COMPOSERS: Ravi Shankar
LABELS: BBC Opus Arte
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0853 D
Music has played such a central role in Ravi Shankar’s long life that it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish one from the other: in many ways his music is his life. So it’s right that this hugely enjoyable double DVD should explore both sides of this remarkable figure with a film biography and a concert recorded in London last summer.
Mark Kidel’s film could easily be seen as Shankar’s video autobiography, since his is the only commentary we hear throughout. He offers candid revelations about his tours to Europe and America in the Thirties, his relationships with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin and John Coltrane, and his popularity in the Sixties. Sometimes one longs for an independent voice, or an objective assessment of Shankar’s achievements, but the great sitarist’s insights are revealing and often profound, and Kidel’s shots of contemporary India are mesmerising.
The performance disc contrasts a sober Raga Anandi Kalyan with a rip-roaring Raga Rangeela Piloo – Shankar’s rhythmic interplay with the tabla players Bikram Ghosh and Tanmoy Bose is stunning here, although the camerawork sometimes fails to focus on the centre of the action. The ‘extras’ are some of the most interesting things on the DVD: a short film shows Shankar in action teaching a group of pupils, including his daughter Anoushka, and a personal introduction to Indian music and the sitar. Entertaining and enlightening. David Kettle