Indian Classical

Rare and Glorious

Artist: Ravi Shankar

Produced by: Times Square Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            For over sixty years, Ravi Shankar has delighted the masses with his musical composition and his mastery of the sitar.  Born in 1920 in Varanasi, India, Robindra Shankar Chowdhury began as a dancer, but gave up dancing to study sitar in 1938.  In the 1940s, Shankar began composing music.  By the 1950s, Ravi Shankar was well-known as an artist and composer, touring Europe and America and introducing all to the music of India.  His association with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Beatles guitarist George Harrison leant to his popularity.  Now, years later, Ravi Shankar is seen as a musical ambassador, a teacher, performer, composer and writer whose accomplishments are legendary.

            In February 2010, Times Square Records released a two-CD album entitled Rare and Glorious style= that showcases some of Ravi Shankarís classic recordings, some of which have never been officially released on CD.  The album provides over two hours of music composed and performed by Ravi Shankar.

            I have a very eclectic taste when it comes to music.  I enjoy exploring new sounds and genres.  I have long enjoyed listening to music from other countries as they offer a great deal of insight into their cultures.  Prior to this album, I had enjoyed listening to the sitar played in numerous compositions in movie soundtracks, but the sitar was somewhat of a background instrument.  The music of a sitar sounds so exotic and unique that I couldnít wait to hear it in the forefront.  The fact that it would be showcased in this album and played by a master of the instrument was very exciting to me.

            For those who are not acquainted with the sitar style=, it is a string instrument featuring a long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber.  The sitarist plays the sitar by plucking its main strings and deriving resonance from the sympathetic or auxiliary strings.  This resonance, aided by the hollow neck and gourd chamber, give the sitar a sound unique to a string instrument.

            The music performed by Ravi Shankar would seem very different to that of American music.  The musical composition is much longer and feature much variety throughout.  As you listen to each track, it is almost like listening to four songs in one as the melodies and rhythmic patterns change quite often within each composition.  The sitar is a hypnotic instrument and Ravi Shankarís composition plays to its resonating abilities perfectly.  The music expresses a variety of emotions from happiness to sadness to romance.

            In fact, it was the variety in sound, melodies and rhythmic patterns that made Rare and Glorious such an enjoyable experience for me.  The music was entirely unpredictable and thus made it much more interesting.  The only track I wasnít thrilled with was Raga Shudh Kalyan, the third track on the first CD.  There was a haunting quality to the music, but the sitarís tone was rather flat and monotonous when compared to the music on the rest of the CD.

            All-in-all, listening to Rare and Glorious by Ravi Shankar was an enjoyable educational experience for me as it introduced me to a different style of music.  Fans of Shankarís music will enjoy the variety of tracks taken from various stages in the artistís career.  For less than $17.00 US currency, this two-CD album, complete with text excerpts from the original album covers and informative notes about the music and the artist, Rare and Glorious is an album well-worth the money.


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