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World Music CD Reviews South Asia


By Rob Weir

The Rough Guide to Ravi Shankar
World Music Network

One usually associates the Rough Guides with regions or styles, but increasingly the series has branched out to include individual artists, as well. India's Ravi Shankar is such a global citizen that he's a natural choice for Rough Guide canonization. This nine-track, 71-minute collection samples the sitar master's work from 1973 to 1995 (though recent concerts show that his 84-year-old hands retain their youthful suppleness). Shankar is the undisputed master of ragas, formal and demanding tunes written to induce specific moods, and contemplate moral questions. Compositions like "Raga Patdeep" are steeped in meditative mystery. But Shankar?' cosmopolitan nature also allows room for decidedly more secular pursuits; "Transmigration" was written for a Satyajit Ray movie and "Reflection" for a horror film. And "Bilaskhani Todi," his 1985 duet with Ali Akbar Khan, shows why he was once the darling of the psychedelic crowd. A final note: Shankar elevated the tabla to the fore of Indian music. He's also had the good fortune to work with the enormously talented tabla master Zakir Hussain, who truly puts the beat into "world beat" music.