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West Meets East: Indian Music And Its Influence On The West


"In the fifties, the influence of Indian music on the West manifested itself in the work of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman: pioneer jazz musicians of a golden generation who were fascinated by its form and how it worked as a model of improvisation, the skill that lay at the heart of their own art. A decade later, it took the Beatles to catapult Indian music to the forefront of public awareness and make the sound of the sitar a common feature of popular culture in the West. Their engagement with the ancient classical music of the subcontinent started an avalanche of similar experiments in the rock and pop world, engendering what Ravi Shankar called 'the Sitar Explosion'. For a while, the sitar or some other element from Indian music was increasingly heard in the background of general texture of recordings by many famous British groups: the Rolling Stones, Traffic, Kinks, Yardbirds, to name but a few, while musicians working in the domestic folk-rock field such as Pentangle, the Incredible String Band, and the guitarist Davy Graham also picked up on it. In the United States, aspects of Indian music would be absorbed both by such psychedelic bands as The Byrds, The Doors, Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and by composers of new music, the minimalists: Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. But Western fascination with Orientalism was not entirely new; its piquancy is evident in the works of such impressionists as Claude Debussy, Benjamin Britten and Maurice Ravel, a composer considered to be the father of Exotica, whose sound world is at the heart of the works of Exotica's most formidable icons, Les Baxter and Martin Denny. This presentation comprises key recordings by major Western jazz, exotica and classical artists under the spell of Indian music and culture, combined with the long, perfumed recordings by Ravi Shankar and his Indian contemporaries which most influenced them."