Ananda Shankar and his Music
The name "Shankar" is most famously associated with Ravi Shankar, the grand master of contemporary Indian folk music who was very popular in the '60s due to his connection with the American music industry, despite staying away from pure pop music by maintaining his classic sitar-and-tabla-style drone ragas to express himself musically. Bengali musician Ananda Shankar was Ravi Shankar's nephew, and he also traveled to the USA, to gather inspiration from rock artists like Jimi Hendrix, among others. His 1970 self-titled debut album, a conglomeration of classic Indian folk tunes and instrumental versions of the hottest rock songs of the day clothed in a veil of sitar melodies and backed up with tabla drum grooves, was an attempt to combine the spiritual approach of his cultural origins with the light-minded blissful attitude of western psychedelic pop music -- a groovy little album. After its release, Shankar took a five-year break from recording to create his second album, reissued here. The cover tunes were replaced by all-original compositions with a lush instrumentation that features the typical sitar, tabla, and bowed string instruments such as the sarong and the sera, mixed with sounds that have a definite western origin such as rock guitars, Hammond organ, and Moog synthesizers, plus full drum kits to enhance the actual groove. Psychedelic rock, raga, fusion-jazz, and funk flow into each other quite naturally, giving birth to something fresh and exciting one might call "Bengali pop." The borders between eastern and western music dissolve. For the most part, Ananda Shankar and his Music is quite accessible, and comes with a certain slickness. Still, there is the other side of the coin, the spiritual depth that pop music often lacks. This might have been too far out for the average western mainstream fanatic back in 1975, when disco began its rule, but it is an awesome sound trip for fans of psychedelic dance music like the Incredible Bongo Band and all eastern-influenced popular rock.