5 Essential Ravi Shankar CDs for 90th Birthday

Celebrate Ravi Shankar’s 90th Birthday with 5 CDs

Ravi Shankar turns 90 today.  He was born  April 7, 1920 in Benares, India.   Tonight, April 7, we’ll feature an interview with the sitar master on Echoes.   His impact on Indian music is undeniable.  His impact on world music is still being calculated, but may be even more significant.  Since the 1950s he’s released dozens of albums so pairing them down to any number is difficult.  But for the novice and the aficionado here’s a selection from across Shankar’s career.

In Concert 1972
This is really a threefer in that you get Shankar, and the other two icons of Indian music, sarod master Ali Akbar Khan, who passed away last year at 87, and tabla player Alla Rakha, who passed in 2000.  This super trio was in high form for this 1972 live recording, playing on a three extended ragas that span 2 CDs.

West Meets East
The meeting of Shankar with classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin was monumental in the career of Ravi Shankar.  Although the raga is high art in India, it was still folk art in the west until Menuhin engaged in this set of extended duets, trading licks with Shankar like a jazz cutting session, but also reaching some beautiful, Paganini dipped in patchouli  heights.

Full Circle
This 2000 live performance from Carnegie Hall was something of a passing of the torch as Shankar was joined by his then teen aged daughter Anoushka who has gone on to stake her own claim as the premier sitarist of this generation.  Virtuosity a given, the two artists trade licks and create that serene mood and mad rush to edge that characterizes the best ragas.

This is one of several collaborations between Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar.  Glass cites his work with Shankar in the 1960s as being a seminal influence on his music.  On this album, Glass and Shankar each takes themes from the other and orchestrates and arranges them for sitar, orchestra and voices.  A beautiful and under-rated album.

Vision of Peace
This is a collection released by Deutsche Grammophon culled from recordings made in the late-1970s and early-1980s.  Unlike Columbia Records’ fragmented Essential Ravi Shankar, this features extended ragas as well as a few bitesize tracks including collaborations with Japanese koto and shakuhachi players.  Shankar was always the consummate world music traveler.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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