on this tour was to promote Shankar Family & Friends, selections from the Music Festival program such as "Naderdani" were adapted for American and Canadian audiences.
The album Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India was finally released in February 1976 (March in the UK), a year and a half after the recording sessions. Like its predecessor's, the cover features a group photo of all the participants (taken in autumn 1974, shortly after the Arrowsmith publicity shots), this time under a large cedar tree in the grounds of Friar Park. Unsurprisingly, given that commercial rewards were never the motive for the Material World Charitable Foundation's involvement, the record attracted little in the way of chart action. Peter Lavezzoli, author of The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, recognises the ten-minute "Raga Jait" as being among the highlights of the set.
The Collaborations box set marked the first release for Stuart Cooper's film of Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India, shot at London's Royal Albert Hall on Monday, 23 September 1974. Text at the start of the DVD's "concert film" section explains that much restoration was needed on both footage and audio, the latter being overseen by producer Paul Hicks and by Shankar's daughter Anoushka Shankar. With some of Cooper's 35-year-old footage having been destroyed or mislaid, the remainder of the concert's sound is included in a separate, "concert audio" section.
In the film, the Albert Hall stage is set with two large risers; the first in the shape of a square, the second, slightly more raised than the first one, is curved around behind it like a half-moon. It is this set-up and the positioning of the musicians on the stage that provides the visual dynamics in the concert footage, despite the compromised film quality and the fact that any camera shots facing the players on stage right were obviously no longer available.
On the square riser, from left to right, sit singers Viji Shankar, Lakshmi Shankar and Kamala Chakravarty, with percussionist Harihar Rao and bansuri player Hariprasad Chaurasia behind them. Spread out along the crescent-shaped platform behind this (from left to right) are the three bowed string players, L. Subramaniam, Satyadev Pawar and Sultan Khan; the stern-looking Anant Lal on shehnai; then the four drummers, T.V. Gopalkrishnan, Alla Rakha, Rijram Desad and Kamalesh Maitra, the last two partly surrounded by their tarangs (circles) of hand drums; next is sitarist Kartick Kumar (who later joins those on the square riser when Shankar plays sitar), Gopal Krishan, behind the raised vichitra veena, and finally Shivkumar Sharma, behind his large harpsichord-like santoor. All sixteen pairs of eyes are on the Pandit Shankar, who's vigorously conducting the orchestra from just in front of the first riser, his back to the audience.
What is obvious in the film, yet not necessarily to casual listeners of the studio album, is the personality of each of the participants − Gopalkrishnan, at times fierce, then mischievous; Rakha, the bemused patriarch ("as pudgy as kneaded dough", as the NME once described him), a tower of strength; Desad and Khan, their faces a study in earnest concentration; Lakshmi and Chaurasia, all passionate highs and lows; the quiet demureness of Kamala, Rao and young Viji Shankar. Through these characters, the film demonstrates the lively dialogue that is the musical performance: Shankar and Rakha's shared exchanges from sitar to tabla and back, drum salvoes traded with delight between Rakha and Gopalkrishnan, the apparent frustration on the conductor's face turning to elation by the end of a piece.
Despite Harrison's concerns beforehand, the London audience sounds suitably impressed. As American drummer Jim Keltner would later say of the not-always-appreciative crowds the orchestra faced in the United States: "Those people saw something very special."
The DVD's bonus feature, directed by David Kew, shows Hicks and Anoushka Shankar at work on the mix for pieces released in this concert film section. They are soon joined there at StudioWest, in San Diego, by Ravi Shankar himself and Harrison's widow, Olivia, allowing the 90-year-old Shankar to offer his input. At one point Anoushka covers her father's eyes playfully − in response, it seems, to his reaction at seeing himself on screen, performing some four decades before.
Album track listing
All songs by Ravi Shankar.
- "Vandanna" – 2:44
- "Dhamar" – 5:23
- "Tarana / Chaturang" – 5:33
- "Raga Jait" – 9:48
- "Kajri" – 4:51
- "Bhajan" – 3:56
- "Naderdani" – 4:43
- "Dehati" – 10:09
Tour set list
While it is stated that the 2010 Collaborations DVD contains the complete performance from the Royal Albert Hall concert, spread across the film and audio sections, it's not clear how these two sections correlate − whether they make up two halves of the concert, or whether the musical pieces for which visuals have been salvaged were interspersed throughout the night. This makes it impossible to ascertain the true running order of a typical Music Festival from India performance, but the concert program for the 1974 European tour was obviously from among the following track lists.
DVD concert film
- "Introduction by George Harrison"
- "Hymns From the Vedas"
- "Tappa (Raga Khamaj)"
- "Tarana (Raga Kirwani)"
- "Raga Jait"
- "Vilambit Gat, Drut Gat and Jhala (Raga Yaman Kalyan)"
- "Krishna Krishna Bhajan (based on Raga Pancham-se-gara)"
DVD concert audio
- "Musicians Introduction"
- "Alap / Noom / Toom Jor (Raga Abhogi)"
- "Dhamar (Raga Vasanta in Tala Dhamar)"
- "Khyal (Raga Kedara in Tala Teental)"
- "Tarana (Raga Kirwani in Tala Ektal)"
- "Chaturang (Raga Yaman Kalyan in Tala Teental)"
- "Pallavi (Thani Avarthanam / Raga Bilahari in Tala Aditala)"
- "Thumri (Mishra Piloo in Tala Jat)"
- "Raga Mala (Garland of Ragas, based on Raga Khamaj in Tala Teental)"
- Ravi Shankar – direction, arrangements; sitar (DVD only)
- Lakshmi Shankar – vocals, swarmandal
- Alla Rakha – tabla
- T.V. Gopalkrishnan – vocals, mridangam, khanjira
- Hariprasad Chaurasia – bansuri
- Kartick Kumar – sitar
- Sultan Khan – sarangi
- Shivkumar Sharma – santoor, kanoon, backing vocals
- Gopal Krishan – vichitra veena, backing vocals
- L. Subramaniam – South Indian violin
- Satyadev Pawar – North Indian violin
- Rijram Desad – pakavaj, madal-tarang, dholki, nagada, huduk, duff
- Kamalesh Maitra – tabla-tarang, duggi-tarang, sarod, madal, ektara
- Anant Lal – shehnai
- Harihar Rao – kartal, manjira, dholak, gubgubbi, backing vocals; sitar (DVD only)
- Kamala Chakravarty – tambura, backing vocals
- Viji Shankar – tambura, backing vocals
- Booklet accompanying Ravi Shankar–George Harrison Collaborations box set (Dark Horse Records, 2010; produced by Olivia Harrison), p. 32.
- "Excerpts from a conversation between Raviji and Satish and Shashi Vyas, June 2007", The Ravi Shankar Foundation (retrieved 9 February 2012).
- Booklet accompanying Collaborations box set, p. 15.
- Olivia Harrison, p. 302.
- Rodriguez, p. 237.
- Lavezzoli, p. 195.
- Rodriguez, p. 238.
- Leng, p. 138.
- Madinger & Easter, pp 442, 443.
- Olivia Harrison, pp 304–07, 397.
- George Harrison, plate XXXIX.
- Badman, p. 131.
- Olivia Harrison, p. 335.
- Booklet accompanying Collaborations box set, p. 25.
- Leng, p. 148.
- Badman, p. 133.
- Madinger & Easter, pp 445, 447.
- Olivia Harrison, pp 298−99.
- Rodriguez, pp 198, 237.
- Madinger & Easter, p. 447.
- John Pidgeon, "Bangla Desh", NME, 15 July 1972, p. 24; available at Rock's Back Pages (subscription required; retrieved 15 July 2012).
- Lavezzoli, p. 205.
- Keith Badman, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970−2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2001; ISBN 0-7119-8307-0).
- George Harrison, I Me Mine, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA, 2002; ISBN 0-8118-3793-9).
- Olivia Harrison, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Abrams (New York, NY, 2011; ISBN 978-1-4197-0220-4).
- Peter Lavezzoli, The Dawn of Indian Music in the West, Continuum (New York, NY, 2006; ISBN 0-8264-2819-3).
- Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5).
- Chip Madinger & Mark Easter, Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium, 44.1 Productions (Chesterfield, MO, 2000; ISBN 0-615-11724-4).
- Robert Rodriguez, Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970−1980, Backbeat Books (Milwaukee, WI, 2010; ISBN 978-1-4165-9093-4).